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The shifts of current and the turns of the wheel.

The Sound Barrier : Blog

Even in music that seeks to be at the vanguard of experimentation it can be surprisingly easy to fall into established, familiar, comfortable patterns. It takes a pretty extraordinarily creative spirit to be able to constantly challenge itself, to constantly step outside its own practice tropes, and to always find new ways of conceptualising its own creative task.

But collectively, the creative arts have this in abundance, and only all the more so today as more and more artists are emerging who each come from their own angles, bringing their own unique ideas, to the creative process. It happens very much within the new music scene, and this is only multiplied exponentially when other artistic disciplines are thrown into the mix as well.

The creative potential that this unleashes is exactly what is going to be explored at CURRENT 2018, the latest instalment in a recurring creative event that was begun in Melbourne six years ago by Melbourne composer, improviser, and visual artist Ren Walters.

Ren will be part of this year's CURRENT, but its curators this time are Clinton Green and Michael McNab who were my studio guests on the latest edition of The Sound Barrier.

This year CURRENT will be doing some extraordinary stuff in this quest to challenge and open experimental creativity across and between its many disciplines: music, visual art, text-based art, dance and movement. The event, which is run over two days, this coming weekend, at Aeso Studio in Brunswick Street Fitzroy, puts together artists from these various disciplines – around thirty of them altogether – in different groups of three or four, but in combinations that the artists themselves are not expecting, with people whose work they might not know and certainly with whom they have not been accustomed to working. The configurations change for the second day – so everyone gets to perform twice but with different people.

As Clinton and Michael chatted about the concept, and as we listened to some of the work of some of the artists who will be involved in this year's CURRENT or who have been involved there in previous years, the sense of just how exciting and creative this venture is became pretty obvious. It leads to people thinking outside their own squares that are already far from conventionally drawn. In this way it not only ignites new ways of working for the artists but at the same time opens up the audiences to new approaches to creativity, in the moment, as they are forming.

It will be the sort of event you will want to say you were at when, in years to come, the fruits that were planted there have emerged and flourished into their own new and exciting branches of artistic collaboration and community.

The formations and reformations of things in three was also a central feature of a fairly recent piece by American-based composer William Price. Triptych: Three Studies in Gesture and Noise is in three sections that are each built from two or three different types of sound gesture, built from sounds found in and around the act of performance and art. It, together with its companion piece, Trope No 3. Brushtroke: A Gradient Collapse are inspired by the artwork of Gerhard Richter and Francis Bacon, and capture the sliding and gradated gestures that are found both in painting – the movement of a brush, the gradual changes of colour; and the performance of music – the tuning of instruments, the movement of music stands, or a piano, on the floor. These concepts mix and blend in different combinations, and develop from one to the other, throughout this fascinating and exciting duo of pieces, created in the composer's home studio in Birmingham, Alabama in 2015. I hope to bring you more of the music of William Price in future editions of The Sound Barrier.

In the second half of the show we shifted gear away from the concept of combinations and collaborations and moved to an excerpt of a huge work that I have been meaning to include in the show for some time, since first discovering it last year: Tolv Stationer ('Twelve Stations') by Hungarian-Swedish composer Ákos Rózmann (1939-2005). The work's total duration is just over six and a half hours and draws on primary source material of voices and prepared piano. Its composition began in 1978 but the composer broke off from it to work on other projects in 1980, not resuming it again until 1997 and completing it in 2001. In those 18 intervening years, techniques in electroacoustic production developed massively as did Ákos Rózmann's use of them, particularly through the transition from analogue to digital technologies.

The entire work, however, draws from the same source material – the voices and the piano – most of it recorded in 1978, but also with some of what appears in the first two parts developed and digitally manipulated in the later parts.

The twelve stations of the work's title were never made explicit by the composer but are thought to refer to the twelve nidanas of the Buddhist Wheel of Life. Both Buddhist and Roman Catholic rituals and beliefs were of deep interest to the composer throughout his life.

The work, however, is less a depiction of these individual links that hold together the causes and effects that weave through, and hold back, the path to enlightenment than a rich sonic illustration of their totality, and then their ultimate path from hell to heaven.

The fact that the composition of Tolv Stationer encompassed such a huge expanse of Ákos Rózmann's creative life is itself a kind of metaphor for the work – a broad journey between states of being and styles of representation, but linked by the universality of life and world that connects them all in the composer's extraordinarily unified long-form narrative sound world.

If, when listening back to the show you are particularly struck by the excerpt of it that I played in the last 45 minutes, then I would love to hear from you, particularly if you would like me to program more of it over future shows. It is an astonishing work, so barely known, but it certainly commands your time to really appreciate the epic journey it takes you on. Send me an email at pbs.sound.barrier@gmail.com

As always, you can also check out the show's playlist if you would like more details of the recordings played.

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