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Building on the foundations

The Sound Barrier for Sunday 23 April 2017

The last four episodes of The Sound Barrier celebrated four composers whose innovation and exploration, whose determination to transgress sound barriers, inspired me to begin presenting this show five years ago: John Zorn, Merzbow, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Anthony Pateras.

From the foundations that were lain, thanks to their daring and invention, much else has been built. And on this weekend's edition of the show I will be presenting some of the composers, artists and music that I have discovered thanks to my role in preparing and presenting The Sound Barrier each week.

Some of these will be artists whose work I have discovered only very recently, others that I discovered very early in the show's history. All of them do innovative, exciting, things that are possible only when artists are prepared to step outside of what is known, and challenge the boundaries that so persistently re-emerge, no matter how forcefully and courageously others have smashed through them in the past.

I guess that's the nature of commercialism and populism in anything – innovation will always be resisted, but the resistance will always, in its turn, be challenged. This weekend's show is a tribute to those who continue to challenge.

In the first half of the show I will be presenting the work of a diverse bunch of artists: Clinton Green, Alexander Garsden, Alif Thomas Dodds, H S Botha, and some debut releases from Melbourne-based duo Vivisect, and Mundarah-based Tilde~, the latest project of composer Rhys Channing.

The second half will be devoted, as usual, to a single major work. This time it arises from my discovery over recent years of spectralism – music that is based on the structure of sound itself – and particularly of the music of one of its founders, Gérard Grisey. His rarely-heard and massive Le Noir de l'Étoile ('The Black of the Star'), which takes as its starting point the discovery in 1967 of periodic radio signals emitting from a pulsar, was composed in 1990 for percussion sextet and tape, and I will be presenting a breath-taking recording of it made in 2003 by Les Percussions de Strasbourg, for whom it was composed. I have seen this astonishing work performed only once: in Melbourne over three years ago by our own Speak Percussion, another musical sensation I have come to know through presenting the show. It is a huge spatialised work that indeed takes you into the depths of space and, while radio cannot possibly do it justice, even so, it is an incredible experience.

If my five years, so far, presenting The Sound Barrier has brought to you even a fraction of the excitement and discovery that it has brought to me, then the show is doing what it set out to do when the work of those four iconic artists provided me with the material to lay its foundations. I hope you can join me this Sunday night at 10.00 PM (AEST) as the celebration continues.

You can listen locally on your radio on 106.7 PBS FM or on PBS digital radio, or from anywhere in the world via the PBS app or online. The show is also available as an audio file, here on the website, shortly after it has gone to air.

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