Tag Archives: APRA


Commission Winner Gian Slater: Gone, Without Saying

Gian Slater et al
Gian Slater and her singers

What a great start to the MIJFF for 2010! Sonja Horbelt praised the work of the committee and the support of sponsors, including APRA, Victoria University and Miriam Zolin’s journal extempore, which is about to launch its fourth edition and is a must-have for serious lovers of improvised music and the arts.

Then it was on with the music:

The festival’s commission concert always produces something inventive and compelling. Last year it was a work guided by Ren Walters. This year Gian Slater and 13 singers performed at BMW Edge in a work for voices designed to explore the notion of communication between and without words. The singers were Jenny Barnes, Tom Barton, Helen Catanchin, Hailey Cramer, Miriam Crellin, Georgie Darvidis, Ed Fairlie, Bronwyn Hicks, Kate Kelsey–Sugg, Louisa Rankin, Damien Slingsby and Loni Thomson.

The concert was described as exploring what “cannot be put into words — those things we don’t wish to speak of, or those that go without saying”. The work was “written for voices using experimental and extended vocal techniques with intricate, textural layering and conceptual improvising”.

The performance received a standing ovation. I was tired and hungry, but that was soon irrelevant as these singers took us on a journey of discovery that was audibly rich and yet brimming with subtlety. This must have taken so much work to perfect and was no doubt a difficult work for the vocalists. There was so much to take in that it would be great to see and hear the work again, and to reflect on what it was expressing about how we communicate (or don’t).

This was not mainstream jazz (did anyone expect that?) and perhaps it was not improvised, but fairly carefully composed. But it was riveting.

(And I think I used to know a Bronwyn Hicks at The Melbourne Times years ago. She was a cartoonist. Any connection?)

Here’s a few other pics:

Gian Slater et al
In full flight

Gian Slater et al
Gian using a “music box”.

Gian Slater singers
Singers need a hand

Life That Lingers

Andrea Keller
Andrea Keller

Before Gian and her singers, Andrea Keller on piano and Tim Wilson on saxophone played with great empathy and understanding. There was a strong sense that the musicians were listening intently to each other and responding, though their communication was not that visibly apparent. It would be fair to say that for Keller and Wilson there was much that went without saying and much that was best said with music.

Tim Wilson
Tim Wilson

For details of the Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival, including Big Arse Saturday, which I can’t get to because I’m working, visit the MIJFF website.

Lose your eyes for a night on the Fringe

(A shorter version of this article was published in the Herald Sun newspaper, Melbourne on May 6, 2009. In that article the words “Close your eyes…” became “Lose your eyes …” — hence my heading above. Picture, below, of Gian Slater by JOSIE HAYDEN)

IF the person beside you in the audience at the Iwaki Auditorium on Friday night, May 8, jumps out of his seat and starts yelling at the performers, it will probably be Ren Walters.

The guitarist and composer was awarded Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival’s APRA commission to create a new work, but for the first time he is not among the performers.

Surrounded by C will use a 5.1 surround sound system in a darkened auditorium to create an “immersive” sonic experience free from any adherence to musical genres or expectations. Performers include voice artist Carolyn Connors, percussionist and noted restaurateur Dur-e Dara, trombonists Adrian Sherriff, Shannon Barnett and James Wilkinson, bass clarinettists Adam Simmons, Brigid Burke and Karen Heath, with Ray Luckhurst on sound.

Ren Walters presented the project and has briefed the participants, most of whom he has worked closely, but will have to hope the result is not “too nice”.

“I am used to impacting during the performance by example, so if I think the music’s too soporific I’ll just inject a bit of venom to change proceedings. I could jump up and down and start yelling in the audience, but apart from that there’s nothing I can do.”

Connors will be placed centrally, with Luckhurst and Dara facing in, surrounded by alternating bass clarinet and trombones, then the audience. Around them will be six speakers.

“I’m hoping it’s a cinematic experience, where people can have a journey, and that they leave feeling as if they’ve been shifted in some way — that’s very important to me,” Walters says.

“I can’t predict whether I’m going to be happy or not. I am most interested in people experiencing the sound for sound’s sake and how the sound is organised, free of any name or genre — having a sonic experience. Close your eyes and listen and visual images will come up as well.”

Walters says people are suspicious of improvised music “because they think the performers are just mucking around. You can’t play in the sand pit and have it be a serious thing. But these people are highly educated in their areas and they are making very conscious choices about what to do and when and how to do it.

“An audience should trust that they are in the hands of people who know what they’re doing. It’s not completely random or haphazard. What the audience is hearing is not faked, it’s real. They should just focus on their experience and leave preconceptions at the door.”

Gian Slater

The other artist performing at the Fringe opening, singer Gian Slater is no stranger to experimentation. Her latest album, Creatures at the Crossroads, was a collaboration with gifted pianist Will Poskitt, who died suddenly late last year soon after their recording sessions at The Base in South Melbourne.

Slater imposed musical limitations on her “prepared” voice, exploring limits on freedom by muting the vocals, singing through a teapot and gradually freeing herself to improvise and use lyrics as the recording progressed. The lyrics also deal with limits we face in our lives.

Poskitt, whose playing Slater described as “ really sensational”, was working in reverse, gradually altering the piano sound so that, by the end, almost every string had something affecting its operation.

Their album has yet to be released, but Slater will sing four of the strongest tracks, all with lyrics, at Iwaki, accompanied by the Silo String Quartet.

As a tribute to Poskitt, Slater has taken some of his improvised solos and transcribed them for the string parts. It will be an emotional performance, especially because a member of the Quartet was also close to the pianist.

Melbourne Jazz Fringe opens on May 8, with the APRA Commission Concert at 7:30pm, and runs until May 17.

Big Arse Sunday — traditionally on the final day — will be held at Fitzroy Bowling Club on May 10, from 3pm to 11pm. Short Arse Sunday will run from 1pm to 4pm on May 17 at Café 303.

For details see Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival