November 25, 2012 ExhAust @ Spectrum, SoHo, NYC


Works by Aristea Mellos, Lachlan Skipworth, Julian Day, Chris Williams, Lisa Dowling, Cyrus Meurant and Tim Hansen.

Boppy electronic loops give way to delicately crafted acoustic moments of breathless stillness; driving, funky piano bounces into an intricate exploration of extended techniques; gently introspective meditation is juxtaposed with a quirky foray into hyper-neo-romanticism (yes, you just read that and it’s a thing), and in the midst of it all, a sweet moment of nostalgia for a childhood in Queensland.

Downtown A – Aristea Mellos (World Premiere)

Downtown A for flute, acoustic bass, and loop pedals explores my love for Bebop, the subway system, repetition, and funk. It comprises seven cells that are often top and tailed by extra material, enabling the listener to hear the transformations of the opening head. The work opens with a very shrill and chromatic gesture in the flute that rattles down, (much like the subway cars on the A train during my morning commute) whilst the bass creeps slowly up with abrasive attitude. The instruments meet, collide, and strive to surpass each other. Downtown A should be fun, vivacious and a little cheeky. Enjoy! 

The Night Sky Fall – Lachlan Skipworth

Within the perfect unity of the sky above, it is the irregular patterns in stars that bring me a sense of mystique. Seeking to create a similar disordered but cohesive sound world, I allowed a degree of chance into my work for the first time. A random number series governs the length and density of the falling piano arpeggios that give the piece its name. Overlayed in a way that avoids a regular rhythm, the arpeggios gradually descend into a lower range. From individual piano notes, melodic material emerges in the clarinet and in natural harmonics in the cello. These melodic lines take on their own character as they deviate further from the piano, reaching up as the arpeggios sink deeper. The aural effect could be that of the stars falling slowly around us, or perhaps floating by as we ourselves rise up and leave the earth behind.

Bad Blood – Julian Day

Bad Blood came out of my real inability to play the piano myself. It’s actually my first instrument, and I spent a good decade trying to master this thing, but no matter how hard I tried I could never get around the basic classic repertoire. Something about trying to make it a lyrical, virtuosic, mysterious, alchemical object never quite worked in my head. What I did learn however, was how to play loud, how to play repetitive rhythms, how to play additive rhythms, and that’s something anyone can learn. And what I was listening to at the time was a lot of hip-hop, a lot of cut-and-paste sampling, DJ Shadow, DJ Crush, the Avalanches… and I tried to transfer the stuff I was listening to on my walkman onto the piano, and to treat it as a real percussive object. And so when it came to writing for Lisa I had a lot of different ideas swirling around my head and I couldn’t decide what to do, but when I sat down and started playing that’s what came out: this very driven, percussive approach.”

From Mist to Glow – Chris Williams (World Premiere)

 The title of the piece comes from the end of one of Judith Wright’s poems in New Guinea Legend: The finding of the moon. The story of these poems tells of a man who digs into the earth to uncover the moon, and the line from which the title comes is: “light moves from mist to glow”.

Bread and Honey – Lisa Dowling

 Bread and Honey is a narrative song based on my childhood in Australia. My cousins owned a Sugar cane farm in New South Wales and every season I would help the harvest by lighting the stems with large torches, circling the perimeter on a dirt bike. Once the whole crop was alight, I would ride back to the house with my cousins and watch the smoke bleed into the afternoon sky on their large trampoline. By utilizing loops, layered textures and electronics, I attempt to capture the excitement, playful and whimsical nature of this time in my life.

Panorama – Cyrus Meurant

Panorama was composed as a response of sorts to the sweeping vistas of the Illawarra region in New South Wales, Australia. Having grown up in the Illawarra, I spent time in the rainforests from a young age, and enjoyed the spectacular views of the escarpment from the many beaches. The close proximity of the mountains and cliff faces to the Pacific Ocean makes for a particularly unique geography. David Attenborough has described the Illawarra as the “Kakadu of the south and the five islands are the jewel in the crown”.

Originally scored for flute, violin and cello – this new version for ExhAust sees the violin replaced by clarinet.

Dog Biscuit – Tim Hansen

Dog Biscuit was composed at a very hectic time in my life: I had just come out of Christmas with six Australians staying with me in my tiny apartment, was about to go on a ten day vacation to the Dominican Republic, whilst at the same time I was trying to finish an orchestral piece and a chamber opera. In the midst of all this, I had to complete a seven-minute work for the NYU New Music Ensemble. I had a week. (Frankly, I’m impressed at how level-headed I was about doing this, since I think if someone rocked up today and said “compose a seven minute work for ten instruments ready by next week” I’d slap them.)

I decided whatever I wrote had to be: a) easy to learn and; b) easy to write. There was no time for crises of aesthetic or weeks of introspective musings on whether to write in Phrygian of Dorian mode, the darn thing had to be done. So I decided to create a really big additive canon. The ensemble is divided into smaller subsections, each of which have cells that layer upon each other over the course of the piece. But as the piece progressed I became more and more excited about the harmonies that seemingly sprung out of nowhere, so I tweaked a bit here, added a bit of Russian Romanticism there, and within a week I was emailing off Dog Biscuit to the ensemble.

Produced by Tim Hansen and Shaun Barlow

Flute: Shaun Barlow

Clarinet: Ashley Smith

Piano: Lisa Moore

Piano: Isabelle O’Connell

Cello: Will Martina

Cello: Richard Vaudrey

Double Bass: Lisa Dowling

Conductor: Sam Nester

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