What legacy will 2020 leave. The year of Covid-19, society as we know it on standby, a long-held breath, strained and waiting for what will come. Will 2020 be the year in which a global coordinated effort held at bay what could have been much, much worse? Will it be the year that nations failed, society failed, and one in which millions died? Or do we see the beginning of something much larger, perhaps a dramatic shift in the way society functions, the role technology plays, the nature of political and economic discourse, or a re-evaluation of what truly is important in our blip of existence?
Rather than the phrase ‘time will tell’, importantly it will be ‘we that will tell’. Our actions, our response, and our choices are what will shape this and subsequent years.
I suppose a rather morose beginning, but naturally these events have all our minds racing.
Artistically, I’ve been in the deep end of writing, trying to complete my new work for a combined Rubiks Collective and Ossicle Duo: Displaced bodies, weapons of action. It is with sadness, but also understanding, that our scheduled concert for April 21st is postponed until further notice. This is also true for the Horsely & Williams Duo concert on March 20th, which would have seen the release of their new CD including my work Between giants. However, these concerts are merely postponed and not cancelled, so stay updated!
Regarding my work Displaced bodies, weapons of action, I had been in separate discussion with both Rubiks and Ossicle about a new work for some time now. I’ll add that these two ensembles represent the highest music making of young musicians in Melbourne today, both programming fascinating and inventive works with a focus on collaboration and exploratory music. It was in late 2019 that I was honoured to receive the Melbourne Recital Centre (MRC) and Melbourne Conservatorium of Music Composition Prize. This is awarded to two recent graduates of the Conservatorium resulting in a commission for one of the MRC’s Local Heroes ensembles. Through this opportunity, some negotiation, and the support of the MRC, Rubiks and Ossicle were excited to come together. The resulting concert, Praxeology, will feature a mix of their combined forces, culminating in my new 25 – 30 minute work for all six musicians. The combined instrumentation consist of flute(s), cello, keyboard(s), percussion (Rubiks), and trombone(+) with percussion (Ossicle). This is further enhanced by extensive use of Jacob Abela’s (Rubiks) Ondomo (a smaller portable version of the Ondes Martenot) and Benjamin Anderson’s (Ossicle) double-bell bass trombone. Add extensive piccolo parts, detuned cello, with an assortment of cymbals, gongs, tin cans, and drums, and this seemingly balanced line-up of wind, brass, strings, piano, and percussion starts to look and sound very alien!
The first movement is entitled opera; an absurd and excited dance between extremities in colour, range and density. Drawing obvious parallels with the international and domestic stage of politics on issues such as climate change, refugees and immigration, socio-economics, and health, opera dives haphazardly between ideas eventually culminating into a call to arms. Our lives, our very bodies, shaken, displaced, and devastated, become weapons for action and change. A raucous and militarised duo of double-bell trombone and percussion showcase Ossicle as a domineering brutal force. This crucible of sensationalism, inaction, disenfranchisement, and frustration leads to escalation; a whirling of ratchets and screaming trombone lead to an uncertain but inevitable future. In afterness, piccolo and low cello, scratching and meandering, giving way to bowed piano and bold trombone statements, alluding to an uncertain future, one where change or failure has shaped our new existence.