Readers of this blog will be familiar with the Swedish composer Marcus Fjellström from his Odboy and Erordog Suite, a darkly humorous new media creation that I have reviewed several times. Anyone with a healthy sense of childhood nostalgia or a pet whimsy for old computer games and antique horror will love this piece, which was performed yet again by Fjellström’s Australian champions, Rubiks Collective, at Melba Hall.
In Rubiks’ Imaginarium portrait concert, a packed auditorium was introduced to three other creepily entertaining works by Fjellström. Each work combined Fjellström’s characteristic animations with live performance in a unique and stimulating way. Klavierbuch #1 for video and keyboard (Jacob Abela) could be the product of a collaboration between the creators of Guitar Hero and the “beautiful” video game Limbo. And why shouldn’t an interactive piano primer be haunting and beautiful? The audience watches a projection of the simple and eerie piano music surrounded by stylised animations. In the first movement flowers slowly turn into spiders as the pianist progresses through the music. In another episode tears fall from a childishly drawn face. I would love to see Fjellström try his hand at a similarly traumatising music education app.
The Alchemist Dances is the closest Fjellström came to a conventional contemporary piece of concert music, though even this virtuosic percussion solo performed by Kaylie Melville included a quirky take on the genre, playing on the similarities between alchemical symbolism and contemporary musical notation. The audience sees the same arcane lines, cones, and dots as the performer, who interprets them as they see fit. It is common for audiences to see a performer’s graphic score, but often they don’t know where the performer “is” on the score, or how they are interpreting it. In this case, a single symbol is shown at a time and the audience has time to predict how it might sound and appreciate Melville’s creative interpretations.
In Imaginarium Fjellström goes straight to the source of his artistic inspiration: the childhood imagination. Fjellström takes drawings from workshops with children and turns them into arresting audiovisual episodes. A series of lines, spirals, and doodlings turn into a bus trundling through a nocturnal city. Lines radiate from the hands of a cosmic conductor perched atop a mountain, the stars exploding into a constellation of faces. Fjellström’s adult work is firmly rooted in a clear recollection of his own macabre childhood imagination (didn’t we all have one?), avoiding the assumption that children’s imaginations must be brimming with garishly-coloured blocks and bubble writing. Though, as the Mulligrubs generation found out, colourful and disturbing are far from mutually exclusive. Rubiks did the rapt audience at the New Music Studio concert a huge service in introducing them to this original musical creator.
Imaginarium (Marcus Fjellström Portrait Concert)
New Music Studio concert series
10 April 2016
Marcus Fjellström, Klavierbuch #1, Odboy and Erordog Suite, Alchemist Dances, Imaginarium