Tag Archives: Aviva Endean

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.

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.

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


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.

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.

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.

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

BIFEM: Aviva Endean, Dual Rituals

Aviva Endean performs Dual Rituals. Photo by Alexander Gellmann.
Aviva Endean performs Dual Rituals. Photo by Alexander Gellmann.

Review by Angus McPherson

A screaming clarinet multiphonic, pitches grating against each other, presages thunderous bass drums. The impact from the drums triggers blinking in the audience, bodies recoiling from the onslaught of sound that seems too vast and terrible to be contained in the tightly packed Old Fire Station. Late on Friday night, Aviva Endean opened the proceedings of Dual Rituals with Finnish composer Magnus Lindberg’s Ablauf (Expiration). This strident music began a recital that had all the solemnity and pageantry of a spiritual rite. The contrast between piercing howls and whispered prayers made Dual Rituals compelling and deeply unsettling.

Flanked by black-hooded bass drummers Peter Neville and Leah Scholes, Endean’s energy is implacable; she slides around the clarinet with virtuosic zeal and screams at the audience in short, vicious barks. She is just as nimble on bass clarinet as the drums recede to low rumbles. Ablauf fades out, the stage goes dark and Endean appears on video above the stage holding up a sign instructing the audience that they will ‘need earplugs to play’ the next piece.

Endean’s own composition, A Face Like Yours, invites the audience to copy the actions of her filmed self, and we obediently insert earplugs and begin touching and tapping at our faces. Drumming fingertips lightly against the earplugs elicits reverberations inside our heads, and in the otherwise silent audience, we run fingers over our scalps and behind our ears. We slap our cheeks and lips, a soft fleshy patter that rises and falls. When the stage fades once more to black the audience, bereft of its leader, seems unsure whether to break the spell by applauding.

The lights come up on Endean kneeling at the front of the stage, Tibetan sounding bowls in her hands for Pierluigi Billone’s Mani. Gonxha, a hypnotic performance of ceremonial prayer. Endean draws a variety of metallic sounds from the bowls – traditionally used in meditation – as she slides them together, mutes them or loosens her grip allowing them to ring out. It is a long piece to sustain such a narrow range of timbres, but Endean’s focus never slips. Her body is both resonator and dampener, as much a part of the percussion as the bowls, and the dull tapping of one bowl against the knuckles of her hand evokes an air of self-flagellation. This intensifies as she beats one bowl against the other pressed to her abdomen, as if trying to drive it into her belly. There is a sense of intrusion, as if this is a private act we have stumbled upon. Quiet gong-like vocalisations become chanting as Endean finally lifts her eyes to stare into the audience.

Endean sits at a desk, the pieces of a disassembled clarinet arranged before her like a vanitas still life. The premiere of Wojtek Blecharz’s Counter-Earth begins with the amplified sound of the clarinet’s barrel rolling across the wooden desk. Dramatically lit from above, Endean paints sounds with the clarinet’s parts, while cymbals chime from a recording, extending the ceremonial mood of Mani. Gonxha. The clarinet’s middle joints become machines for trapping and releasing breath, and one is played as a side-blown flute, reminiscent of a funerary Shakuhachi. The chiaroscuro lighting distorts Endean’s features as she stretches her eyelids open with her hands and claws at her face. Electronic sounds mingled with those produced by the clarinet, which is gradually assembled.

In the next movement, Endean delivers the text of the Wikipedia entry on the Syrian city of Aleppo in the voice of a friendly tour-guide. Her recitation of the historical value of one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world is rendered heartbreaking by the destruction that has resulted from the Civil War. Endean periodically interrupts her bright delivery with hissing chants from a darker text. ‘A slow death, a slow death, a slow death’ a chilling reminder of the suffering Aleppo has seen. Crouching, Endean reaches into a glowing chest, which illuminates her as she pulls out pieces of rubble and drops them onto the stage.

Bathed in blood red light, Endean plays an Aztec death whistle into a microphone for Counter-Earth’s finale. The rasping of the skull shaped instrument is light at first, but gradually mutates into something like raucous, hysterical laughter.

Aviva Endean drew the audience in with her trance-like intensity. Sustaining the reverent solemnity of a priest or shaman throughout, she made us complicit as witnesses to and participants in her dark rituals.

Dual Rituals
Aviva Endean
Bendigo International Festival of Exploratory Music
Old Fire Station
4 September 2015
Angus McPherson

Aviva Endean, Intimate Sound Immersion

Aviva Endean, photo by Michel Marang.
Aviva Endean, photo by Michel Marang.

Aviva Endean
Intimate Sound Immersion
Dane Certificate’s Magic Theatre
Thursday 25 July

What better time to visit a magic theatre down a dark, cobbled alleyway than a wet and windy winter night? The magic I sought on Thursday night was not, however, of the trick-shop kind. Nor did I seek spells or demonic powers, though all of the above found themselves, in a way, evoked in Aviva Endean’s Intimate Sound Immersion, a one-on-one encounter with one of Australia’s finest performers of contemporary clarinet repertoire.

Performers of contemporary music spend endless hours honing sounds that do not necessarily travel well to row WW of a concert hall. While instrumentalists must still be able to project a full tone to the back of an auditorium, they must also command an ever-growing repertoire of “extended techniques” ranging from barely perceptible whispers to deafening screeches, often augmenting their instruments with found objects and manipulating their sound in complex and astonishing ways. I did not know just how remarkable some of these sounds were until blindfolded and led behind the red curtain Dane Certificate’s Magic Theatre.

The performance begins with an almost imperceptible pulse by one’s ear. The sound is so low and so quiet that one is not entirely sure whether there is a draft or the building is shaking from a passing tram. The sensation grows louder and moves around one’s head, opening out the audience member’s spatial perception. Much of the performance plays on the juxtaposition of the still and the moving, the close and the distant, to remarkable effect.

The pulsing changes to a breathy sound that strikes both ears. By opening and closing two channels of a mysterious wind instrument (I suppose, not being able to see any of the tools of the magician’s trade) the listener is gripped in a rapid, rhythmic, spatial oscillation.

After this spatially-focused rhythmic intensity, the sound field is gloriously opened out by a chorus of chimes at different distances from the listener, including two small music boxes  at close range by each ear. This was an absolutely stunning moment and more could have been made of this difference between centralised and dispersed sounds, the opening of the intimate conversation out into an imaginary landscape.

After several more short timbral studies, one encounters a wandering solo of double trills and overtones on the bass clarinet. After passing through the previous sound worlds like so many mythical trials, one feels that one is “meeting” the clarinet like a creature at the end of a quest. What it says I will leave up to you to decide. The unique opportunity of hearing such a solo up close is worth the entrance fee alone, a privilege that performers, who are condemned to a life of unflatteringly-close contact with their sound, might not immediately think of offering their audiences. Just as the audience member is led into the clarinet’s chamber, they are led out. The entire process leaves one with a definite sense of having heard “something” in the warbling trills of the clarinet that one can take away into the cold Melbourne streets.

With low overheads and more spatial flexibility than perhaps any other performance medium, one-on-one performance could be the most dynamic performance genre today. Endean’s performance contributes to a small tradition of performances in Melbourne (including percussionist Matthias Schack-Arnott’s Chrysalis and Paris-based found-sound artist Pascal Battus’ Sound Massage) that exploit a 360 degree sound field usually reserved for complex speaker arrays and orchestral staging.

Intimate Sound Immersion runs until Sunday night, so get down to Dane Certificate’s Magic Theatre, if it is still there.