Posts tagged Angus Wilson Percussion
Three Distinct Parts of a Shadow: An interview with Mark Wolf

Mark Wolf

Angus was keen to find out a little more about Mark Wolf while learning his solo vibraphone piece 'Umbra-Penumbra-Antumbra'. Hear Angus perform this piece at Kupka's Piano at the Imperial Room this Sunday 12th of June, 4pm at the Imperial Room. Tickets are $25 including an amazing afternoon tea. To book your seat contact avonfun42@gmail.com.

Angus Wilson: Thanks for taking the time out to meet me Mark, can you tell us a little bit about your current projects and compositions?

Mark Wolf: Sure. As you may already know, I am currently undertaking my PhD candidature at the Queensland Conservatorium. At present, I am developing creative approaches for translating architectural ‘space’ into musical ‘time’. My most recent compositions are specifically based on unconventional spatial design qualities exhibited in extreme examples of contemporary architecture.

At the end of this month I fly out to Sibiu, Romania for the Icon Arts Festival where I will be a composer-in-residence. I will be there for two weeks working with the RTÉ ConTempo Quartet who will be performing my second string quartet "The Flying Roof".

I currently have a handful of works in progress including a 'pierrot' chamber ensemble (Flute, Clarinet, Piano, Violin and Cello) piece "Less is a Bore", which I have been working on for nearly 18 months, it is about 80% complete and is based on the deconstructivist architecture of the UFA Cinema Center in Dresden. Also in the works is a piano solo for Alex Raineri. Titled Crystal Cloud, based on the Musée des Confluences in Lyon, the piece sees a shift in spatio-temproal focus, from a direct abstract association with architecture to a more sensual approach to considering the orientation and inhabitant’s navigation of a designed space. Other works include a collection of 12 miniature structures, a piano trio and an orchestral piece.

AW: You spent some time in the UK... what did you do over there?

MW: Yes, I was based in London from 2009 to 2012. I was awarded a scholarship to undertake the Masters Advanced Composition Programme at the Royal College of Music. I graduated in 2011 and thanks to my Scottish mother I acquired dual citizenship and a European passport, which afforded me the opportunity to stay a while longer and spend some time travelling throughout Europe.

AW: What inspired you to write for the vibraphone? Can you tell us a little about your piece?

MW:Well I had composed a solo vibraphone piece back in 2002 and had always wanted to revisit writing for the instrument. Umbra-Penumbra-Antumbra was written in 2010, during my time in London.  The umbra, penumbra and antumbra are the names given to the three distinct parts of a shadow, created by any light source. In the case of this piece the light source is the sun and the occluding body is planet Earth as observed from the moon. UPA is a single movement work divided into three sections shifting in accordance to the gradual shadow variation cast by the Earth.   

AW: You mentioned to me that Umbra-Penumbra-Antumbra marked a change in compositional style... can you tell us a little bit about that change?

MW: Umbra-Penumbra-Antumbra marked more than a change in composition style, upon reflection, it is the piece that signaled a change in compositional thought. I became increasingly captivated by experiences of time and identifying the evident traits for measuring varied perceptions of musical time. UPA is the first piece where I consciously considered 'time' an integral component of the creative process. UPA sees early experiments with approximate tempo indications, an assortment of non-measured open-extended-beams and the omission of barlines, all attempts at removing pulse and deliberately inviting the performer(s) own temporal interpretation.

AW: What are you three favorite places in Brisbane?

MW:It is not exactly in Brisbane, but my number one favourite place would have to be Mt. Tamborine. My partner and I live quite close and head up there regularly on the Harley. It is a fantastic distraction from my work, taking in the amazing scenery and views definitely help clear the mind.

The other two I have to say are a bit of a struggle. I have been in Brisbane two years now, the time has gone by so fast I still feel like I am the new guy in town. I love being in the Red Box space in the State Library of Queensland building. I enjoy sitting on the tiered wooden seating and silently witnessing a perfectly framed, cut out portion of the city across the river  and thinking with my stomach I cannot go past The Greek Club. That place serves the best Greek food I have ever had!

Kicking Goals: An interview with Stephen Newcomb

unnamedSteve Newcomb is one of four Brisbane composers to be featured in Kupka's Pianos first Brisbane performance for 2015, he is also married to our wonder flutist, Jodie Rottle. Steve took some time out of his busy schedule to let us know a little bit more about himself and his upcoming collaboration with Angus Wilson and Caitlin Mackenzie from MakeShift Dance. See Steve's new work this Friday 10th of April, 7:30pm at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts. Angus Wilson: Firstly, You have one of the most interesting and diverse careers of any musician/composer I know. Could you tell us a little bit about some of your current and upcoming projects? What is the focus for you at the moment? Stephen Newcomb: I balance performing (as an improvising pianist), composing, arranging and teaching. They all intersect in different ways and inspire one another. I’m currently arranging music for a show at the Queensland Conservatorium in May (where I teach) which will combine the Con Artists Jazz Orchestra with strings, harp and french horn section. I’m also editing some arrangements that I’d previously completed for Chris McNulty and her recently released album ‘Eternal’. I’m currently collaborating with drummer Isaac Cavallaro in a duo project that explores beats, electronics and improvisation. I’m kept busy with my role as Head of Jazz and Program Director of the Bachelor of Music at Griffith University, but there are a lot of writing projects on the go with Queensland Music Festival, Bernard Fanning, and others. AW: I've really enjoyed collaborating on your piece Kicking Goals that will be performed in it's first permutation this Friday night. Could you tell us a little bit more about it?  SN: I’ve enjoyed the collaboration too! I find the thrill of collaborative work the same feeling no matter what the genre or setting. I get the same buzz from mixing a record where there are different creative decisions to discuss and agree on. I started on this piece with a plan to develop some audio manipulation techniques (using Max/MSP) I had used in an earlier solo flute work, but the process of collaborating with yourself on vibraphone and Caitlin (dance) has allowed the work to grow and adapt. The title is a play on the word ‘gaol', and the work explores the concept of ‘the human detained’ which is a theme for the collaborative work between Kupka’s Piano and MakeShift Dance. In arriving at the Kicking Goals title I reflected on the slogans we often see in the media relating to the asylum seeker detainment, which are all too triumphant when you think that they relate to the lives of families in asylum from war-torn countries. AW: Is it your first time working with a dancer and/or solo percussionist? What parts of the collaboration have been interesting to you?  SN: It is the first time working with solo percussionist, so the immediate question concerned is which instruments (or objects) would be used in the piece. In the end I chose only vibraphone to be symbolic of ‘the human detained’ theme as it applies limits to both myself as a composer and yourself as the performer.  I have worked with dance and movement (in a work for Circa) before, but this was a chance to really collaborate on minute structural and specific emotionally linked concepts in the work. Caitlin brings a totally different perspective to the work with staging concerns, such as how a slight movement here of there can translate to meaning. I suppose the visual element is something I consider less when writing music as it’s concerned mostly with sound so that realisation has been interesting. AW: Having studied and performed and collaborated across the world, including an extensive amount of time in New York, what is it that excites you about the Brisbane music scene?  SN: I think the Brisbane scene is constantly growing so there are always options for new pathways to be created. There seems to be more underground activity and people just doing their thing, just the same as they do in a large city like NYC. The population scale is just always going to be greater in the bigger cities. I’m excited by the diverse experiences you can have as a musician here, because many players straddle styles, genres, etc. AW: Finally, what are your three favourite places in Brisbane? SN: I like food, so Mondo Organics West End needs to be in this favourite’s list. Also, Fundies whole food store in Paddington is a winner and I feel like a kid in a 'healthy candy store' when I’m there. When I’m not eating, the Brisbane bike paths are another favourite place.

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.

KUPKA'S PIANO's Upcoming March Performances - ‘A new sun rises: Modernist music in Asia’

Kupka's Piano is very excited to announce the repertoire for our two concerts in March entitled ‘A new sun rises: Modernist music in Asia’. Be sure to come along and hear

Wang Lu's From the Distant Plains II (2010) Australian premiere Guo Wenjing's Parade (2003) Toru Takemitsu's Distance de fée (1951) Isang Yun's Etude IV (1974) Chong Kee Yong's Time Flows (2007) Peter Sculthorpe's Alone (1976) Toshio Hosokawa's Edi (2009) Annie Hui-Hsin Hseih's Towards the Beginning (2010) Liam Flenady's Stars, not far off (2013) World premiere

7:30pm, March 8, 2013 at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, Brisbane 1pm, March 14, 2013 at the Nickson Room, University of Queensland, Brisbane

Purchase tickets here.

See you there!

Where in the World is Kupka's Piano?

Where in the world is Kupka's Piano? The 2013 peripatetic concert series supported by the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts.

In 2013, Kupka’s Piano is bravely going on a series of expeditions. We were getting a bit claustrophobic in the stuffy confines of the established repertoire of modern classical music, so we have decided to break out and set sail for new seas and new shores.

We’ll be seeking out the exciting composers of the younger generations around the world. We’ll be exploring new developments and unheard of musical ideas. We’ll be premiering a bunch of brand new Australian works commissioned entirely for this series.

Each concert will chart a selection of innovative and intriguing works from a different country or region, at the same time linking to Australian works both celebrated and obscure. Firstly we’ll hop from island to island, country to country across Asia and hear the play of Eastern and Western influences in composers from Malaysia, Japan, China and Korea. ‘A new sun rises: Modernist music in Asia’ - Friday, 08 March 2013

Next we’ll skip continents to the Old World, and hunt down the latest developments in Germanic music. No longer the friendly Viennese tunes we’re used to, no longer the clinical serialist powerhouse - what are they up to over there? ‘Giants behind us: German music and its discontents’ - Friday, 10 May 2013

Continuing our Europe sojourn we’ll head to the Renaissance heartland of classical music, Italy, to see what strange and colourful surprises are in store from our fiery Mediterranean innovators. A collaborative concert project with leading European new music group ensemble interface.* ‘To roam with love: Getting lost in new Italian music’ - Friday, 27 September 2013

Finally, we leapfrog over the Atlantic to the New World, getting lost in the buzz and commotion of modern American life. We all know Hollywood, sitcoms, and MTV... but what happens when American culture puts on its serious face? ‘The American dream-song: New music in the USA’ - Friday, 29 November 2013

Keep your eyes on the horizon and look forward to new lines and dots on the musical map!

* This concert is supported by Australia Council for the Arts as part of a JUMP Mentoring project.

Grisey, Boulez, Brisbane is coming!!

The newly formed Kupka’s Piano explores the Paris-Brisbane connection with a concert of modern French masterpieces and new works by emerging Brisbane composers.  Major French composers of the 20th Century Olivier Messiaen, Pierre Boulez, and Gerard Grisey each take up and extend the characteristically exquisite French compositional style - albeit in varying ways. From the haunting, divine visions of Messiaen to the tight-knit filigree of Boulez to Grisey’s cosmic proportions, each one has captured a new way of feeling the beauty of sound. These ideas have impacted on young Brisbane composers Liam Flenady, Peter Clark, and Michael Mathieson-Sandars in their own development. Come hear these composers in dialogue through performances of masterworks and premieres by leading musicians of the new generation in Brisbane.

For this concert Kupka's Piano will be joined by guest violinist Graeme Jennings and guest percussionist Cameron Kennedy.

Date: 7.30pm, Friday 5 October 2012 Where: Music Rehearsal Room, Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, 420 Brunswick St, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane Ticket: Full $20 | Conc $10 Bookings: Phone: (07) 3872 9000 or Online: www.jwcoca.qld.gov.au

Grisey, Boulez, Brisbane is part of New Music Network's 2012 Mini Series.

Programme: Stèle (1995) Gerard Grisey Sketch-fragment VI (Berio-rendering) (2012*) Peter Clark Poèmes pour Mi (1936) Olivier Messiaen Trio “Esprit Rouge” (2012*) Liam Flenady Solo for flute (2012*) Michael Mathieson-Sandars Dèrive 1 (1984) Pierre Boulez

* World Première