Richard Trythall, “Omaggio a Jerry Lee Lewis” (1975).
(6’26”, 14.7 MB, mp3)
In February, the audience will get to hear the culmination of his experimental musical dialogue when [Robin] Fox and five other composers perform a selection of works at the Arts Centre created especially for the 1000 or so Victorian Cochlear implant recipients.
It will be a concert like no other; the deaf as well as those with normal hearing will be gathered together listening to the same music. While it is difficult to know how it is going to be interpreted by those wearing the device, Fox said: ”Hopefully, it will be a shared musical experience. Those with normal hearing will be able to discuss it together afterwards with those that are hearing-impaired.”
In the meantime, I’m getting stuck into making the finished piece for the February concert:
As you can see, the creative process is a thrilling mix of heady inspiration and unbridled fun.
Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, “Sue Egypt” (1980).
(2’58”, 3.38 MB, mp3)
Underneath all the music I make, there’s a problem nagging away at me. Whatever I do will always be second-rate because of one fatal mistake: I’m working with electronics instead of acoustic instruments.
Have you had this experience? You’re at a gig, someone with a laptop or decks, hi-tech or low-tech gizmos, and you’re into it, thinking to yourself that it all sounds damn good. Then for the next act some old bloke comes on with a penny whistle or ukelele or whatever and blows the room away.
It’s not just that we’re impressed by the visible effort – the ‘work’ – going into the music that is usually less evident in electronic music: the whole experience is tangibly different, more engaging, more exciting. I can’t explain in any satisfactory way why it always has to be like this.
Coincidentally, while procrastinating from writing this I just read a quote from Jeff Harrington:
I find that electronic music has a real problem to it, because, at this point, there is no good way to get across the kind of energy and vitality that the performer brings to acoustic music.
I don’t think that really gets to the heart of this problem, without understanding exactly what is meant when we talk about energy and vitality in music.
And I don’t think it’s all down to the performer either. There’s something in the natures of the two media that will always put acoustic music at an advantage, at least in a live setting. (I suspect I’d rather listen to recordings of boring acoustic music than of boring electronic music, but I’m reluctant to test this theory.)
One time I was playing a gig with live analogue electronics, spontaneously generated, no samples, nothing canned or taped. The air was alive with fresh, new, exciting sounds. As I wound up the piece with a flourish and the last sound ebbed away, a loose cymbal on another act’s percussion rig behind me slid to the floor with a resonant crash, capping off my whole set. The punters laughed and cheered. Acoustic beats electronic, every time.
The Music For Bionic Ears project now has a confirmed concert date and venue:
Interior Design: Music for the Bionic Ear
George Fairfax Theatre, The Arts Centre, Melbourne
13 February 2011, 5.30pm or 8pm (the concert is repeated)
Tickets: $25 (Concession $15).
There will also be a 7pm lecture for ticket holders.
The premiere of six new musical works written specifically for reception through the cochlear implant:
Six of Australia’s foremost experimental music composers have been commissioned to research and test new sounds and musical forms both in the lab and with cochlear implant users themselves.
These tests have resulted in unique new approaches to the composition and diffusion of musical ideas and sensations. The concert is designed to be enjoyed by both cochlear implant users and audiences with normal hearing.
There are over 1000 Bionic Ear users in Victoria today. For these people the Bionic Ear brings sound into a previously silent world, and for the most part allows them to converse with friends and family. However, listening to live music can be a difficult, or even annoying experience!
INTERIOR DESIGN: Music for the Bionic Ear aims to start addressing that problem. Prepare to be challenged by what you hear and be careful not to make assumptions about what others might experience!
Gene Chandler, “In My Body’s House” (1969).
(2’42”, 3.7 MB, mp3)