Refreshing New Sounds with Kupka's Piano: Review
New Sounds, presented by Kupka’s Piano, was an innovative and refreshing concert, and the final in the 2020 Brisbane Music Festival Streamed Series. On Saturday night, I gathered with six friends and some pizza around my tv and waited for the livestream to begin.
New Sounds showcased new works composed by Kupka’s Piano’s Samantha Wolf, Jakob Bragg, Hannah Reardon-Smith, and Jodie Rottle. New Sounds featured percussionist Angus Wilson and pianist Alex Raineri.
After a greeting from BMF artistic director Alex Raineri, we met the composer of the first piece, Samantha Wolf, through a video from her current location in the US. Her piece, Bull in a China Shop explores the interruptions, awkwardness and out-of-sync experiences of COVID. Samantha said she hopes the energy and quirkiness of the piece captures the vibe of 2020. The piece opened with lulling, rippling notes in the piano and glockenspiel. Then, some jazzy, clashing chords created a sense of motion. The piece grew, then faded into a floating, dreamy space, before finishing with heavy chords.
Next was the world premiere of Jakob Bragg’s Nest of gravel. In his short video intro, from Melbourne, Jakob said this work reflects the restrictive, monotonous nature of lockdown. The work is tactile, granular and confined, as the performer’s moments are restricted. In this piece, Angus and Alex used cards, rulers, chopsticks, bouncy balls and fishing wire inside the piano. They created, as Jakob said, ‘a soundbox of agitation and activity.’ The piano keys, pedals and strings rubbed, scraped and grated against each other, also sounding like static noise. There was no clear melody or rhythm, rather, the work remoulded our perception of sound.
Continuing the COVID theme, Hannah Reardon-Smith’s three questions of scale investigates parallels between global and personal events. The work is in three movements, titled 1) three ants carry a dead wasp/ east coast — west coast fires; 2) the continuous trickle of my cat’s drinking fountain/ the port of beirut explosion; 3) mould growing inside an unopened tub of coconut yoghurt/ we have all run out of medicare-supported therapy sessions. So, the piece opened quietly, like a whispered breeze, as Alex gently hit the piano strings with percussion mallets. Angus played a soft melody on the glockenspiel, gradually growing stronger. Angus then began drumming the cowbells with his hands. The piece continued with Angus and Alex’s parts mirroring each other, evoking a reflective mood.
Then, was Jodie Rottle’s Public Figure, a reaction to the flood of news that we have become reliant on. So, Jodie described the work as ‘sporadic, frantic, oddly calm at times, and sarcastic.’ It opened with a bouncy piano and glockenspiel melody. Angus then rubbed a cello bow on the side of the glockenspiel, producing a ringing sound. They returned to the original melody. Angus hit the cymbal and then the cowbell. Alex began a frantic, high-pitched melody, his left hand in unison with the glockenspiel. The piece drew to a noisy conclusion.
To close, Alex and Angus performed John Luther Adams’ Four Thousand Holes, an expansive, meditative work for percussion, piano and tape. The tape track provides a static, buzzing, rising and falling backdrop. The live and electronic sounds blur together as a unified whole. The piece has an atmospheric feel, also becoming a multi-layered soundscape. Angus and Alex performed this complex piece with skill and mastery. There was a slight issue with the streaming during this piece, but the BMF team quickly responded. So, they provided viewers with a delayed viewing link, available for the rest of the week.
New Sounds was a refreshing, stimulating concert, perfect for broadening the viewer’s mind to appreciate experimental music. Angus even performed with a broken leg, so bravo to him! The concert was a fitting way to end the Brisbane Music Festival Streamed Series for 2020. The series has featured 21 artists, 5 world premieres and has entertained audiences from over 10 countries. Alex said the 2021 BMF program will be announced in January, and will be a blend of both digital and live. Stay tuned.
Read our interview with percussionist Angus Wilson here.