Tag Archives: Anthony Pateras

Another Other: A self-fulfilling prophecy about the death of art

Image 1_Chamber Made Opera –Another Other_Caption – Erkki Veltheim, Sabina Maselli, Natasha Anderson and Anthony Pateras_Credit – Jeff Busby.jpg
Erkki Veltheim, Sabina Maselli, Natasha Anderson and Anthony Pateras in Another Other. Photo by Jeff Busby

Waiting in line at the North Melbourne Meat Market, I spot the corpse. A humanoid shape lies wrapped in black plastic bags. The sound of clocks (or are they shovels?) emanate from it. A program essay by Ben Byrne tells us it is the body of art. He quotes Ingmar Bergman (The Snakeskin, 1965) who claims that art is basically unimportant, deprived of its traditional social value. Like a snakeskin full of ants, art is convulsed with the efforts of millions of individual artists. Each artist, including Bergman himself, is elbowing the others “in selfish fellowship,” in pursuit of their own insatiable curiosity. To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Bergman’s film Persona, Natasha Anderson, Sabina Maselli, Anthony Pateras, and Erkki Veltheim have crawled inside the film’s 79-minute skin.

The four artists sit facing each other beneath red digital clocks counting down the opera’s duration. Pateras works his Revox B77: a machine with a loop of tape and multiple heads that can be manipulated live to produce a stunning array of sounds. Veltheim nurses his violin, which he processes through a laptop running  MaxMSP. Natasha Anderson festoons her Paetzold contrabass recorder with an array of sensors and microphones. Sabina Maselli commands an arsenal of projectors and spotlights, including reels of custom-shot 16mm film.

Once inside the film’s skin, the collaborators throw out its organs of character and plot. The artists instead motivate its mise-en-scène. Maselli’s deeply-textured footage of hands, faces, and landscapes mirror Bergman’s own sumptuous images. The close-miked sounds of violin, recorder, and water echo the conspicuous detail of 1960s foley. Spoken text references monologues in the film, notably Alma’s story of a foursome on a beach. And so the ideas cycle: hands—faces—landscapes—text, interspersed with solo episodes for each performer, until the time runs out.

Image 2_Chamber Made Opera –Another Other_Caption – Anthony Pateras and Erkki Veltheim_Credit – Jeff Busby.jpg
Comparing hands. Don’t they know it’s bad luck? Photo by Jeff Busby

After the third extended shot of intertwined hands, I wondered whether the artists were labouring under a category mistake. Texture and materiality were the bread and butter of contemporary arts throughout the 1980s and 1990s, but the structures of plot and character are surely now considered as much part of the artistic “surface” than image and sound. Thanks to the fashion of basing new music on old films, there are counterexamples. For instance, Alex Garsden’s Messages to Erice I & II, which uses the familial relationships of the characters in Víctor Erice’s 1973 film El Spíritu del Colmena to structure the algorithmic relationships of four amplified tam-tams.

By throwing out plot and character, the creators of Another Other struggle to address the original film’s themes of identity, motherhood, art, and being. The film’s iconic shot of Elisabet and Alma’s juxtaposed faces is critical of traditional gender roles precisely because the characters struggle with those roles. The repeated superimposition of the artists’ faces in Another Other is less critical than narcissistic.

While stating that art’s traditional social function is dead, Bergman’s essay affirms the personal significance of art, a belief that is reflected in Elisabet’s first scene in Persona. Elisabet is an actress who stops speaking because she harbours a burning will to live authentically and shake off the role of motherhood. She laughs at a radio soap but seems affected by a piece of music. In Another Other no such distinction is made between inauthentic and personally authentic art. Veltheim plays the Chaconne from J.S. Bach’s violin Partita no. 2 while the artists’ faces are shown through a day-time soap vaseline lens. I will accept that universally authentic art is impossible, but I struggled to find even an affirmation of personally authentic art in Another Other. Unsure of the artists’ belief in their own work, I failed to commit as an audience member.

After fifty minutes I even started believing that art was dead. Thanks to the clocks high above the stage I could regret every minute left. The saddest thing was that I respect the work of each artist in their own right. But four good artists in a box does not an opera make. At the end of Another Other the artists imagine a different ending to the film. The doctor says that Elisabet’s silence was just another role that she sloughed off in the end, not a real existential crisis. She was perhaps also depressed and infantile. The doctor concludes “But perhaps you have to be infantile to be an artist in an age such as this.” I laughed. It made me particularly glad I trusted them with an hour and a half of my life.

Another Other
Chamber Made Opera
Meat Market
18 February 2016
Natasha Anderson, Sabina Maselli, Anthony Pateras, Erkki Veltheim.

BIFEM: Golden Fur

Golden Fur
The Bendigo International Festival of Exploratory Music
The Old Fire Station
3:30pm, Sunday 17 September

After the marathons of Friday and Saturday, the concerts at BIFEM on Sunday all seemed a little more light-hearted. This was even the case for Melbourne’s Golden Fur, a trio of incredibly talented performers from Melbourne (now based in California) who are not known for their levity. They had all previously performed at the festival. Cellist Judith Hamann performed a solo recital late on Friday; pianist James Rushford performed Henning Christiansen’s organ work Eurasienstab: Fluxorum Organum at the Sacred Heart Cathedral and two of his compositions were showcased on Saturday; and clarinettist Samuel Dunscombe was the engineer for the reboot of Manoury’s Pluton.

The concert began with Dunscombe in a state of grace. Having not seen Dunscombe perform for some years now, the control he brought to Chikako Morishita’s solo bass clarinet piece Skin, Gelatin, Soot was breathtaking. The piece ranges widely amongst the instrument’s extended techniques, from barely audible breath to “dinosaur” clarinet. It ends with an enigmatic poem in Japanese with as many interpretations as the score itself which, ranging across three staves, requires split-second decisions by the performer.

Rushford and Hamann took everybody by surprise with the concert’s second piece, Ivan Wyschnegradsky’s Méditation sur deux thèmes de la Journée de l’existence. The piece was composed in 1918–19 (that is, well before Barraqué’s Sonate pour violon seul, which I had previously said was the oldest piece in the festival). Hearing the piano’s romantic introduction was like ordering a jam sandwich from the school canteen and biting into Vegemite (I will never forgive you, canteen lady). I will, however, forgive Golden Fur, because the taste this time was wonderful. The composer had an epiphany in 1917 and decided to compose a work that would send the entire world into a mystical rapture. The Méditation forms one study toward the final piece, exploring semi- quarter- third- and sixth-tones. Despite the avant-garde pedigree it is gorgeously kitsch and provided an excellent point of contrast to the rest of the works in the festival. It was interesting, having been listening for so many different things throughout BIFEM, to suddenly feel myself “switch” into romantic cello-mode and find myself listening for bow changes, shifts, long phrases and the like (all of which Hamann executed superbly). From a programming perspective, the piece had the nice effect of inverting the practice of major ensembles to include one modern piece in the middle of an otherwise direly-conservative programme. It would be great if everyone played predominantly new music but still kept some older repertoire on the back-burner.

The surprises continued with Pateras’ Nekkersdaal Eden. The piece begins in the usual Golden Fur fashion of barely-audible bow sound, but is broken after a minute by a deafening squawk of static. I had barely noticed Dunscombe standing at the back of the stage with his laptop half-hidden behind a music stand. Every time he reached for the touchpad the audience would flinch, until he finally did trigger the horrible noise again, and again.

You can listen back to the concert as part of New Music Up Late on ABC Classic FM.

Partial Durations is a Matthew Lorenzon/RealTime joint project.

Speak Percussion: 8th Taiwan International Percussion Convention

Speak Percussion
8th Taiwan International Percussion Convention
National Concert Hall, Taipei
27 May 2014
Review by Alistair Noble

Thomas Meadowcroft, Cradles
Anthony Pateras, Hypnagogics
Matthew Shlomowitz, Popular Contexts Volume 6
Simon Løffler, b

The Taiwan International Percussion Convention is a triennial event begun in 1993, the creation of Ju Tzong-Ching and supported by his own ensemble, the Ju Percussion Group. In 2014, the 8th iteration of the convention hosts 10 ensembles and 10 soloists from 14 countries around the world. The convention is titled ‘Taiwan’, rather than ‘Taipei’ for good reason, as it aims to bring percussion performances to venues around the island over a 10 day period, with the international and local performers undertaking tours to venues in Taipei, Taichung, Tainan, Kaohsiung, Hsinchu, Yilan, Changhua, Chiayi and Taitung. In terms of organisation, logistics and finance, this is a monumental undertaking, a music festival that has moved beyond the local to operate on a national front. Certainly, it serves to illustrate the extraordinary commitment and energy that can sometimes be brought to artistic endeavours in Taiwan, and the size of audiences seems to indicate that the convention organisers have been able to tap into a deep well of support at the community level.

Among the international guests at the 2014 convention are Speak Percussion from Melbourne, represented for this performance by Eugene Ughetti (artistic director), Matthias Schack-Arnott, Leah Scholes, and lighting designer Travis Hodgson. Australian fans will know this group for their polished and dedicated performances of works by contemporary European and Australian composers in particular. It is satisfying to see the group, with its flexible ensemble membership, making a strong impression at major international events like TIPC and MaerzMusik in Berlin.

Speak Percussion are more than just a virtuoso ensemble. They display a lively good taste in repertoire, and a strong commitment to the communication of their love and fascination for this music. They have a distinctive style of performance, combining a genuine jouissance with an unassumingly Australian theatricality, that brings to life even music that might seem alarming or pretentious in other hands.

In the cavernous space of the National Concert Hall in Taipei, I worried that the ensemble would be somewhat overwhelmed by the scale of the architecture, and that the audience might be small. On both counts, my fears were proven wrong. The hall filled rapidly with a large and enthusiastic audience, and the ensemble quickly took control of the stage and compelled attention by simply sounding terrific. Travis Hodgson’s lighting effectively transformed the gigantic space into something psychologically more intimate, with the performers lit only by narrow spotlights and the auditorium otherwise in complete darkness. A group of catholic nuns occupied the row in front of me—contemporary music fans? Or aunts and cousins of the convention organiser? I imagine them having a percussion ensemble in the convent and rehearsing Ionisation after Matins.

The concert opened with Thomas Meadowcroft’s Cradles (2013), a wonderful piece for two percussionists and Wurlitzer e-piano. The beautiful, chilled-out sound of the Wurlitzer (played by Leah Scholes) is the foundation for a work that contains a wealth of brilliant details. The two percussionists make use of a great raft of instruments, including finger cymbals, plastic castanets, Japanese toy drums, small shell chimes, medium shell chimes, a cluster of small Korean bells, and Chinese bells. The main work for the duo, however, is in playing the two reel-to-reel tape machines—pulling the unspooled tape by hand through the machines to create a complex and varied music of gurgles, rattles and chirps that is exhilarating and expressive, amusing and richly colourful. It’s as though Gregor Samsa (the post-rock band, not the character in Kafka’s story) were collaborating with 1950s Stockhausen, which is to say that Meadowcroft’s distinctive music is both intelligent and gorgeous. You can hear a recording of another performance of the work here.

Hypnagogics (2005), an 8-minute piece for a solo percussionist by Berlin-based Australian composer Anthony Pateras, is a richly rewarding, almost symphonically-textured work. This is surprising in some ways because the score calls for a carefully limited range of ultra-high pitched ‘micro instruments’—tiny little pits of wood, metal, skin, ceramic and glass—together with tinnitus (actually pre-recorded high-pitched electronics). This arresting palette of sounds becomes slowly more sinister as the music progresses, and then finally simply captivating. It is a clever and finely-crafted piece that rewards repeat listening. Matthew Shlomovitz spoke at Darmstadt in 2012 about the relation between musical material, and the engaged process of composing with, or investigating that material, proposing that ‘[o]ne way in which music might become critical is through investigating its own substance’. Pateras’ Hypnagogics would serve as a fine example of this notion in theory, except that the reality of the music is so much more than this. Eugene Ughetti, as the soloist, gave a brilliant and compelling performance. Have a listen here.

Matthew Shlomovitz’s four-movement suite Popular Contexts Volume 6 (2013), is a work for drum kit, vibraphone, midi keyboard and laptop (i.e. samples). It started very promisingly, rocking along happily. The nuns in front were tapping their feet and nodding appreciatively. And it continued more or less like that, for four inscrutably shapeless movements. It is fun music, and I really wanted to like it, but despite an excellent, energetic performance, something just doesn’t feel right. In another context, I might love it: it would be perfect music for a nightclub—a hip, glossy, fashion-magazine kind of bar, where you and I could sit in the corner and drink, watching the rich gangsters and the smart models. Or it might be a movie soundtrack–the scene set it in the same bar, overlooking the bay in Hong Kong, with John Travolta as a Russian oligarch who always wears dark glasses because he’s actually a vampire (you knew that, right?), drinking excellent, icy vodka to match his fine suit.

Like even the best movie soundtrack, however, this music is a bit long-winded and tedious in concert. It is stylish and cool (in a slightly irritating way at times), but ultimately insubstantial. As the piece wore on, the nuns withdrew into a more meditative state, perhaps saying some quiet rosaries or simply praying for it to stop. It would have sounded better if we were drunk. Get me a vodka.

The concert finished with a work titled simply b (2002) by young Danish composer Simon Løffler. Scored for three musicians, three neon lights, effect pedals and a loose jack cable, this might at first seem like a daft idea for a piece—but it sounded wonderful. The players knock out complex rhythms on the effect pedals while the loose jack cable. . . well, it does what loose jack cables do, crackling and humming, and the blinding neon lights flicker on and off in the darkened auditorium generating electro-magnetic interference (sometimes magnified by the performers grabbing hold of the lights and each other to make a direct-circuit contact). It is a thunderously exhilarating, dangerous piece, with a powerful theatrical element. In addition to the superficial thrills, on a deeper level the work is a superb critique (in the sense of compositional investigation) of some unlikely materials. The nuns were perched on the edge of their seats, eyebrows bristling with excitement and electro-static energy.

Alistair Noble

Speak Percussion are also performing:

7.30pm, 30 May 2014
Chiayi Performing Arts Center, Chiayi, Taiwan, R.O.C.

7.30pm, 31 May 2014
Performance Hall of Cultural Bureau, Hsinchu County, Taiwan, R.O.C.

2.30pm, 1 June 2014
Yuanlin Performance Hall, Changhua, Taiwan, R.O.C.




Partial Durations is a RealTime/Matthew Lorenzon joint project.