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The Creative Issue – News for Creatives | September 23, 2019

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An evening in Macquarie’s fractured chamber: QSO, Luka Lesson, Heather Shannon

An evening in Macquarie’s fractured chamber: QSO, Luka Lesson, Heather Shannon
Auran Abraham

As part of WAVE Festival, we had the chance to experience one of the shows that was part of the festival’s semi-experimental conclave of modern profundity and storied classical sound. Through the meeting of the superlatively talented Queensland Symphony Orchestra, lexicological poet Luka Lesson, musically euphonious performer and composer Heather Shannon, and classical and the selected works of prominent modern composer John Coolidge Adams.

Luka Lesson opened the show, with the premiere of his poem Macquarie, a multi-part poem regarding Lachlan Macquarie, the fifth governor of New South Wales, and an integral part of the development of New South Wales from penal colony to prospering free settlement, by way of incredibly influential, but oftentimes ethically questionable, action. The poem features read segments of Lachlan Macquarie’s own diaries, coupled with Luka Lesson’s personal wordsmithery and Gordon Hamilton’s accompanying musical composition.

The overall effect of the poetry and music created an experience that could be likened to the texture of a fire contained within the brickwork of a fireplace, smooth waves of heat and cool washing over whomsoever is seated in front of the flames, punctuated by the occasional spit and crackle that fizzes and excites. Beyond this though, the poem brings to light a darker truth about how Macquarie ensured less resistance from local indigenous peoples and the parallels that can be drawn to the treatments of modern indigenous youth. Luka Lesson educated us and entertained us in one fell sweep of his hand to a page, in one-word edutainment of the highest and most successful caliber.

The second piece premiered was Study in Morbid Fragments composed by The Jezabels keyboardist Heather Shannon. The piece was introduced by Heather Shannon explaining the experimentation with musical texturing that formed and birthed the final piece, and this showed through the textile sounds that were performed.

A mixture of smooth sweetness, and fractured heat and sparkle, the piece felt like a crème brûlée. The high-intensity sections became the fracturing of the burnt sugar toffee and giving way to the smooth violin and woodwind crème beneath. It was a treat for the senses, and an incredible privilege to witness being performed by the supremely talented instrumentalists of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra.

This gave way to the final selection of music for the evening, John Adams’ 1992 Chamber Symphony, the inspiration for which was taken from Arnold Schoenberg’s own Chamber Symphony, and the sugar rush hyperactivity of the soundtracks of cartoons of the 1950’s.

The movements of the symphony were nothing less than the sugar-fuelled dreamchild of ADHD and Saturday morning cartoons. The musical embodiment of Stanley Ipkiss’ alter-ego The Mask and Warner Brothers’ Animaniacs, and a complex and energetic high to end the night’s entertainments off with.

All said the show was a rollercoaster of impact, with multiple shifting intensities throughout, and missing pieces of track, but always returning to the rails, before coming to a sudden stop, safe and sound at the station.

To keep up to date with the QSO, visit their  site here.

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Image Credits: Auran Abraham