Beginning this week, I’m off on the road with Ensemble Offspring for premiere performances of my Cycles and Circles in addition to a whole host of other contemporary (Australian) pieces including:
Bree van Reyk – Duet with Blindfold
Graham Fitkin – Cusp
John Lely – Distance Learning
Joanna Baillie – On and Off
Matthew Shlomowitz – Hi Hat & Me (AP)
Thierry de Mey – Musique de Tables
Apart from wanting to spruik the concert itself, which will be amazing, I wanted to blog about it because I’ll be presenting a series of education seminars together with Offspring, and for once they’re not in the centre of Sydney but around NSW.
The workshops are fun, 90-minute hands-on sessions where students will do equal amounts of listening, performing, improvising and composing. Each exercise is based around my new piece, Cycles and Circles, in which I’ve explored ideas about phasing and open scoring which is in my background as a composer (my under- and postgrad theses were on the music of Howard Skempton and David Ahern, respectively) even more than music for children.
My experience of these kind of activites for children is that they’re very liberating. When you remove the rules of functional harmony, diatonicism and structure and instead place in many ways simpler and more open restrictions like mode, pattern and choice, students are forced to really listen to what’s happening about them and respond. Magic starts to happen.
In Cycles and Circles, the “circles” are repeated patterns which phase with others that are the same or similar, or different. Each pattern itself is plotted to a graph which in turn can be played in one of three modes – the performers can choose which modes they’ll use in advance, or make it up on the spur of the moment. The circles can be played on any percussion instruments, with the range designed to suit classroom Orff xylophones for workshopping. In the premiere performances Claire Edwardes and Bree Van Reyk will play a selection of Chinese bowls (the kind you can buy from a Chinese grocery for a few dollars) and music boxes, programmed with punch-cards.
As the circles go through cycles, a third part for (any) bass instruments can choose from different kinds of material, also composed in the three modes. Everything is designed to be performed as softly as possible, so these more flowing or melodic lines rise up from under the tinkling percussion texture. Each element is performable by students in the workshops, but to hear what can really be done with the piece you need to hear Bree and Claire be joined by Jason Noble on bass clarinet.
Students will also compose their own circles using my modes and ones they’ll invent themselves, as well as performing bits of the work.
I’ve created a short education kit with the support of Ensemble Offspring and Campbelltown City Council, and you can download it from the Music to Infinity webpage, here. When you combine all of these resources with the other new Australian works in the programme, perfect for the mandatory Australian topics in stages 5 and 6 of the NSW syllabi, I hope many of you will make a trip out and join me at the workshops!
Details of the workshops are:
Grafton Saturday 15th September 2pm to 3:30pm
Campbelltown Thursday 20th September 10am to 11:30pm and 2pm to 3:30pm (same workshop, twice)
Musswellbrook Saturday 6th October (time to be confirmed – contact the Conservatorium at the address below)
And the concerts:
Grafton Clarence Valley Conservatorium
Saturday 15th September 7:30pm $30/$10 www.promusicagrafton.com.au
Wollongong City Gallery
Friday 21st September 7pm $25/$15 online & $30/$20 on door www.wollcon.com.au
Campbelltown Arts Centre
Saturday 22nd September 8pm $25/$18 www.campbelltown.nsw.gov.au
Canberra The Street Theatre
Sunday 23rd September 6pm $25 www.thestreet.org.au
Muswellbrook Upper Hunter Conservatorium $15/$10 www.uhcm.com.au
Saturday 6th October 7:30pm