In Praise of Music

In Praise of Music

Actually, I’m thinking particularly of Elena Kats-Chernin who has steadily risen to the cream of Australian composers. A friend of hers told me she is now too busy, an unusual position for too many artists. She is quite often up this way, but currently in Germany I think. I accosted her years ago in the ABC centre at Ultimo, wanting to know what a piece was called that was backing an exhibition at the Museum of Sydney – she was’t sure. She must be busy.

I was at the opening concert of this year’s marvellous Bellingen Music Festival, Friday Sept 19th.
I feel so lucky to live in such beautiful natural surroundings yet still have access to wonderful cultural events. Friday began with a brilliant sunrise and ended driving back from Bellingen in the rain.

Sunrise Valla Beach

The Acacia Quartet began with Philip Glass String Quartet No. 2 from 1983 which I happened to have bought a few months ago. The lovely performance followed by extracts from what sounds like an extraordinary work developed by Acacia with the composer Lyle Chan. They played extracts from a 2 hour work String Quartet: An AIDS Activist’s Memoir in Music (1996/2013). It’s wonderful to hear a new composer with a haunting original voice. They explained how he gave up music to be an AIDS activist, but still sketched a lot of music. The pieces they played referred to friends dying, to euthanasia etc.

This was followed by some beautiful music from Elena Kats-Chernin who works closely with them. They have recorded her complete works for String quartet in a double CD ‘Blue Silence’. They played three pieces: Fast Blue Village, Blue Silence, Blue Rose, relating to schizophrenia, which her son suffers from. It was a tremendous start to the festival.

After the interval it was Synergy Percussion and that classic avant garde percussive work Pleiades by Xenakis from 1979. The performers, all wonderful, all looked under thirty, I have seen them regularly since I arrived in Australia over 30 years, I think of Wittgenstein and Language games, and how our bodies are only about eight years old.

Working in new music is tough and they had had a nerve wracking time getting her with all their equipment on time, as the leader addressed us he said this is ‘the sound of the universe’ and just then the storm broke with a huge clap of thunder.

Synergy set up, Bello Memorial Hall
Synergy set up, Bello Memorial Hall

It was a marvellous concert, such a range of sounds making a music that assaults you. here is an extract from a performance at Angel Place Recital Hall, Sydney June 2011.

Saturday Wyn and I went to the vocal workshop with Alison Morgan from Halcyon which concentrated on muscles I didn’t know I had for fundamental breath control. I missed the rest as an old friend was staying over the weekend. This was made up for by discovering Elena’s wonderful Victor’s Heart for piano four hands, with Anna Grinberg and Liam Viney, on Sunday Live ABC FM from Brisbane. I have kept playing this piece and even dancing to it. Why don’t people dance to classical music? After all, some wonderful music has been composed for the ballet form the 20th C on: Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring); Parade (Erik Satie); Rodeo (Aaron Copeland).


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