Posts in The ensemble
Bundanon

Kupka's Piano has just spent a week  the artist residency at the Bundanon Trust's incredible Riversdale property – a property once belonging to artist Arthur Boyd that has been turned into a beautiful retreat for all kinds of artists to delve deeply into their work away from the commitments and distractions of modern city life. There we rehearsed intensively in preparation for our debut studio recording project, which we're diving into today (back in Brisbane)! The residency was made possible thanks to support from the Australia Council for the Arts and the Bundanon Trust, and our recording is officially funded by all of YOU, thanks to our successful Australian Cultural Fund crowdfunding campaign. We are so terribly grateful to each and every one of you who has contributed, as well as to these major supporters. Thanks to your generosity we have been able to take on this very ambitious project, one that will have a lasting output that we will share and cherish for many years to come. Before we lock ourselves in the studio for three days of recording funtimes, Hannah hounded everyone to give a brief reflection on our week at Riversdale. Below are quotes from all of us and photos of the incredible building, landscape, Boyd paintings, and our rehearsals.

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Alex (piano):

I find that it’s often tricky to blend productivity and calmness when you’re in the midst of preparations for an ambitious and challenging project, such as the upcoming KP recording. Having the luxury of spending a whole week of music-making at a rehearsal retreat such the Bundanon Trust was a really magical way to make it seem as easy as it can be!

Liam (guitar, composer, conductor!):

We don’t live in a society that encourages concentration, and certainly not one that encourages a high degree of concentration on artistic creation. Usually Kupka’s Piano steals time where we can to rehearse for upcoming concerts, each member making sacrifices here and there and often racing between various commitments—teaching, other gigs, night shifts, family—and we manage to pull off some amazing stuff, despite the constraints.

At Bundanon, however, we really got the chance to let the music sink into our minds and bodies a little more. We had the time to see past the dizzying rush of notes in many of the works we have performed and draw out more defined shapes, characters, and concepts. This was particularly obvious to me in Chris Dench’s flux, which at first seemed like a series of impenetrable musical blocks, but as we rehearsed across the week, turned into a subtle conversation of instrumental lines, with perfectly-hewn gem-like moments emerging fleetingly from dense walls of sound. That’s what a week of rehearsals will do.

There were of course shenanigans of all sorts, appalling karaoke (ask Mac for a rendition of ‘Ridin Dirty’ next time you see him), wombat hunts (no wombats were injured), purge towns (we all survived), a creek walk that had no creek (I think we went the wrong way), and others which I won’t go into, but we also did a huge amount of planning for 2017 and dreaming and scheming for 2018. Something about the country around the Bundanon Trust and the company of great musicians for a week inspires you to want to go on, despite the difficulties that inevitably emerge along the way.

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Jodie (flute):

It took returning to city life to fully realise the importance of a place like Bundanon. The dull and annoying buzz of the city, people scurrying around in cars, and the distractions of everyday life seemed so far away during our residency. We only had to worry ourselves with rehearsals, musical details, and wombat spotting.

Mac (clarinet):

Bundanon was certainly an artistically rewarding experience for me. Aside from being a fantastic opportunity to rehearse, it also gave our group the chance to develop closer bonds with each other, which made the residency that little bit more fulfilling.

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Angus (percussion):

The epic task of getting all the percussion gear to Bundanon was dwarfed by the company, food, scenery, and happy times!

Hannah (flute, conductor, composer):

What a week! Perfect in almost every way, with the possible exception of the temperature (one day got to 37ºC, two days later it was a top of 18ºC), and the sighting of a (presumed) funnel web spider in the toilet by Lachlan. But rehearsing under the shadow of a huge Arthur Boyd masterpiece, in the magnificent Boyd Education Centre overlooking the Shoalhaven river, to the sounds of bellbirds (which sounded suspiciously like a clicktrack on occasion), kookaburras and galahs, was such an awe-inspiring experience that we could just wipe the sweat away, close the toilet door, and get to work.

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Katherine (cello):

A whole week for all of the things I never get the time to do: I did lots of admin, lots of practice and detailed rehearsing, plus it was so nice to hang out as a group, the wombats were cute, and we saw a lyrebird!

Lachlan (guest violin):

It was an incredible privilege to be invited to tag along with Kupka’s Piano for their residency at the Bundanon estate last week — what a special, awe-inspiring place! It’s not often that I’m given an opportunity to spend a whole week working intensively on a single project like this, let alone in such a beautiful, peaceful setting. It’s quite amazing how productive one can be when the circumstances are just right! As a guest musician who doesn’t regularly perform with Kupka’s Piano, this residency was a wonderful way for me to get to know everyone in the ensemble and find out what makes them tick. These guys are all super passionate about their work and it has been such a pleasure to collaborate and share musical ideas with them. I’ve come away from the residency feeling confident that this recording is going to be something very special and I can’t wait to share it with everyone in 2017! Big thanks must go to the Bundanon Trust for hosting us, the Australia Council for the Arts for supporting the residency, and to the whole KP crew for having me on board for this project!

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Kupkacast episode 1: Hannah, Liam and Michael discuss
Ahead of our next performance, Tautologies, Transitions, Translations, at the Judith Wright Centre on October 7, Hannah, Liam, and Michael caught up via Skype to discuss composing, naming pieces, extramusical influences, different approaches to counterpoint, and whatever else came up along the way.

All three will be having a new composition premiered at the coming concert, so we thought we'd try to give a bit of an intro to the thoughts behind each of the pieces.

 

 

We hope you enjoy this Kupkacast pilot – if we get good feedback we might do this more often!

And don't forget to book your tickets and get along to the show!

 

KP Overseas: Darmstadt 2016

img_20160810_194152 It's been a busy few months for all the members of Kupka's Piano, and we're fast approaching October when we'll be performing a program of no less than three world premieres and an Australian premiere at the Judith Wright Centre in Brisbane (tickets are now available, by the way)! But since you last saw us play in our hometown, most of us have been travelling all over, attending international workshops and festivals, taking lessons with some of the finest musicians in our field, and just soaking up the diversity of new music being made in Asia, Europe, and America.

We were fortunate enough to have received support from the Australia Council for the Arts in order to travel to Darmstadt, Germany for our second appearance at the Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik, this year in its 48th edition. This is the international festival-academy for contemporary art music, instigating a biennial pilgrimage of composers and performers from all corners of the globe. Those of us who attended last time wrote about our experiences here, here and here. It's already a month on from this year's festival (where on earth did the time go??), but we wanted to just give a brief comment from each of the members who made it over there to give an idea of what an important experience this has been for us, along with some photos of our exploits!

Stay tuned on the KP blog for our upcoming inaugural "KupkaCast" - our first attempt at a small podcast, where the composers of the new works in our next concert discuss the difficulties of choosing titles, weaving in extramusical material, and different approaches to getting notes onto paper...

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Jodie Rottle

Attending the Darmstadt International Summer Course for New Music was a time to meet new colleagues in new music, in addition to connecting with old friends from around the world. It was also a reminder of the importance of new music as an outlet for expression, whether it be cultural, social, or political. The performances, personalities, and ideas alive at the course spurred a whirlwind of emotions: excitement, intrigue, confusion, disgust, inspiration, frustration, exhaustion, and satisfaction. I left knowing I had experienced a special event and thankful that I could return to Australia as a stronger performer and creator.

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Alex Raineri

It was great to be back in Darmstadt for my second stint at the International Summer Courses for New Music. Very inspiring to be ‘inside’ this buzzing hub of new ideas and new work which I found once again to be very artistically motivating, seeing so many people from our generation with such varied and colourful things to say about/with our artform. Particular thanks to Nicolas Hodges and the summer courses for awarding me a Kranichstein Stipendium Musikpries and also the Theme and Variations Foundation which supported my attendance at the 2016 festival.

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Katherine Philp

At Darmstadt I studied with Arditti Quartet cellist Lucas Fels, and amongst other things took part in the Cello-Piano-Composer workshop which was convened by Fels, Pianist Nicolas Hodges and Composer Brian Ferneyhough. A collection of fresh scores were chosen by the convenors prior to the festival which were then assigned to the cello-piano duos, and subsequently workshopped and rehearsed for a performance on the final weekend of the festival. While there were some excellent pieces developed over the course of the two weeks, I was particularly interested in the unfolding processes of collaboration that were taking place: quality of communication; the effects of ego/insecurity; language barriers; choices of notation; rehearsal process and son on. It was clear to see how positive working dynamics between all parties in the workshop process contributed greatly to the strength of the artistic outcome. For performers of contemporary music, to work constructively with composers first-hand is vitally important - if the collaborative process is thoughtfully undertaken and documented, the composer-performer workshop can serve as both a site to reflect upon process, and a rich source of information for future interpreters.

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Michael Mathieson-Sandars

While I had some great lessons, and saw some spectacular concerts, perhaps the most interesting aspect of Darmstadt was the number of ways that, prompted by the celebration of its 70th year, the culture and history of the course was challenged. Much was said regarding GRID [Gender Relations in Darmstadt] - and so it should've been - and, more subtly, this attitude also bled into the Philosophy and Art forums where disagreements tended to be drawn not only along gender lines, but often between age groups as well as between those who were native anglophones and (mostly) Europeans. Of course, having heated arguments at Darmstadt is in many ways no change at all, and in a self-aware move, there was also a series of feedback sessions being run aimed to test and teach new methods for musicians to provide criticism to one another which were non-competitive and non-confrontational. Interesting times ahead for the course!

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Hannah Reardon-Smith

What an honour to be back at Darmstadt for a second round! And this was particularly special to me as it was an opportunity to reconnect with my KP colleagues ahead of my return to Australia in September after two-and-a-half years away studying in Europe. I bookended my study here with Darmstadt festivals, and it was amazing to feel the difference those years made - in my performance capabilities, but also my comfort asserting my place in the European new music scene. This time I enrolled as a composer, though I still spent a lot of time playing flute. A few of the highlights were the GRID and feedback sessions (mentioned by Michael, above), playing Malaysian composer Zihua Tan's [this].connection with Emilie Girard-Charest (Quebec) and Miao Zhao (China), composition lessons with Simon Steen-Andersen and Hannes Seidl, and connecting and reconnecting with my new music communities and networks from many different continents!

Angus Wilson

Angus has been a bit busy of late playing in Brisbane Festival-La Boite Theatre-Opera Queensland's co-production of Snow White, so we gave him a free pass on writing a Darmstadt reflection. But here's some pictures of his festival experience, including workshopping with the incredible Georges Aperghis and a lot of percussioning. Marked shots are by IMD photographer Daniel Pufe.

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If you haven't yet had your European new music fill, make sure you check out this Darmstadt photo blog from our Aussie compatriots Tamara and Kaylie of Rubiks, based in Melbourne. One of the great things about the festival is the community of Australian musicians that congregate together - we really do feel like we have something special to offer our European counterparts.

See you in 2018, Darmstadt!

 

Mixed feelings: returning home

Hannah, far left, working with Belgian group Ensemble Fractales and English composer Olly Sellwood ahead of a concert in Brussels. Flutist and co-founder of Kupka's Piano, Hannah Reardon-Smith, has been living in Brussels for the past year while undertaking an Advanced Masters in Contemporary Music Performance Practice. She returns to Australia just for the month of July this year, and will join KP in their Wynnum concert at the Imperial Room.

I've got mixed feelings about coming back to Australia.

That said, I've had mixed feelings about living and studying in Belgium too. I've had (and in the next year will have) some incredible opportunities, learning with and playing alongside some of my heroes, making contact with many of the composers whose work I'm most interested in, and realising how small (if widely spread) the global community of musicians playing la musique contemporaine really is. I've been mentored by members of Ictus and Ensemble musikFabrik, two of Europe's leading new music ensembles, and have performed extensively in Belgium, England, Germany and Austria. I've met peers from all over the world who are studying and performing here. But being over here has made clear to me just how incredible a group Kupka's Piano really is, and I miss them like crazy!

So coming home to KP is something I am really looking forward to, not to mention catching up with friends and family and enjoying a bit of Brisbane winter (not all that different to the Belgian summer I'm leaving ... only Brisbane will probably have a bit more sun).

But I can't help but feel how bittersweet it is. The current Australian government is taking a swipe at independent and emerging artists and small to medium arts organisations by quarantining funding previously available to them through a rigorous system of grant application and peer review, putting it instead into a fund that will in all likelihood support only conservative classical institutions handpicked by the arts minister George Brandis himself.

Kupka's Piano is one of a select group of Australian ensembles dedicated to playing newer art music, which by definition makes it one of the few ensembles in the country with a strong focus on Australian composition (Australian works are included in every program). Not only that, but KP plays a vital role bringing the new music of Europe, the Americas, and Asia to Australian shores, offering audiences in Brisbane the opportunity to hear music to which they otherwise have no access. Kupka's has a special focus on young composers at home and abroad, and it's rare to see a program without a world premiere (or two, or three...). Several young composers are directly tied to the ensemble, allowing the performers and composers to develop in tandem - a fascinating process for an audience to witness!

Furthermore, I believe KP to be quite unique in an international context. Due to limitations on touring (in comparison to Australia, European cities are really close together, and also very well connected by affordable and high-speed rail travel), Kupka's plays a great many concerts in their home city, which has also forced them to learn great swathes of repertoire from the beginning. The identity of the ensemble has developed without restriction to a single style, something that has been possible due the small number of ensembles playing similar repertoire, which is unlike Europe where young ensembles often feel the need to carve out a niche before they really know what they want to do, in order to set themselves apart and avoid treading on others' toes.

The result is that Kupka's Piano has developed an excellent rapport, a very high standard of performance, and a loyal following*, something I've watched with increasing admiration from afar (it's always so gratifying to see others step into your empty shoes, and at this point I have to offer the highest praise especially to flutist Jodie Rottle, pianist Alex Raineri, and percussionist Angus Wilson for all their incredible hard work). Such a following is rare in Europe, and difficult to cultivate.

There are two particular sources of outside support which need to be mentioned when discussing KP's success: the Judith Wright Centre, which has given the ensemble a home and extensive marketing support, and the Australia Council for the Arts, which recognised very early on the potential of this ensemble, and supported us through a series of small grant programs from emerging artists through to young professionals. Without both of these government funded institutions, Kupka's Piano would likely not exist, and certainly would not be as strong as it is today.

The ramifications of the changes to arts funding in Australia not only endanger ensembles like Kupka's, they rule out the opportunity for younger groups of similarly adventurous musicians to emerge. The JUMP mentorship program and the ArtStart program, two important grants for emerging artists from which our ensemble members have benefitted, have been completely scrapped. The funding available in future to KP and other groups will be greatly reduced. Particularly in Queensland, where arts funding is yet to recover from the previous LNP government's brutal attacks, there are few alternatives to turn to when it comes to paying the basic expenses that make a concert possible.

I'm really looking forward to coming home to play with Kupka's Piano. But I also hope that when I finish my degree this time next year I can return to continuing opportunity for my ensemble in Australia. And I hope that other young musicians can afford to be adventurous in the future.

*I'm not the only one saying this!

Perspectives from Afar: Kupka at Darmstadt!

Kupka's Piano has sent something of a reconnaissance team to the famous (or infamous) Darmstadt International Summer Course for New Music this year. After about five days of the course, Alex Raineri reflects on the experience so far and gives an outline of what we're doing over here... Alex and Angus receive coaching from composer Georges Aperghis and percussionist Christian Dierstein during a masterclass at the Darmstadt Summer Festival.

I’m finishing up this blog post from my cozy little hotel room in the town of Darmstadt, Germany where Hannah, Angus, Liam, Michael and myself are almost a week into the frenetic and overwhelmingly wonderful 47th International Summer Course for New Music!

This trip is very special for Kupka’s Piano for a number of reasons. July was a huge month for the ensemble having played two very substantial programs Tempi Espressivi and Crippled Symmetry, as well as each of us having rather hectic performance and teaching commitments outside of the ensemble. Thus, it’s super exciting to finally be in full swing of the much-anticipated Darmstadt Festival.

The repertoire we’ve prepared for performances and workshops here are among some of the most challenging and rewarding repertoire the ensemble has ever tackled. Pieces such as Liam’s Flenady’s monstrously virtuosic Quite Early Morning no. 2, George Aperghis’ quirky Quatre Pièces Fébriles, Beat Furrer’s punchy Presto con Fuoco, Tristan Murail’s sensual La Mandragore and Brian Ferneyhough’s enchanting Cassandra’s Dream Song have been a long time in the practice room and the prospect of presenting these in this kind of international forum is both scary and exhilarating!

Other pieces on the menu are much more fresh! Within a few of the festival projects, Angus, Hannah and I are working with some of our European colleagues and counterparts that we’ve only recently met in pieces by Eun-Ji Lee, Chaya Czernowin, Misato Mochizuki and others…!

The Darmstadt festival represents for us an enormously exciting opportunity to both collaborate and learn from our colleagues and mentors. Such luminaries and giants in the new music scene that we have the privilege to work with are Nicholas Hodges, Christian Dierstein, Eva Furrer, Yukiko Sugawara, Ensemble Nikel, Uli Fussenegger and composers such as Tristan Murail, Helmut Lachenmann, Georges Aperghis, Brian Ferneyhough, Pierluigi Billone, Peter Ablinger, Clemens Gadenstätter, Oliver Schneller…the list goes on for days!

As well as this, it’s a chance for Kupka to bring our music and ideas to an international forum to benchmark our own standards against those of our European counterparts. Also it’s a wonderful opportunity to soak up some of the contemporary music culture that is so much more prevalent and developed over this side of the world.

I find that it’s often very difficult to find perspective from afar but at the same time this can be a blessing as it helps to remove a rigid sense of framework and conservative performance traditions and their associated limitations.

We’ll be posting some post-festival reflections on the blog over the next month or two but during the festival keep an eye out for our Instragram (@kupkagram) account for heaps of pictures of us meeting awesome people and drinking German beer. Hurrah!

KP in 2014

This last year has been super exciting for Kupka's - we presented our inaugural four-concert series ("Where in the world is Kupka's Piano?") at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, sold out the majority of our shows (!), made contact with composers from all over the globe while preparing their music, commissioned a bunch of new works, worked closely with Ensemble Interface from Frankfurt thanks to an Australia Council JUMP Mentorship, and performed by invitation at the Brisbane Experimental Art Festival (BEAF). In total we gave ten Australian premieres on top of eight world premieres!

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Hannah Reardon-Smith (flute) and Luara Karlson-Carp (voice) perform the Australian premiere of American composer Kate Soper's Only the words themselves mean what they say (2010-11) at our concert in November 2013.

But now we've hit the new year and there's many fresh projects on the boil. We're extremely fortunate to have continued support from the Judith Wright, where we will be presenting a further four-concert series this year, entitled Il faut être.

The series takes its name from a line in Arthur Rimbaud's 1873 poem A Season in Hell"Il faut être absolument moderne." Our aim is to hold true to this claim, to venture into the possible paths of the musically modern. We will continue to seek out new music by the composers of our generation from around the world, as well as to commission new works from Australian composers and to have a crack at some of the great pieces of the last fifty years.

For our first concert of the year we'll be joined by Australia's premiere new music ensemble, Ensemble Offspring (Sydney), in a performance of high octane, quasi-mechanical, factory floor works. Kupka's will be performing Gérard Grisey's mixed quintet Talea plus a new flute-piano-percussion trio by Michael Mathieson-Sandars. The ensembles will also present a joint performance of Louis Andriessen's Workers' Union. That one's on Friday 21 March, so put it in your diary - tickets will be available in about a week.

For more about the series, visit our Upcoming Performances page.

In other exciting news, several of our members will be traveling to Germany in August to partake in the Darmstadt International Summer Course for New Music! There we will have the opportunity to reunite with Ensemble Interface, which we are very much looking forward to, in addition to meeting a huge number of composers and new music performers from around the globe, hearing and performing stacks of fresh repertoire, and receiving tuition and guidance from the masters in our field. This is an incredible opportunity for us, and one which we will be reporting on regularly as we prepare and then make our journey overseas.

On July 25 (okay, so I'm not being especially chronological here), we will perform Morton Feldman's 90-minute epic Crippled Symmetry for flute, piano and percussion in a concert at the Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University.

We also have a very exciting recording opportunity that we're not yet able to announce... So stay tuned!

There will no doubt be other performances and events involving Kupka's Piano or some of our members. Make sure you check back to our website for updates - or you can subscribe to our email list for timely reminders. See you soon!

Review of "Giants Behind Us"

There was no trembling in the air in this concert. These were strong, confident statements of musical futures for all concerned, composers and performers alike.

Our concert last Friday night was a great success - it is incredibly encouraging as an emerging professional ensemble to enjoy sell-out crowds at each of our first two concerts of our inaugural series! We are all terribly grateful to our many friends and supporters who were there on the night, and also to those who could not make it. Particular mention of the Judith Wright Centre must of course be made - their amazing support over the course of 2013 is making our concert series not only possible, but also presented professionally with added flair.

We were fortunate enough to receive this wonderful review from Jocelyn Wolfe, published on new music blog Partial Durations (a joint project between Matthew Lorenzon and RealTime), which is so evocative it made me relive the entire evening. Well worth reading if you happened to miss out this time around, or if you were there and would like to delve deeper into the ideas behind the program and the music itself.

Kupka's on the Radio!

We were fortunate enough to be featured on ABC Radio National's The Music Show hosted by the wonderful Andrew Ford last Saturday. If you missed it, you can still listen to it online and even download the audio for our segment of the show - click here to hear Kupka's on the radio! We play some short extracts from our upcoming program, 'Giants Behind Us', which we'll be performing this coming Friday 10 May, 7.30pm at the Judith Wright Centre: Peter Clark's In lines, in time I and part of Isabel Mundry's Komposition für Flöte und Schlagzeug. In addition we talk about the ensemble and the rational behind it, and why we're looking to Germany right now.