Posts tagged Australian contemporary art music
A continuous line drawing: An interview with composer Samuel Smith
 
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Kupka's Piano has been busy lately! Just one day after our concert at the Judith Wright Centre last week we launched into rehearsals for our next show, a performance at QSOCurrent for the second year running. KP flutist Jodie managed to catch up with Melbourne composer Samuel Smith for a chat about his sextet set to feature in this concert.

Jodie Rottle: Hello Sam! We are excited to be performing your work things are become new in Brisbane at QSOCurrent this Friday on the 29th of April, 8pm at the SLQ Auditorium 1. Can you elaborate on your inspiration for the piece? What can our listeners expect to hear, and how did you achieve your desired sound using the instruments of the traditional Pierrot sextet formation?

Samuel Smith: When I wrote things are become new in early 2014, I was trying to reinvigorate my music with a stronger sense of line. Prior to that I think had been dealing primarily with vertical arrangements of pitch – dense textures and static blocks of sound – as the principle method of developing form. I came to things are become new wanting to explore a stronger horizontal narrative and develop a more heterophonic and polyphonic aspect to my language.

To do this I split up the sextet into a series of duos – percussion and piano, flute and violin, bass clarinet and cello – and more or less cycled through these combinations, each taking it in turns to heterophonically decorate a single line. This nearly unbroken line runs throughout the entire piece as though it were a continuous line drawing. The narrative trajectory and larger registral contours are then altered by the orchestration alone.  

JR: Speaking of instrumentation, do you have a preferred ensemble size or formation to compose for? I have had the pleasure of hearing your works live for both orchestra and small chamber ensembles. What can be best achieved with large ensembles, and what are the benefits of working with smaller ensembles? 

SS: Both large and small have their joys and challenges. I’m currently working on a solo guitar piece and I am really enjoying the limitations of a single instrument after writing for orchestra. However, I miss the ‘laboratory’ aspect of an orchestra – all those harmonic devices, registral and timbral extremes and the scope of combinatorial colour is a joy to imagine.

My true preference though isn’t so much about size or formation as people. I will always be happier writing for a musician, or group of musicians, that I know personally, that I have heard play and, probably, that I have shared a few drinks with. Music is a very social experience for me and the more I have worked, talked, workshopped and spent time with the players, the more I will enjoy writing the piece. This doesn’t necessarily preclude the larger ensembles, but with my limited experience of orchestral writing, I’ve found it to be pretty lonely.

JR: You have mentioned to me that you are greatly influenced by the work of Gérard Grisey.  Can you tell us why, and do you consider yourself a composer of the spectral style? 

SS: In 2012, about the time I began composing, my brother and I spent six weeks canoeing down the Murray River. Starting in Albury in the flat, green pasture lands and ending 900 kilometres away, west of Swan Hill in the red dirt of the Mallee, I was struck by the analogue of landscape and musical form. Viewing the beginning and end of the trip in isolation, one would not equate the two at all. However, whilst travelling down the river the difference is intangible as it happens at an imperceptible rate.

This sense of organic, immanent development is something I have always tried to achieve when constructing my pieces, and when I first heard the work of Gérard Grisey I realised that his approach to musical time is a devastatingly good example of that. His attention to formal process is so complete, but the music always sounds spontaneous and poetic. His article ‘tempus ex machina’ on the poetics of musical time was a real eye opener for me.

I don’t consider myself a spectral composer. I think of myself instead as a composer whose horizons were expanded significantly by the spectral school, but I’ve probably got feet in several camps equally.

I’m currently thinking a lot about ways of reconciling my interest in cluster and set based harmonies with harmonic devices derived from the harmonic series, ring modulation and frequency modulation.

JR: Thinking back to my days in NYC and the apparent divide between the Uptown and Downtown music scenes, it seems as though we in the new music genre rely on classifying ourselves into different camps. Do you think there is a benefit to identifying with a sub-genre or style in new music? Or perhaps this doesn't exist in Australia? Do you recognise any stylistic differences within different regions of Australia? 

SS: I think there is a rule of diminishing returns for this type of classification. It can be immediately useful to ally yourself aesthetically with certain composers or artists and in some contexts it can be helpful I guess. But, at least in my experience, it seems to descend so quickly into scrappy partisanship that I find really uncomfortable and disheartening. This hasn’t been helped at all by recent changes to arts funding either. I’d like to think that composers of new musics, old musics, jazz, post rock etc. still have more in common than not and I’d love it if we could all just get along and be more appreciative of difference. I guess that’s a sunny optimism I’ve inherited from my Mum and her love of Kropotkin, but I hate to think of musicians and artists fighting among themselves while politicians continue to make such frightening choices.

I think Australia does have some really interesting and exciting regional differences. Broadly, I’ve noticed that a lot of music from Sydney seems to be working with open forms, with a large scope for improvisation. Perth seems to be producing a lot of musicians with an incredible and original grasp of technology. And Brisbane has you guys!

JR: Aww, thanks!!!!!

Finally, what music are you listening to at the moment? Are there any composers or musicians that you can recommend our Brisbane audiences to check out? 

SS: I’m afraid to say that since finishing Masters earlier this I have a bit of listening fatigue for new music. Instead I’ve really been enjoying listening to bands like the Dirty Three and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, as well as Ornette Coleman, Henry Threadgill and Gillian Welch and David Rawlings who I was lucky enough to see a few times in Melbourne earlier this year.

If you’re after some Melbourne specific advice though, I’m always hoping to hear more music by Alexander Garsden or Luke Paulding.

JR: Thanks, Sam. We look forward to having you in attendance at the concert.

You can find more information about Kupka's Piano at QSOCurrent and buy your tickets by clicking here. And have a listen to Sam's music on his soundcloud.

 
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

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OILzlkZ-0WU]

Maderna's Honeyrêves for flute and piano.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fstQIO_jBY]

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!

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