Posts in Concerts
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!


A Symbolist Nervous Breakdown Cabaret with Tabatha McFadyen

TabathaMcFadyen Kupka's Piano welcomes guest soprano Tabatha McFadyen to the stage once again, this time for a scintillating performance of Arnold Schoenberg's modernist masterpiece Pierrot Lunaire at PIERROT! on June 10 at the Judith Wright Centre.

Jodie Rottle: Tabatha, I have run into you in Brisbane a few times over the past six months, but it was never for long; you were always jet-setting elsewhere for a musical adventure. Can you tell us what you have been up to regarding travel and performing?

Tabatha McFadyen: Jodie! Hello! I’ve been about, mostly singing and trying to become better at singing, which is a joy and a pleasure. I did a La Boheme in NZ at the start of the year, and then went to Tel Aviv to do a residency at The Israeli Opera, and have gotten to do some great recitals with my fellow musical terrorist, (KP pianist) Alex Raineri. Have to say, 2016’s been a great year; but it’s about to get exponentially better on June 10!

J: Where do you consider to be your "home base" for the moment? Do you have any upcoming performances in Australia other than PIERROT! with KP?

T: Look, I’m mostly homeless, but Sydney’s where my books are and Auckland’s where the cat is, so it’s a deadheat between those two. I actually have a performance with Alex here in Brisbane this coming Friday for the 4MBS Festival of Classics, in which we’re doing a pretty hefty bunch of Russian ditties. (Tatiana’s Letter Scene = ditty.) My next operatic role though is the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro in late June in Hawaii, because I’m allergic to staying in one country for longer than a minute.

J: How do you prepare for diverse singing roles? Is there a difference to preparing Pierrot Lunaire from a traditional operatic role?

T: In some ways the process is the same. Text first, then rhythm, then notes, and getting little thoughts about the character all the way through that rudimentary process and then putting it together. The main difference I suppose is that this rudimentary stage of learning for Pierrot takes longer because the music’s harder than most commonly presented operas, and therefore the entire process is littered with confusion and sporadic self-chastising that I didn’t pay more attention in Aural Skills at uni. However, the effort is worth it, because the deeper I go into this score the more I marvel at it, and the more I’m astounded by Schoenberg’s capacity for drama, which I think is something he took right the way through his oeuvre. (Something, incidentally, people forget about when they’re blithely blaming him for the annihilation of Western Classical Music; an egregiously erroneous claim, by the way, but we don’t have time to get into that here.) He captures every passing change in thought, and flits between irony and deep pathos with such a deft hand, and, with a penetrating psychological knowledge and a fearless compositional language, he renders our darkest human thoughts in sound. So, the process of preparation becomes thrilling because I get to explore that and figure out how I’m going to bring it to life. But I'm still furious that I continually missed Wednesday morning aural because of the legacy of Plough Tuesday.

J: Schoenberg's piece uses the Sprechstimme technique, which requires you to blend singing and speaking. How do you think this technique relays the drama of the music? Do you think it strengthens the poetry and themes more than traditional singing styles? Give us your take on how you assume character in Pierrot Lunaire.

T: The bizarre thing about Sprechstimme, I find, is that it ostensibly ought to be a more ‘realistic’ approach to text because it’s closer to speech than the highly stylised operatic sound that we mostly use for songs. However, something about it not fitting neatly into either category makes it discomforting (still, more than a century after its composition) and grotesque, which fits the poetic material perfectly. As a singer it gives you a huge spectrum of colour to work with, but Schoenberg is tremendously specific, and the character comes out of seeing how he’s set the text and how I can best play with that. Without giving too much away, my take on Pierrot is that the night is a kind of Symbolist Nervous Breakdown Cabaret (if that description doesn’t sell tickets I don’t know what will).

J: Can you write us a haiku or provide us with a picture as to why our readers should book a ticket to "PIERROT!"?

T: I have summarised the salient points of the story in that most wonderful of contemporary hieroglyphs, the emoji.

🌝 🍷 👀 🌚 💐 🌚 🙅 🏻 🌚 🛁 💄 🌚 👩 🏼 🌊 💉 💋 ⚰ 🚶 👵  😭  🌚  🤒  🤕  🦃  🌞 🚫 🎭 😄 😟 👑 💍 ⚰  💉 😱 ✝ 🕯 🙋 ❤️ ❌ 🌛 🔪 😀   ❌ ✝   💉 ⚰  😔 🇮🇹 🎭 💀 🔩 🚬 🏸  👵 🏻 🌛 👔 😱 😡 🏹  🎻 🌛 🚣 💨 💭 😄

Yes, the turkey and the badminton racquet are somewhat inapposite, but there is a severe lack of giant, soul-sucking, black butterflies in the emoji software. Knitting needles made of moonlight also glaringly absent.

Also, here is a Venn Diagram illuminating the nature of the work, in relation to other events in people's lives, which I assume look exactly the same as mine.

Tabatha's graph

J: Wow ... that's spot on!

Witness Tabatha and Kupka's Piano portray all of these things plus a world premiere by Ben Marks at PIERROT! ON JUNE 10, 7:30PM at the Judy. Tickets available now!

Interview with THE MOON

Kupka's Piano international correspondent and flutist Hannah Reardon-Smith interviews The Moon (a.k.a. Jodie Rottle), who will be extensively featured in our performance of Pierrot Lunaire at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts on June 10 at 7:30pm. vintagemoonwomanish11 Hannah: Hello, Moon.

The Moon: Hello, human.

Hannah: We are delighted to have you appearing in our upcoming presentation of "Pierrot Lunaire". Please tell us about your involvement in the show.

The Moon: I am the intoxicating light shining in the early hours of the night. Through the tone and timbres of the flute, I court the clown Pierrot through the darkness of night, illuminating all that is both good and evil, dream-like and nightmarish. I am the source of comfort to the fear of night, but I am the fear itself.

Hannah: That sounds quite serious. How do you manage such volatile roles in one musical piece?

The Moon: I concentrate on my inspirational qualities. My delicate moonbeams flicker on shining crystals in the night. I intoxicate Pierrot with my beauty and excite him with my presence, and then kindly I lead his wayward drunk self home at the end of his evening of shenanigans. You have to wonder: is it me, or is it actually that silly clown Pierrot that is the volatile one? I'm simply resting on the night sky, or "Heaven's blackened pillow", if you will, and Pierrot is the one galavanting throughout town and creating mischief.

Hannah: Pierrot seems to think you illuminate things that shouldn't be seen. What is your response?

The Moon: If Pierrot thinks I am a threat, then he shouldn't be drinking in my beauty and teasing Colombine in the wee hours of the night. I am lonesome up here in the night sky, so I must shine on the land below, otherwise I become sick with sorrow. I eventually fade into the day, so Pierrot will get over it. Pierrot is a lunatic, anyway. He is obsessed with me and we all know it.

Don't miss out on PIERROT! Book your tickets now.

Dignity and militancy: Si el clima fuera un banco

liam_on_bike On Friday, Alex Raineri will be premiering my new piece Si el clima fuera un banco for solo piano and fixed media at the Kupka’s Piano concert ‘Outer Sounds’.

The initial inspiration for the piece was as simple as it is impossible: how to put new music in relation to climate change as a scientific, social, and political problem?

While there is a lot of ecological, site-specific, interactive, art being made today, and I think this is a fine thing, I was interested in confronting what seemed to be completely heteronymous worlds: a virtuosic, notated solo piano work, popular political songs from across the last century and a half, conservationism and evolutionary science, and social and political analyses of our climate crisis.

The idea is that through assembling these various strata, complex and dissonant relationships will form, sometimes overwhelming the listener in their density, sometimes opening into enigmatic clarity.

What I was explicitly not interested in doing was writing a piece that is supposed to ‘raise awareness’ of climate change. I had no interest in choosing texts that outline the severity of the situation, the social and environmental costs, horror stories meant to humanise the issue and make us feel bad about our life choices. There’s enough of that out there already. Instead, I wanted to create an experience that in a sense condensed the complexity of the social-environmental relations we find ourselves in today, but also pointed generally to a political way out.

Of course I understand that my music will have limited political effect, but it is my belief that the solution to the climate crisis will come from the political sphere, from popular mobilisation and organisation, and not from art. Without denying art’s potential for political engagement, to my mind art’s primary challenge in this arena is simply to not get left behind: to interrogate what the climate crisis and its social implications means for art’s own presuppositions. There of course will be many ways of doing this.

if-the-climate-were-a-bankSi el clima takes excerpts from texts by John Bellamy Foster, Aldo Leopold and Stephen Jay Gould. At the centre of the textual element is Hugo Chavez’s still-astonishing speech at the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Summit in which he made the statement: “If the climate were a bank, they would have saved it already,” from which the piece takes its title. While I was composing this work, I was also reading Naomi Klein’s fantastic book This Changes Everything, which, in a sense, is the real subtext of the work.

On a basic musical level, I tried to structure the work as a complex, meandering, but nonetheless inexorable movement towards a precipice. A kind of ‘tragedy of progress’ in musical form. The piece ends with a suspended moment, our moment, the moment of the decision, where options are open and things aren’t yet determined.

In general, in this piece and others, I’m aiming for a music that expresses both a sense of dignity, and one of militancy. The dignity comes from the refinement and complexity of the contrapuntal discourse – its resistance to reified musical language; the militancy comes from the ‘stickin’-to-it-ness’ of the lines, the driving nature of a lot of the material, the intentionally crude elements, the unadorned, unaestheticised texts, musical quotations, and so on.

To my mind the one can’t exist without the other: too great an emphasis on dignity turns the music into a paranoid negativity, always avoiding what might be a ‘naïve’ or ‘crude’ idea. Such an approach tends to collapse in on itself, leaving neither complexity nor dignity. On the other hand, too great an emphasis on militancy makes it brutish, unthinking, and, in a sense, easily ‘domesticated’. The idea is to find the point where the two intersect and reinforce each other. This is my idea of counterpoint.

I have to thank Alex in advance for all the tremendous effort he put into the piece. There has been a lot of back and forth between us about the piece since January (cross-continental collaboration: Brisbane-Brussels), with Alex often playing a direct role in suggesting compositional alternatives, etc, and I’m curious to see the result of this combined labour. I also have to thank here the three speakers Andrew Last, Jess Moore, and Nat Evans, whose unaffected and personal speaking styles nicely compliment the powerful oration of Hugo Chavez.

'Outer Sounds' takes place on Friday 19 June at the Judith Wright Centre in Brisbane. Check out the facebook event here. Book tickets here.

Pregnant nothingness: An interview with Chikako Morishita

chikako This Friday, Kupka's Piano clarinetist Macarthur Clough gives the Australian premiere of Chikako Morishita's solo clarinet work Lizard (shadow). Chikako has kindly taken a moment of her time between composition deadlines and premieres at Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival to give us a quick intro to her life, music, and guilty pleasures.

Liam Flenady: Let's start at the start. Tell us a bit about yourself. What's your story?

Chikako Morishita: I’m a Japanese composer, occasionally a pianist. I was awarded a BA and an MA from Tokyo University of Arts, and an MA (research) with distinction from University of Huddersfield. I’ve been based in Berlin since 2011. At the same time I’m doing a PhD at Huddersfield under Liza Lim and Aaron Cassidy.

LF: You say in your program notes in fact that Lizard (shadow) is a work about silence. You mention that one of the ways of writing 'lizard' in Kanji is with the characters of 'shade' and 'gate'. How do you draw upon this compositionally?

CM: For me, silence is not just a soundingly absent space, it is a space fully filled by one’s imagination even if materially empty. We call it 'pregnant nothingness' in Japan and I wanted silence in my composition to be like that. As for the title... The score of lizard (shadow) contains various degrees of determinacy and indeterminacy -determinate musical materials function as a framework to illustrate something unstable or indeterminate as if the gate (a fixed object) lets shadows exist.

LF: Lizard (shadow) has something of a 'moment'-like structure, How did you come up with the different sections - were they planned in advance, or did you find the structure intuitively?

CM: Firstly I made variations of some original materials (all passages in this work were derived from a single starting material), and then I made fragmentary moments by combining them. I then shuffled the order, added and removed notes or fragments, and so on.

LF: You've dedicated this piece to the works original performer, Heather Roche, and say in your notes that the layered material 'frames the performer's own interpretative sensibilities'. What do you feel the role of the performer is in your music?

CM: I hope my music to be a device to frame performer’s heightened sense of presence, and also to reveal their unique being.

LF: In Kupka's, we have a running joke that we'll do a 'guilty pleasures' concert at some point, playing pieces or songs that each of us hate to admit that we love. My song is Toto's Africa, a sophisticated, but thoroughly corny piece of early 80s pop. What is your musical guilty pleasure?

CM: Easy. AKB48, the Japanese idol group.

LF: Well I look forward to your modernist arrangement of this classic hit: [youtube]

Implied Dynamics and Vibraphone Gymnastics: A behind the scenes look at the preparation for Liam Flenady’s ‘Quite Early Morning, no. 2’

Kupka's percussionist Angus Wilson reflects on learning Liam Flenady's new work Quite Early Morning, no. 2. Come listen to the finished product at our concert Tempi Espressivi on July 18. Angus vibesHaving just come out of a practise session of Liam Flenady's new piece Quite Early Morning, no. 2, I'm grappling with two points which seem integral to the success of the work. The first is what I call 'implied dynamics', i.e. the notated loudness differs greatly from the loudness and/or meaning of the dynamic. Secondly, the 'gymnastics' of his part, flurries of small and complicated manoeuvres that need to be executed with precision, style and accuracy.

It would be an understatement to say Liam gives the vibraphone a workout in Quite Early Morning. I was expecting a notey part given his latest obsession of contrapuntal writing in the 21st century and his 'jazz' background. However he created something quite different and rather exciting. Quite Early Morning (both in the first and second incarnations) uses a range of extended techniques. These include pitch bending, dead strokes (leaving the mallet on the bar so it does not vibrate after being stuck), mallet dampening, white and black note glisses, striking the bar with the rattan handles and more. These are some of the more standard vibraphone extended techniques commonly used by composers today. Some techniques I did not expect were 'bouncing rattan handle on edge of bar', scraping rattan handle on the bar and to hand dampened 'extreme staccato'. (Have a listen to a recording of the first version to get a sense of what these techniques sound like).

Liam and I discussed the 'bouncing rattan' which he has listed at dynamics from pianissimo to forte. Compared to the vibraphone the technique has a capability of dynamic from about ppp (very very soft) to piano (soft). Liam presents the problem of hypothetical dynamic vs actual dynamic. How do I play an mf or f with this technique? Does this mean that I have to adjust all of the dynamics to fit in with this technique? Or is it isolated in its limited dynamic range and I should play everything else as per normal?

After a few practice sessions it's discovered that the dynamics are merely implied. Forte = 'We want to be able to hear the bouncing,' mezzo forte or mezzo piano would usually mean 'I'm a part of the texture and/or I'd like a bounce with less intensity'. Piano or anything less probably means 'Background texture or a very relaxed open bounce.' The reality is each time I play the technique at different dynamics the actual 'loudness' barely changes, just the speed/amount of bounces. You can only hope you have a good set of bendy rattan sticks to reach your full expressive potential.

The majority of the extended techniques used have a decreased capacity of dynamic, due to changing the purpose of the intended way the vibraphone was to be used. Most involve manipulating the metal in a way that doesn’t promote vibration and resonance.

As I navigate my way through Liam's piece I find myself feeling like much less of a musician and more like an elaborate gymnast or circus performer. Holding three differing sticks, constantly changing between techniques and tempos, I bend and flex my mallets to bend the pitch, cut and manipulate resonance/attack. My technique is pushed to the limit with p-f crescendos over 3-9 notes, meaning each strike must be very carefully attended to in regards to its gradation in loudness (remember a vibraphone cannot increase dynamic once struck). Rehearsals are much more strenuous mentally and physically on the performer than usual.

As I come closer have my part ready for a rehearsal, I begin to consider the co-ordination. While pulling off these 'manoeuvres' I have to be aware of my colleagues in rehearsal, what they are doing, if they are in sync with me, if we are matching dynamics and sounds. Each manoeuvre is often quite short and precise and usually part of a longer phrase or gesture. Whilst an overriding pulse does exist within the music... the success of the piece seems to much more entangled in the ability of the performers to pass these to each other. The writing is very hocketed in an abstract way. As the group becomes closer to the looming performance deadline it appears that more detail that is realised and cared for, the more homogenous the overall outcome.

Overall I thoroughly enjoy playing and learning Liam's music… While at times it can be difficult to navigate and comprehend, it has a very organic and expressive quality that gives the performer freedom to mould their own version of his work. I am honoured to give the premiere of it on July 18 at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Art and to workshop it at the Darmstadt Summer Institute for New Music in August.

Angus Wilson.

WET INK, New York, and "Pendulum III": An interview with Alex Mincek

Alex Headshot_0 Performing for the first time in Australia the music of New York based composer Alex Mincek, Kupka musicians Sami Mason and Alex Raineri tackle his saxophone and piano duo Pendulum III in the upcoming concert 'The American Dreamsong: New Music in the USA' - Friday 29 November, 7.30pm, at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts. Our Alex chats with composer Alex:  

Alex Raineri: You're a very impressive young composer, could you tell us a little about your musical journey thus far - who have been some significant mentors and how have you come to be based in New York? 

Alex Mincek: I moved to New York from Florida when I was 19 to study saxophone at the Manhattan School of Music. At that time I was mostly participating in various forms of jazz music, but was already well aware of, and inspired by composers like Ives, Cowell, Cage, Schoenberg, Webern, Stravinsky, etc. Though, I had not seriously considered composing myself until I took a course called "composition for non-composition majors". The professor of that class, Giampaolo Broccoli, recognized my intense interest in composition and really convinced me that I should pursue a more serious study of the craft. Since then I have had many wonderful teachers including, Nils Vigeland, Fred Lerdahl and Tristan Murail.

AR: In addition to composition you're also a saxophonist and clarinettist. I was very interested to learn that you are the artistic director of WET INK Ensemble with Kate Soper (who is also receiving an Australian premiere in our upcoming concert!). I would like to hear your thoughts on how being a performer (especially in terms of your collaboration with other composer/performers in your ensemble) affects the way you approach writing music? Does this allow for a more detailed and intimate workshopping process for certain pieces?

AM: The short answer is yes. But more specifically, I often directly draw from my knowledge of my own instruments to compose, which I believe allows me to write more idiomatically for instruments, albeit in novel ways. Additionally, working with my ensemble has allowed for, as you mention, a more detailed and intimate environment for experimenting with sounds.

AR: Tell us a little about the Pendulum pieces, you're written five as far as I can tell. Are they related to each other musically?

AM: I'm working on the 10th and final piece of this series currently. And yes, they are related to one another, insofar as they each are meant to represent various physical, temporal, and spatial phenomena demonstrated by the simple swinging motions of pendulums, along with some of the more complex forces, environments and mechanisms that make a pendulum’s movement continue or dissipate.

AR: Specifically, what were your thoughts behind Pendulum III? I hear some spectralist influences in the piece, perhaps attributed to Grisey, or Murail with whom you studied?

AM: Both of the composers you mention have indeed been very influential to my approach to composing, but I wouldn't say there is too close a connection between their work and Pendulum III, other than the focus on timbre as inseparable from harmony (specifically) and structure (more broadly). For example, the piece does use variously untempered, close tunings that cause novel timbral effects such as psychoacoustic 'beatings' to represent subtle back-and-forth 'motions' between the saxophone and piano, while simultaneously creating unconventional harmonies.

AR: You've received commissions and worked with some eminent ensembles such as the JACK Quartet, Ensemble Linea, Talea Ensemble, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra among many others. What projects are you currently working on - what's next?

AM: I'm currently finishing a large orchestra piece for the Guggenheim Foundation and writing a new work for my own group, WET INK Ensemble. In the near future I will also write a new piece for string quartet and orchestra for the JACK Quartet and the American Composers Orchestra, a new string quartet for MIVOS, and a piece for 2 pianos and 2 percussionists for YARN/WIRE.

AR: Our 2013 concert series has been a peripatetic exploration of music from all around the globe with a focus on the younger generation of composers. We've looked at Asia, Germany, Italy and now we wrap up with music from the USA. As a young composer in the States, would you say that you draw inspiration from your American predecessors or contemporaries?

AM: I would say both. Composers of the past like Ives, Ellington, Cage, Feldman, Coltrane, Braxton and Lucier have been VERY important to me, but so have younger composers like my colleagues in WET INK. Many international composers, past and present (mostly European, I suppose), have been extremely influential for me as well.

Immersion is required! Introducing Luara Karlson-Carp

Luara Kupka's Piano is proud to introduce Luara Karlson-Carp in our upcoming concert, "The American Dream-Song: New Music in the USA" - on next Friday, 29 November, 7.30pm, at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Art - where she will be performing the Australian premiere of a work by young American composer Kate Soper, as well as a great work by Downtown New York giant, Morton Feldman.

Our violinist, Alethea Coombe, took some time to chat to Luara and find out about her, her music and her connection to the States.

Alethea Coombe: Tell us a little about yourself - Where were you born? Where did you study? What were your early influences? All those things that led you to where you are today!

Luara Karlson-Carp: I was born in Montana, USA and lived there till I was four years old, in a tiny town right next to Yellowstone National Park. It was a pretty wild place, bears and cowboys and the like. I then moved to Bellingen NSW and that's where I stayed till I began a Bachelor of Music in jazz voice at the Queensland Conservatorium, from which I'm graduating this semester. Whilst in Bellingen I attended a Steiner School, which was very alternative and arts-based, and lived with a painter/potter for quite a while and I see both of these "creative" experiences as having a big affect on my values and musical/artistic influences today.

AC: How about now? What's an average day in the life of Luara?

LKC: I've just been struck down with a 24 hour bug so most recently it has included sleeping, reading A Room Of One's Own by Virginia Woolf, pumpkin soup and guilt-free internet perusal time....

AC: You recently studied in America - Please tell us a bit more about it! What did you expect, and what was surprising for you? What led you there in the first place?

LKC: I went over on a semester of exchange/study abroad. When I decided to apply, the real impetus for going was a well needed break from my environment and a chance to reflect and chase inspiration. I knew I wanted to be close to NYC, so I looked at the list of exchange partner universities, found the only one in New York state, pointed to it and said "that one". That was the extent of the expectation! I was incredibly lucky and landed in a strong community of positive, creative young musicians in the best town ever(!) and had an incredible time. Together with some friends a band focusing on free and concept-based improvisation was formed and we undertook a six-week, grass-roots, 6000 mile tour of the states, which was a pretty eye opening and pivotal experience. I also did a great workshop in New York City. I was surprised at the openness and positivity of the music scene there, and also shocked by the political situation and who really seems to be pulling the strings.

AC: Of course our aim in this concert is to present some of the music coming from the States that we find exciting and poke a little into what the scene is like there. You've experienced it first hand, though! What music and musical scenes did you discover while you were there?

LKC: The underground improvised/experimental scene was one I got some decent exposure to as we did almost 25 gigs in 25 different places on tour. Due to the economy, culture and licensing, paid gigs in venues are really hard to come by, but the underground scene is thriving. The fantastical existence of basements in nearly every US home provides pretty adequate sound-proofing, so people will set up their houses as music venues, naming them and giving them their own Facebook pages with weekly or bi-weekly events. It's fantastic as it provides a hub for local, self-determined musical communities. I think that's a lot harder to pull off in the rather more flimsy raised wooden suburban Queenslanders we have here!

AC: Tell us a little more about one of the pieces you're performing with us, Kate Soper's "Only the Words Themselves Mean What They Say".

LKC: For me this piece is really exciting for many reasons, the first being that it's actually the first piece of music I can remember performing composed by a women, and secondly it's definitely the only piece I've composed by a soprano! That's really inspiring - it can be easy to feel like your only options as a female singer are to sound pretty and, if you please, look pretty too. I also think the way the piece plays on and relates to the text is creatively brilliant, and how the movements sit together is highly surprising and satisfying. This will be my first contemporary classical concert ever, so I've been very lucky to have Hannah's patience, passion and experience at hand for the learning process. We performed the first movement recently and I was surprised at the emotional force of the piece when it's put in front of an audience - there's a lot of intense rationalisation of highly emotional content in the text, and that, combined with Soper's musical treatment of it, creates what felt to be a rather unruly beast to pace and perform, but so exhilarating! I'm very excited about the performance, I think everyone will find it to be a very powerful yet playful experience.

AC: It sounds like there's a lot of music that excites you. What are you listening to at the moment?

LKC: Morton Feldman; this is my first contemporary classical gig, immersion is required!

AC: What's in store for you in the next few years? What would you like to be doing? What do you see coming in your future?

LKC: My current plan is to move to Melbourne and enrol in a BA. I feel my creative-world needs some intellectual-world support to feel meaningful and stay relevant to what's important to me. I'm really looking forward to getting involved in the scene down there and want to continue exploring contemporary classical music, as well as improvised/experimental music and eventually sound based installation works.

AC: Thanks very much!

Luara will be performing with Kupka's Piano on the 29th of November at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts for the fourth and final concert of our 2013 series. Get tickets here!

Quartet for the End of July: An interview with Jakob Bragg

IMG_2199 Jakob Four Kupka musicians will be presenting a short program at this year's Brisbane Emerging Art Festival (BEAF) on Saturday 27 July. As part of this performance, we will be giving the world premiere of young Brisbane composer Jakob Bragg's Quartet for the End of July. Our pianist Alex Raineri caught up with Jake to talk about starting out in composing, the Brisbane new music scene, and future ambitions. You can find out more about Jake by visiting his website:

Alex Raineri: You're a young composer studying at the Queensland Conservatorium in Brisbane. What first interested you in composing and was there a pivotal moment at which you decided this is what you want to do?

Jakob Bragg: I suppose I first started composing when I began piano lessons, improvising on scales and bringing in my own variants of the piece I was supposed to be learning. In high school I started writing more seriously, however it wasn't until studying Business & Economics at Uni that I decided I wanted to pursue music professionally and to perfect my compositional craft.

AR: Following on from the previous question - how do you feel your composing has evolved since you first began your studies? Are there particular composers or works that have been significant to you in shaping your musical taste?

JB: Significantly! Starting my studies at the Conservatorium, I attempted (rather unsuccessfully) to imitate romantic works, tried my hand at film scoring - the most avant garde composer I could name would have been Philip Glass! I then went from experimenting in minimalism, immersing myself in Australian works and eventually succumbing to Schoenberg, and have since found love with 20th century modernism and the 21st's emerging composers. Today, a healthy diet of Stravinsky, Messiaen, Carter and today's young up-and-coming consist of my daily intake.

AR: The work you've written for us Quartet for the End of July bears an obvious tip of the hat to Messiaen! When writing this piece for Kupka's Piano, what influences did you turn to and what were the main ideas you wanted to get across?

JB: Indeed. My first port of call when asked to write this piece was Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time. In particular, I drew a lot from the first 2 movements: loving Messiaen's hauntingly beautiful chords, the long, slow developing idea of each movement, almost improvisational rhythms, and his unique tonal world. Fleshing out one main idea, my own work features the flute and clarinet, almost operating as their own independent duet (switching roles halfway through the piece), whilst the piano provides a vague harmonic centre and the vibraphone ostinato keeps the group together.

AR: Brisbane has a burgeoning new music scene, with some old favourites being joined by up-and-coming groups. Have you been to any interesting concerts lately, and what has piqued your interest?

JB: Absolutely, just last night I was at the Best of Brass concert at the Conservatorium, featuring new music of Australian Composers. Other concerts such as yours (Kupka's Piano), the Queensland Saxophone Orchestra, Southern Cross Soloists, The Australian Voices, Collusion Music and Clocked Out, plus many more, have been at the centre of promoting contemporary works, at a high quality, within Brisbane.

AR: Something our ensemble really enjoys is having the luxury of interacting with composers such as yourself on new works, especially workshopping and experimenting with different approaches to material - getting under the skin of the piece. What has been your experience working with performers and ensembles and how do you define your role in such interactions?

JB: It has been incredible working with you, Alex, as well as Hannah, Annie & Angus. Working with performers and ensembles is an absolute pleasure, and to see a work take shape, evolve and come to life is incredible - all the better when's its your very own creation! Often I don't try and nose my way into saying too much during rehearsals, I love to see and hear how ensembles respond to the score and work through the issues it may present. Answering any questions and giving a guide as to what on earth I've written is all I mention, otherwise I love to hear the unique interpretation of each performer.

AR: And to wrap up with the $65,000 question - what does the future hold for Jakob Bragg! Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

JB: Hmmmmm. That I wish I knew! I have many ideas and thoughts however so many choices and paths... Over the next year and a half I will finish my studies at the Queensland Conservatorium, in which I hope to further develop my craft through private study with a few established composers. Plans for travel, lessons and workshops overseas is defiantly on the agenda - particularly England & Germany. Postgraduate study eventually is also an option, whether in Brisbane, Australia or overseas is another matter all together. I suppose all in all, I hope to continue composition study, writing and immerse myself into as much music as possible.

Some upcoming Kupka performances

Our next season concert will feature our collaboration with European ensemble interface as part of a JUMP mentorship with the kind support of the Australia Council. We'll be performing a program of new Italian works on two consecutive nights: September 27th and 28th. Visit the Judith Wright Centre website for tickets and more information. In the meantime... A quartet made up of Kupka musicians will be performing at the Brisbane Emerging Artists Festival (BEAF) at 8pm on July 27th. Our program consists of a new work by young Brisbane composer Jakob Bragg, an arrangement of two Nancarrow player piano studies by our percussionist Angus Wilson, two important repertoire works from Italy, and a piano spectacular by Australian composer Carl Vine.

Bruno Maderna - Honeyrêves (1961) see below Franco Donatoni - Omar (1985) see below Carl Vine - Toccatissimo (2012) Jakob Bragg - New Work (2013) - world premiere Conlon Nancarrow (arr. A Wilson) - Two Studies for Player Pianos


Maderna's Honeyrêves for flute and piano.


Donatoni's Omar for solo vibraphone.

We'll also be performing as part of a new music charity concert at the Queensland Conservatorium on August 24th. Stay tuned for more information!

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.