Metropolis: Ensemble Offspring, Posh Playground

Photo by Oliver Miller
Lamorna Nightingale. Photo by Oliver Miller

Posh Playground
Ensemble Offspring
Metropolis New Music Festival
8 April

The Metropolis New Music Festival got off to a playful start with Ensemble Offspring in the salon of the Melbourne Recital Centre. Posh Playground explores the work of a circle of UK-based composers deploying minimal pitch and rhythmic material in theatrical and playful ways. For example, the scores of Matthew Shlomowitz’s Letter Piece 8 (Sit up Stand Down) are sequences of letters for which the performer determines the corresponding actions or sounds. Lamorna Nightingale, Jason Noble and Claire Edwardes chose a suitable vocabulary of arm-waves, trills and toots to fill out the score, giving the piece, in keeping with the program’s title, the rhythm and look of a children’s game.

Laurence Crane’s Three Melodies and Two Interludes is an exercise in extended ternary form given a haunting character by the modal melodies of the alto flute and the dirge-like accompaniment of the vibraphone.

Bryn Harrison’s Five Miniatures in Three Parts contrasted planes of soft modal colour, leading well into the gesturally frantic but formally static Reeling for clarinet and hi-hat by Christopher Fox.

The children’s games returned with Jennifer Walshe’s EVERYTHING YOU OWN HAS BEEN TAKEN TO A DEPOT SOMEWHERE, consisting of eleven short theatrical scenes employing party horns, glitter, bubble blowers and a computer game on an iphone. The scenes, with names like “Study Hard & Work Like Killers” and “FACE! HANDS! FACE! HANDS!” reminded me of the UK’s Forced Entertainment, except that Forced Entertainment are funnier and have a knack of giving the seemingly-redundant new meaning throughout the duration of a performance. Perhaps EVERYTHING YOU OWN should be three hours long.

Posh Playground made me question the value of commentary in concerts, which I am usually in favour of. Ensemble Offspring speak well and succinctly, providing commentary on each piece before playing it. Such commentary could be grouped in sections or come after the piece to improve the flow of the program. The program was a welcome introduction to a subtle and beautiful body of work.

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