DOMICILE: Alone Together

Review by Charles MacInnes

I set off to Carlton for the first performance of DOMICILE last Friday night, and even though I knew quite a few people amongst the group gathered outside, we remained mostly silent during the event. As we visited the different areas of the house there was a quick whisper on the stairs, a smile from across the room or a small nod of encouragement before something new began.

Straight through the downstairs section of the house, I landed in blacksnowfalls (2014 by Wotjek Blecharz) where Matthias Schack-Arnott had lithely joined himself to a single, slightly battered timpani. Like a teenager on the train I stared at the window and watched the sounds go by. The skin became taut and some sequences of letters formed, along with rhythms of copper under a body that moved and stretched to dampen the sounds.

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Matthias Schack-Arnott performs blacksnowfalls by Wotjek Blecharz. Photo by Pier Carthew.

Next door were the honks and squeezes of Dale Gorfinkel’s installation Baby boomer. You pedalled while holding on to an old Zimmer frame and the balloons and hoses and brass relics came to life. The apparatus seemed to have assembled itself from the junk in the shed and it kept going even after we stopped pumping air through. My brass player self began to realise how accidental a lot of life’s noise is. Sound and its complex waves and vibrations already exist, and we players perhaps take a little too much credit for its creation, and are correspondingly also deflated when it from time to time falters.

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Vanessa Tomlinson plays on Baby boomer by Dale Gorfinkel. Photo by Pier Carthew.

Ascending the stairs, I overhear the Conversation (2004 by Georges Aperghis) between two women (Jenny Barnes and Niharika Senapati) in the bath. The bubbles obscure their bodies and the voices are a mixture of inwards exhalations and assenting disagreement. When I hear people arguing, I can quickly tell that most of the time they don’t know what they are arguing about. They become so used to their practised roles that a quip or jibe represents years of misunderstanding. The underlying root of the problem is long since forgotten—we’ve lost the ability to analyse—instead acting out our expected frustrations on whoever’s at hand.

Downstairs again, I sat in the chair waiting to be next in a one-to-one Audition (2014 by Angelo Solari) with Carolyn Connors. We were seated opposite each other and the script/score was open. She: Hello

[pause]

I (reading): hello.

We bounced back and forth following the lines, mimicking each other in normal voices. Often asked to overlap the dialogue, it got a little faster before a Martin was mentioned a few times. She sprung from her chair and left, returning with the electric kettle now full of water. While waiting for it to boil we had to stare at one another. I was strategically pessimistic about my efforts at doing well, but kept my gaze fixed. Blinked a few times. Much later in the garden after the whole performance was finished, she said I was one of the most natural ones because I didn’t try to act.

Now heading to the front room, I copied Aviva Endean’s filmed actions in A face like yours (2015) on the TV screen. This was a warping of space and time perspective because I had done this once already at this year’s Bendigo International Festival of Exploratory Music. This time I was alone as I put the squishy coloured earplugs in. My fingers, as I copied the screen, started drumming on cheek bones, moving to ears, neck, face, nose, forehead then squeezes and pullings at the the lips and teeth. The sound is magnified and distorted as it comes in through the strange connections of bones, tendons and nerves like a web of old water pipes in an apartment building. We arrived at the Adam’s Apple with a high pitched humming before ending with hands covering nose and mouth.

Tiny wisps of air made it through the clarinet in Lehadlik, also performed and written by Aviva Endean (2015) in the open dining room at the heart of the house. Two candles flickered from the clarinet’s presence and a crackly recording of an old man’s torah incantation came from under a chair by the hearth. The tones were long and suspended but low in the air. My mind wandered out into the garden and I looked again at the window I’d been staring at from inside by the timpani with the live projected image of him still playing. The pieces in the house were repeating over and over as the audience shifted and changed and I think they’re doing it again now as I write.

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Aviva Endean performs Lehadlik. Photo by Pier Carthew.

To get to the garage you had to pass through three or four bedsheets hung from the gables. Matthew Horsley was shaved bald and had on a pair of flimsy white cotton pants. ?Corporel (1984 by Vinko Globokar) was disembodied as if from another time and dimension, perhaps some edited-out character of Brecht’s insisting that we feel and understand the false glamour and artificiality of entertainment today? His chest and face and scalp become chafed red from the harsh contact of his hands, and it finished with a dramatic exit through the automatic roller door that would’ve done Bertolt proud. The last piece I heard was a couple (Aviva Endean and Alexander Gellman) in the upstairs bedroom performing Void. Walking slowly toward each other in a routine they’ve enacted many times before, the microphones in their mouths caused a screech and wail of feedback. Was it getting stronger as they neared or changing frequency? Or were our poor ears just getting used to the piercing, painful sound? When they kissed it stopped. But they walked out again to quickly reassume positions for another round.

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Aviva Endean and Alexander Gellman perform Void. Photo by Pier Carthew.

As the audience, we narrowed down the distance between each of us as we moved through the different floors and rooms of the house. As I glanced into the makeshift mirror of glass over a black and white photo on the landing, I was reminded just a little more of who I am. Music does this beautifully; we are connected but each engrossed in our own calm thoughts. In DOMICILE we circumnavigated sound and it came together under one roof with the utmost magic and beauty.

DOMICILE
A house in Carlton
4/5/6 December 2015
Directed by Aviva Endean
Presented as part of the New Music Network’s emerging artists program

Review by Charles MacInnes
Melbourne-based composer and trombonist Charles MacInnes is currently undertaking a PhD on the role of improvisation in new music. http://www.charlesmacinnes.com

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