Posts tagged Kupka's Piano
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!

 

Around and between the sounds: an interview with composer Corrina Bonshek

On Sunday 10th July, Kupka pianist Alex Raineri will perform 'Nature Spirit' by Brisbane composer Corrina Bonshek. They sit down to talk about inspirations, birdsong and overseas adventures!   Corrina_Bonshek_Composer_with_Score_Photographer_Nick_Morrissey

Alex Raineri: Your music is strongly influenced by Eastern cultures and musical traditions. Could you tell us what draws you to this and how it manifests in your compositions?

Corinna Bonshek: I’m really drawn to different aesthetic approaches to time and space. For instance, the Japanese have the concept of ‘ma’ or the space around or between sounds (actually it applies to different art forms too). But with music, this concept can help create momentum despite a very slow tempo. Tension and release comes from playing around with the space between/around the sounds. Another example is South Indian Carnatic music where set rhythmic phrases (tala) help create an inner pulse that can be felt by the audience and performers even when the musicians are playing highly syncopated, offbeat rhythms/phrases. This means there is a subliminal rhythmic framework that’s perceptible even when the performers are going for it in almost free-jazz style!

These concepts really spark my creative thinking. A big passion for me is writing music is very spacious yet has a sense of directionality or dynamic energy or movement. For example, the opening of Nature Spirit using overlaid rhythmic phrases that are expansions of a 1 | 1.5 | 2 ratio. This creates a subliminal rhythmic framework that, even at a very slow tempo, has dramatic tension. I like experimenting with ideas like this. This is how I express in music experiences I’ve had while meditating.

AR: Nature Spirit was written specifically for a recent solo performance I gave at Gretel Farm (Bangalow, NSW). This was an outdoor show which was presented alongside a choir of varied Bangalow birdsong! Given that this was such an important feature of the works conception, how do sense the transition will be from this setting, to an indoor and slightly more formalised presentation? 

CB: Ah yes, it would be lovely if the wild birds of Bangalow felt like joining this Brisbane performance, but somehow I don’t think they’d enjoy swapping their tree perches for a stage indoors.

With Nature Spirit, I wanted to write a piece that could be performed indoors or out, with or without birds. I think it works well both ways. Of course, there is a transcribed brown goshawk call from Gretel Farm in the piano music, so that bird will actually still be with us just in a different form!

AR: It’s been really great working on this piece with you and it’s a joy to know that any pianistic advice I give you is immediately taken on board! How have you found it, writing for an instrument which you don’t play yourself, and did your conception of the piece change through the course of our workshops? 

CB: Thank you! I really enjoyed collaborating on this piece with you and I have learnt a lot about the piano, especially in regards to pedalling and sympathetic resonance.

A lot of my composing happens in the realm of the mind/imagination and I do have to continually remind myself that the sounds I’m imagining are going to be created by bodies (playing instruments), and the effort/work involved in producing a note will shape the resulting sound quality/timbre etc.

I remember when we were working on the middle 'water' section of Nature Spirit, it was really important for me to understand how easy or hard it was to play those figures and how much of a pause was needed to create a sense of effortless flow.

You were able to give really clear advice on this that helped me shape the phrases in this section and ultimately led to a restructuring of that section as a series of wave-like sequences.

What was fascinating to me was realising that some of my early sketches for that section were very guitaristic. I played classical guitar for 15 years. Of course, what is easy on the guitar, may not be so easy on the piano and vice versa.

Another moment that stood out for me was when you instinctively added a little extra dynamic drama with the very soft ‘pp’ in bar 64, likely from your experiences playing 19th century piano repertoire! This decision really helped bring out the overarching shape of the phrase.

My experiences collaborating with traditional musicians from Thailand and Chinese music traditions has taught me that wonderful things can happen when you invite performers into the creative process. I aim to be open to those moments, and the magical, unexpected things that can happen.

AR: You’ve got some really exciting composing adventures ahead, tell us about whats next for you!

CB: Next week, I’m off to Cambodia for 21 days to participate in Nirmita Composers Institute / Cambodia Living Arts 2016 Workshop and receive mentoring from Chinary Ung. My trip is being funded by a Power Up Your Arts Mentorship grant, a joint initiative of the Queensland Government and Gold Coast City Council.

I’m honoured to be the first visiting scholar for Nirmita Composers Institute. I’ll be collaborating on a new piece with Susan Ung (viola), Yim Chanthy (Cambodia wind instruments) and Ip Theary (Roneat Ek or Cambodian xylophone), and attending lectures and presentations from composers and performers from the Pacific Rim who have a strong interest in Asian aesthetics including Kate Stenberg (violinist formerly of Del Sol String Quartet), composer Koji Nakano (USA/Thailand), composer Sean Heim (USA), tenor Sethisak Khuon (Cambodia) and many more. The workshop participants include traditional musicians from Cambodia, Laos and Burma as well as young composers of western art music from Cambodia and Thailand. It is going to be fantastic to have composers and performers from western art music and Asian traditional music backgrounds spending time together to workshop music within and across traditions. I expect there will be many fascinating conversations, and lots of new and exciting music.

Then right after that I will visit the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh to do a workshop with a pinpeat ensemble (traditional Cambodian court music ensemble) and operatic tenor Sethisak Khuon. This will be the first time I have created music for mixed ensembles with different tuning systems and different traditions. I’m very excited about the sonic possibilities. I hope this experience will give me many new creative ideas for the future.

AR: Thanks Corrina, looking forward to playing your piece! 

Don't miss the concert! 4pm, Sunday 10th July at 'The Imperial Room' (Wynnum, QLD). To book tickets please email avonfun42@gmail.com to reserve a seat and secure some of Helen's 'out of this world' afternoon tea. 

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.

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!

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!

Snakes and almglocken: An interview with composer Jérôme Combier

Tomorrow night, Kupka's Piano will give the Australian premiere of French composer Jérôme Combier's Feuilles des paupières in their concert "Outer Sounds" at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts. Percussionist Angus Wilson interviewed Combier on his music, his time in Australia (both past and, possibly, future!), and the idiosyncratic instrument: the almglocken. If you don't yet have tickets, you can buy them here.

Angus Wilson: Hi Jerome, thanks for taking the time out to chat with me! Can you tell us a little bit about your background, and your style? What can our audience expect to hear in Feuilles des paupières?

Jérôme Combier: Well, my 'background'? You mean 'me'? How to answer to such a difficult question? What is the relationship between the 'background' of an artist  and his 'style'?... I can just say that I am an occidental artist, and in that sense I practice music in an intellectual way. I mean my way of living music is quite inner and introspective. On that point of view it's quite abstract (like philosophy and certain kinds of poetry). For me, musical experience is connected directly to an experience of time, a particular time, subjective and unfathomable, the music-time. I'm looking for this particular perception of time when I write music, and such an experience is what I would like to propose to people. A kind of 'contemplative' attitude, as we can feel in Nature. On that point, I'm really 'Debussyist':

On n'écoute pas autour de soi les mille bruits de la nature, on ne guette pas assez cette musique si variée qu'elle nous offre avec tant d'abondance. Elle nous enveloppe, et nous avons vécu au milieu d'elle jusqu'à présent sans nous en apercevoir. Voilà selon moi la voie nouvelle. mais croyez-le bien, je l'ai à peine entrevue car ce qui reste à faire est immense ! Et celui qui le fera... sera un grand homme !

Claude Achille Debussy in interview from la Comœdia on 4 November 1909, published in Monsieur Croche and other writings. In English:

We don't hear the thousands of sounds of Nature around us, we don't look out for this music, which is so varied and offers us so much. This music envelops us, but we have lived without being aware of it. In my point of view, this offers a new approach. But believe it or not, I have only just glimpsed it, and what remains to be done is immense! The one who will do it... would be a great person!

AW: You mentioned Feuilles des paupières is from a cycle of works, I'd be interested to know about the rest of the cycle.

JC: Yes, Vies silencieuses is a collection made of seven pieces, each one using a different instrumentation, all taken from a set of seven musicians: flute, clarinet, guitar, piano, percussion, viola and cello. Vies silencieuses is closely related to my residence at the Villa Medici for which it was imagined and where it was realised between 2004-2006. These 'lives' have been inspired firstly by pictorial universes of various different artists: first and foremost Giorgio Morandi and his still life works made with minimal objects: bottles, vases, pitchers…

I wanted to have such little pieces of music constructed with few elements, always the same. I also wanted to have shorts pieces like small canvases, with a very precise form (duration of time in my case). Usually I prefer these pieces played as a full cycle, because:

Sometimes there are particularly austere, wintry, colours, redolent of wood and snow, which cause one to pronounce once again the fine word ‘patience’, which cause one to think of the patience of the old peasant, or of the monk in his habit: the same silence as under the snow or between the white-washed walls of a cell. The patience which signifies having lived, having suffered, having held on: with modesty, endurance, but without revolt, nor indifference, nor despair; as if, from this patience, one nevertheless expected an enrichment; as if it enabled us to become secretly suffused with the only light that counts.

Philippe Jaccottet, Le bol du pèlerin, p. 57.

AW: Given that the almglocken (several octaves of pitched cowbells) is the main reason we haven't been able to program the piece prior to this concert, can you tell us a little bit about your experience with them and why you chose them for Feuilles des paupières?

JC: I like very much the sound of the almglocken; mixed with piano sounds it gives a strange colour, not very well-tempered. That's the reason why I used it in Feuilles des paupières. I was looking for a non-western sound, very raw, and a little bit detuned. Feuilles des paupières and the whole cycle, Vies silencieuses, looks for specific sounds connected to elements such as: metallic sound, wooden sound, the idea of wind… In this way, the almglocken is really metallic, we can feel the matter inside of the sound.

AW: Liam mentioned that you had a great conversation with him about the spectral legacy - that 'spectralism' no longer exists as such. It would be great for composers/musicians in Australia to hear a little bit about your thoughts on the topic!

JC: I don't really work with spectral material and legacy. However, sometimes I make analysis of a particular sound (for instance clarinet or flute multiphonics) and I try to integrate the result into my harmonic material. But usually I work with scales of pitches, integrating quarter-tones. At the end, perhaps we might believe that the music is spectral, but it is not. My way of thinking music is not spectral at all, even if I very much like spectral music. Here in France, it has become a part of history, very important for us, and absolutely related to two composers: Gérard Grisey (who influenced me for other reasons) and Tristan Murail, who I know a little.

AW: Finally, when you think of Australia... what is the first 3 things that come to your head? Good or bad!

JC: Firstly: My travel in 1997 in Canberra and Sydney. I won a composition competition that was organised by the conservatory of Paris and the School of Music in Canberra. I didn't like Canberra so much, but my house was near the lake and it was nice to live there for a while. Sydney was more exciting, I was very impressed by the town and I would very much like to come back there.

Secondly: My son, Côme, who is 7 years old and who wants to live in Australia for the reason that there is a lot of snakes and dangerous animals! He's fond of the taipan...

Third: Australia's natural environment. I would like to explore the country, especially around Melbourne and in Tasmania. Last year, during the summer time I started to write to Sydney Conservatorium, proposing to work for them as a teacher just for one year. I wanted to live there, with my family, to offer this gift to my son, but in the end I did not send my letter…

AW: Well, I hope you consider sending your letter to the Queensland Conservatorium in Brisbane instead - we'd love to have you, and you can tell your son we have lots of snakes!

Find out more about Combier on the website of his ensemble - Ensemble Cairn.

Barbaric ideas and ridiculous music: An interview with flautist Tamara Kohler

Photo by Alan Weedon Melbourne based flautist Tamara Kohler joins Kupka's Piano for Outer Sounds this Friday (19th June), 7:30pm at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts. Tickets are selling fast so be sure to book your tickets now! Kupka pianist Alex chats with Tamara over coffee in between rehearsals to discuss .... 

Alex Raineri: What excites you about playing contemporary music? Were there specific pieces that inspired a love of new music?

Tamara Kohler: I feel a sense of freedom when playing contemporary music that I can’t channel as strongly in other genres. I've been told countless times that this type of music reflects my personality really well- whether that’s a compliment or not, I'm yet to decide! I guess it all goes back to the first time I heard Rite of Spring. It was a score reading exercise in school, when I was about 14 and I remember thinking, "I don’t quite understand how this works but I want to do that."

AR: We're really excited to have you on board for 'Outer Sounds' while our flautists Jodie and Hannah are off on overseas adventures! Could you tell us a bit about what you've been up to lately?  

TK: After finishing up some study at ANAM last year, I went away on an adventure to India, and then followed this with an artist residency at the Banff Centre, Canada. This trip has really shaped a lot of what I've been doing for the start of this year. On top of gigs and teaching around Melbourne, I've continued work on a project that I started at the Banff Centre with some fabulous visual artists, exploring how to present a functional score as a sculptural piece. I've also been performing and planning some exciting projects my group Rubiks Collective in Melbourne.

AR: You mentioned some exciting upcoming projects, what does the rest of 2015 have in store for you? 

TK: Well, I'm off to America next week actually to play in the Bang on a Can Summer Festival! This trip will also involve some professional development sessions and a chance to reconnect with a bunch of my overseas colleagues. As for later in the year, I have some really exciting projects ahead that I can’t go into too much detail about yet, but it should be an exciting (..and busy, yikes!) time.

AR: A hot topic particularly within our generation of colleagues is the general state of opportunity and possibilities within the Australian music scene. Without wanting to offer any of my own opinions on the subject, i'm really keen to hear your thoughts about what you love about being a freelance musician based in this country? Is overseas study something that is firmly on the horizon for you?  

TK: I've been lucky enough to have a series of great study bursts overseas, through which I most-definitely developed as a musician and a thinker. I think this is important for the development of any classical musician. Even if you aren't going to study music, go to Europe to touch the walls and breathe the air of where our whole legacy began. Though certainly in terms of flute education, we have world class teachers all over this country. There is no doubt about it.

Australia has so many fantastic musicians and yes, there possibly isn’t enough work to go around for all of them, in terms of earning a stable income. However, as a freelance musician, I think if you are passionate about a certain type of music or project, then it is your job to search for those like-minded colleagues, get out there with them and present what you love. I'm so lucky that I've found a special group of colleagues and close friends who will sit with me, explore the most barbaric ideas and play the most ridiculous music. This is what inspires me currently as a freelance artist in Australia. There will always be a way to find money, I know, a funny thing to say in the wake of Brandis’s horrific arts cuts, but I always try to remain optimistic in the end.

AR: If you had the chance to work with three of your musical idols, who would you choose and why? 

TK: Jonathan Harvey: Easily my favourite composer, Harvey has such a diverse output of work, and an incredibly unique musical language. His exploration of spirituality and early pioneering in the IRCAM scene for me perfectly represents an artist who was always willing to challenge himself, never becoming complacent with what he was creating.

FKA Twigs: because she is a complete babe and I'm totally in love with her!!! Hahah, but seriously, it’s her artistry that attracts me. She consistently challenges herself to perfect every aspect of her work and further her skills in dance, music and live performance and video production. I'm not a massive fan of the pop-music scene in general, but you can feel how she has combined pop, early soul, RnB and electronic influences to create something really unique.

Pina Bausch: Sorry I've branched away from the musical scene with this last one to name Pina Bausch, the stunning German dancer and choreographer. Pina’s work has a depth of honestly to it, something that I am always really attracted to in any artistic work. But what really inspires me about her work, was her ability and generosity towards other dancers, in helping them to find their individual expression, unique to each of their personalities. What a beautiful gift!

Read more about Tamara at www.tamarakohler.com and come along to Outer Sounds to hear her in action! 

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.

Music Beyond Borders: An interview with clarinettist Jason Noble

JN Alex Raineri took some time out post-performance to find out a little more about the brilliant Jason Noble from Ensemble Offspring, whom Kupka's Piano had the pleasure of performing with for the second time, at our recent performance in Sydney.

Alex Raineri: You've just recently come out of a huge national tour with Ensemble Offspring (EO) and Ironwood. Tell us about your experiences!

Jason Noble: The project was "Broken Consorts", a collaboration between early music group Ironwood and EO, performing at the Sydney Opera House, Fortyfivedownstairs Melbourne, Newcastle Museum, Bahai Centre Hobart and Burnie Art Gallery. A few firsts in this project - first EO gig in Tassie, first gig at Fortyfivedownstairs (a great venue!), and first time performing alongside Ironwood, our early music colleagues. At the centre of this program was a new work written by Felicity Wilcox, alongside Mary Finsterer's Silva, and Damien Ricketson's Trace Elements - both seeking inspiration from early music. Throw in a prepared piano and percussion version of Locke's The Tempest (1674) and you get a varied and very well received show.

AR: As a relatively young ensemble, Kupka's Piano is constantly in a state of flux in relation to how we function on a musical, professional, organisational and logistical level. I'm really interested to know more about how Ensemble Offspring operates. Are certain jobs within the organisation of the group delegated to members and how are programs and projects conceived? 

JN: It really takes perseverance to keep a new music group existing, and to have some continuity with personnel. The nature of freelance musical work and players leaving the country can cause headaches for planning.

To be honest, the most important thing is having people who get along throughout the rehearsal process and who are prepared to make the group a priority in the pecking order of work commitments. This doesn't mean we don't disagree from time to time, but more relates to dealing with differing views or opinions on how things should be interpreted or performed.

EO has always had artistic directors leading the way with project conception and I think you do need some structure or hierarchy to get things done. Having said that, there has always been a forum for the input of the core players, both in terms of the direction and repertoire of the group or whom to work and collaborate with.

These days EO is fortunate to have Australia Council funding that contributes to the provision of a general manager. There is always an endless amount of work though, and the players meet every few months for meetings to discuss previous and forthcoming shows.

AR: I read online that you've done some teaching and mentoring in Afghanistan. How did this come about and your what were your experiences with it?

JN: Yes, I have travelled to Kabul, Afghanistan for two of the past three years to teach and perform as part of the Winter Academy at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music. This opportunity came about quite by chance. I was getting my fix of documentaries at the Sydney Film Festival in 2012 and attended the screening of "Dr Sarmast's Music School", (it was also screened on ABC television). An inspiring teacher of mine, Mark Walton, had attended the school previously and asked in December of that year whether I would attend in his place. I knew immediately that I wanted to help out, and so three weeks later I was on a plane to Kabul.

The school itself is an amazing place. Firstly that it is able to exist, given that music in Kabul was banned under Taliban rule. The school has a Western music focus running alongside the traditional Afghani music and general studies. Visiting musicians are instructed to teach what they can, in a volunteer capacity.  I had a class of about 8 clarinet students from ages 8 to 20 , but also helped out with the flutes, oboes, harmonium, triangle player, yoga, theory, whoever needed help really. The interesting thing is once you are inside the school, you could be at any musical institution in the world . The students needed the same help as ones I instruct in Australia, the only difference perhaps being the desire or eagerness to absorb knowledge. There are both boys and girls at the school, and special emphasis is given to orphans and to underprivileged children, some of whom have a background selling plastic bags on the chaotic Kabul streets.

There are weekly concerts at the school, where visiting musicians from across the world perform alongside each other and with students. There are many wonderful Afghani string instruments to listen to, such as the rubab and dilruba.

I still keep in touch with some North-Indian musicians I met there. We gave a premiere of a work for two sitars, tabla , clarinets, and piano. I just returned in February 2015 from one of these musicians wedding in Assam, India. Together, we managed to record a track for television the day after the wedding, the cross cultural experience lives on.

Unfortunately a suicide blast in late 2014 upset my plans to return in January 2015. The blast at a French Cultural Centre injured the principal of the school. A timely reminder what Afghani's experience on a regular basis.

Most importantly though, the regular trips to Afghanistan remind me why I ended up in this profession in the first place: the power of music to go beyond borders and to communicate hope and humanity in unimaginable circumstances.

AR: What are some upcoming projects? You mentioned a Dance collaboration in Germany?

JN: I have been involved in a project with Nick Wales and dance group "Shaun Parker and Company" called "Am I". This show toured the Australian festival circuit last year and this year goes international with tours to Germany, Luxembourg, Sweden and Malaysia. The music is a new score which is difficult to define or categorise - but at its premise seeks to find a new music that represents all humanity - part acoustic and part electro, lots of drumming and Armenian music at its core.  Great to work with a band who have skills across a broad range of areas too, from Indian drumming, opera, contemporary classical, electronic, jazz and pop.

Another project I will revisit this year is Ngarukuruwala, a return visit to the Tiwi Islands. There is an incredible group of "Strong Women" who sing the traditional songs and play an important role in preserving the traditional culture of the Islands. We will be working on a new disc of collaborations, and reworking old field recordings of Tiwi women singing.

AR: What are your current top 5 desert island pieces?

JN: Reich's "Music for 18 Musicians",  Beethoven's "Piano Concerto No.1" (my first ever CD), any track from Anouar Brahem's Astrakan Café, "Raga Parameshwari" the amazing sitar playing of Abhishek Adhikary, and a new Finnish clarinet piece I have been working on, "Eliangelis" by Antti Auvinen.

In the dream of another: An interview with Benjamin Marks

Benjamin Marks took some tim10329141_10152233164243547_6300274058759110359_ne out from composing, performing and teaching this week to speak to Kupka's Piano percussionist Angus Wilson. Angus performed his new work 'The Circular Ruins' with guest saxophonist Sami Mason last Friday night at Absent, Almost Absent.  Angus Wilson: You are a regular audience member and follower of Kupkas Piano, what excited you the most about writing for Kupkas Piano on this occasion?

Benjamin Marks: Writing music to be included in a Kupka programme is a big challenge. The music programmed (Lim, Ablinger etc.) is exceptional so I feel pretty daunted. Coupled with that I feel like I can write with a great deal of freedom, knowing that so much repertoire has been digested by the ensemble over the last few years. I feel like this is an ensemble which can locate the aesthetic or musical concerns a new piece has and articulate that understanding with intelligent and sensitive performances.

AW: Sami and I are very excited to play your new work.... Can you tell us a little bit about the project? Where did it draw it's inspiration from? Does it have a life beyond it's current format?

BM: Best to quote my programme note here:

Two (The Circular Ruins)

This piece takes as its raw material the sound of water running under a bridge. The sound was recorded and slowed down sixty times to reveal intense rhythmic and pitch activity. This was transcribed and became one of the primary means of organizing the piece.

Two explores the problems of creating an evolving musical landscape from a static sound source. Different notions of flow are explored within static constructs, and different notions of stasis are explored in more flexible, expressive constructs. The expressive capacity of the music lies in the movement between these various states.

In the context of the larger scale outdoor piece, The Circular Ruins, this duo constitutes part two. The piece, when removed from the outdoor context, is accompanied by a tape part that draws directly from sounds found in Southbank, Brisbane, the intended location of the four part work The Circular Ruins.

Jorge Louis Borges' story The Circular Ruins tells of a dreamer who dreams another man into existence only to find himself the dream of another. In the outdoor work for Southbank my goal is to bring to life often ignored environmental sounds, or, more generally, to bring about active engagement with our sounding environment. The composed pieces, including Two, engage with specific environmental sounds and acoustics creating an intense listening experience which is gradually expanded to include the limits of the acoustic horizon.

AW: You have an interesting little setup of percussion in the piece, ceramic bowls, temple blocks, woodblocks and a bass drum. Can you tell us what you were envisaging when you selected these instruments?

BM: I was thinking of sounds that most resembled my idea of water noise slowed down, other than the usual wash of white noise. This is purely imaginary, and these sounds also link into quite a ritualistic sound space. There is a naturalness to these sounds (wood, ceramic and skin) that I feel drawn to and a quiet complexity of timbre. The bass drum has a slightly different function to the other instruments in that it articulates a large scale pulse, which runs through all four pieces that makes up The Circular Ruins. Only a fragment of the pulse exists in Two.

AW: I first met you as a trombonist, playing Pines of Rome in a brass band. Can you tell us a little bit about your activities other than composing? How do you find living and working in Brisbane?

BM: I moved to Brisbane (from Melbourne) in 1998 to do my masters in performance at the QLD Conservatorium. My undergraduate was in composition from the University of Melbourne. I've always moved between composition and performance in some way or other, although my professional life has been mostly as a performer with ELISION. When I moved to Brisbane ELISION was also based here so it helped kick off a wonderful time of learning and recording new repertoire and broadening my improvisational experience which has carried through to the present day. I studied with Simone de Haan at the time and this experience changed me in many fundamental ways and brought me, through various activities, into contact with the Brisbane cultural scene. Since that initial period of study I've developed a strong low brass teaching base (which I love) and I continue to strive to play a creative role in the cultural life of my home city.

AW: Finally, what other interesting projects do you have coming up, where can our audience hear you play, or hear other compositions by you?

BM: I'm currently working my way into a Doctorate of Musical Arts in which I'm exploring multilayered spatial composition and performance in an outdoor context. By developing musical strategies that engage with environmental sound (some of which you'll hear in Two) I hope to create, for a listener, a shifting network of perceptual frames. My research should result in various performances, the first being early next year in Southbank. This is the project alluded to above The Circular Ruins. I'll be giving a trombone recital on February 25th next year, at 6:30pm, at the QLD Conservatorium, partnering with my wife Ysolt Clark on French Horn. We haven't quite settled on repertoire yet although Scelsi and Richard Barrett are likely starting points.

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!

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/83998303]

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.