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This is in the Herald somewhere, but it’s not showing up online yet.

World New Music Days
Sydney Conservatorium of Music, 30 April
Campbelltown Arts Centre, May 1
Reviewed by Harriet Cunningham

There was a strong smell of wood burning as I walked into Campbelltown Arts Centre for the Electric Trio’s concert, The Future of Music? A bushfire? A bonfire? No, a piano, its remains still glowing, lighting up the faces of happy new music campers. The International Society of Contemporary Music’s World New Music Days 2010 was off to a blazing start.

The ISCM was founded in 1922 in Vienna. In its 88-year history it has become a kind of United Nations of contemporary music, a group of performers, composers and listeners who meet annually to immerse themselves in the pointy end of music-making. In 2010 ISCM meets here in Sydney for the first ever World New Music Days to be held in the Southern Hemisphere.

Sydney Conservatorium’s Modern Music Ensemble opened the festival with six works selected from over 700 works submitted to the ISCM. Jinx, by Iva Brkljacic, packed an abundance of ideas into five movements. Joakim Sandgren’s Instrument contondant was a more abstract construct, dodging repeating patterns as if picking time apart. Henrik Strindberg’s Timeline put it back together, letting complex rhythmic patterns and timbres merge and meld in an undulating torrent of sound. Carl Bettendorf’s Inner Life was a cerebral grab bag of timbres with ear-catching writing for drum and harp in particular, and Svend Hvidfelt Nielsen’s Song for piano and ensemble slowed things down until the room echoed with harmonics. Australia was represented by Elena Kats-Chernin’s Village Idiot and by the very impressive performers, led by Daryl Pratt.

Saturday night’s performance by the Electric Trio was subtitled ‘The Future of Music?’ Even with the question mark, it was a provocation: Carl Vine’s Flute Sonata arranged for guitars and drums sounded saggy and dated, while Isaac Hayward’s Threesome teetered on the edge of a timewarp. There were musical chops and ideas a-plenty, but little animation, and less insights into the future of music here. Happily, ISCM runs for another week, and I’ve still got my ears wide open…

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