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Tea Time Dreaming

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Ensemble Offspring
WHO DREAMED IT?
Carriageworks, 23 Sept 2017

150910-dreamsleep-stockThree new Noisy Eggs have hatched. Thanks to the generosity of patrons (including the AMCOS Art Music Fund, Kim Williams and the Noisy Egg Creation Fund) three substantial new works have had their first outing in Ensemble Offspring’s latest concert. Each composer was asked to respond to Unsuk Chin‘s fantastical Akrostichon-Wortspiel with a fantasy of their own.

Annie Hui-Hsin Hsieh is currently based in San Diego where she’s completing a PhD and before that she studied in Melbourne with Brenton Broadstock and Stuart Greenbaum. Her new work, Half-Open Beings, is a tantalising smudge of organised sound which, like Bachelard’s image of the half-open door, both invites and obscures. Instruments make tentative bonds between each other, which melt into fuzz as another pitch, another timbre is added, like the elusive dream which flashes across your consciousness then evaporates, leaving only a vague sense of a memory of a feeling.

Anahita Abbasi‘s Incipio, Bibo follows Unsuk Chin’s lead by taking inspiration from Alice in Wonderland for a playful exploration of the weird and wonderful land of dreams. Soprano Jessica Aszodi is the adventurer who, in the unalienable logic of the dream state, must close her eyes to see better. Meanwhile, a desk top bell invokes that very special time, the Time of Tea. This is dizzyingly sophisticated reverie, using multilayered performance gestures, from words to notes to melodies to noises, brilliantly performed. If only Abbasi, originally from Iran and now resident in San Diego, could have been in Sydney to hear it.  Thanks, Donald. 

Lisa Illean‘s Cantor is an impressive, impressing work. She uses a wide palette of strings, winds and percussion with deft coherence, weaving together complexities — microtones and microtimbres abound — to somehow, miraculously, create clarity. I have no idea what it is about. I just know it makes my ears and my brain and my heart sing. It’s a real achievement and it’s good to know that, besides being recorded for broadcast on ABC Classic FM, Cantor will go on to have performances in the Netherlands, Canada, the UK, Hong Kong and New Zealand.

c86219768d57a823960200114638aec3-victorian-photography-vintage-photographyEnsemble Offspring framed these three noisy eggs with two vintage works. Unsuk Chin’s Akrostichon-Wortspiel was written in 1991 for the Gaudeamus Foundation: practically early music, in Offspring’s repertoire list, but drinking well now. It says something about the dedication of these musicians that, after a good 60 minutes of freakishly tricky music, they could come back on and perform a work demanding this level of precision and technical extension. Jessica Aszodi, in particular, demonstrated of stamina and control most could only dream of. Respect.

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Photo: Blackie Bouffant. Bluebell Woods, Knockvicar, Co. Roscommon, Ireland

Finally, as with all good dreams, back to the beginning. Irish composer Jennifer Walshe wrote Everything you own has been taken to a depot somewhere for Ensemble Offspring’s 2013 season. It’s a nutty melange of speech, sound and gesture where three game performers variously pour water, play nintendo, do physical jerks and make the occasional musical noise. The Offspring trio of Claire Edwardes, Jason Noble and Lamorna Nightingale — fab dress, btw — go far beyond the usual remit of musicians, singing, shouting and clowning with gleeful conviction. 

Everything you own… is frequently irreverent and often hilarious. The composer  confesses her interest in sounds that ‘are normally considered flawed or redundant.’

Like… new music, perhaps? 

It’s a ballsy move to open a concert of such uncompromisingly demanding (albeit beautiful) music with a work which systematically undercuts artistic pretention. But when you play these works with such persuasive articulacy, you can get away with pretty much anything. Bravi.

This concert was recorded for ABC Classic FM. Not sure when it’ll be on. Also, Incipo, Bibo and Everything you own… are both quite visual works. I’m not sure if Incipo, Bibo was videoed, but you can see Ensemble Offspring in an earlier performance of Everything here.

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