Tag Archives: Ida Duelund

Liquid Architecture/Inland: Nothing but disaster follows from applause

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Okkyung Lee performs in the audience. Photo by Keelan O’Hehir

As tiny festivals of sonic exploration, interdisciplinarity, and improvisation, the Liquid Architecture and Inland concert series are natural partners. For one of the year’s first concerts they teamed up to bring the world’s foremost experimental cellist Okkyung Lee, to Melbourne. The concert’s title suited the lead-up to Trump’s inauguration. “Nothing but disaster follows from applause” is a quotation from the Austrian author Thomas Bernhard, who consistently criticised nationalism and religious hypocrisy in post-war Austria. While there is some uncertainty as to whether populism will develop into fascism under Trump, the election of a climate change denier to the White House all but seals the fate of our natural environment. Far from relaxing or soul-cleansing, the ecological theme that ran through “Nothing but disaster” was a “dark ecology” tinged with the melancholy knowledge of our contribution to the destruction of our own ecosystem.

Alexander Garsden and Ida Duelund-Hansen are better known to Partial Durations readers as a post-spectralist composer and a Scandinavian avant-garde chanteuse. These musical personalities find a magical synthesis in the folk-revival duo True Strength. Switching between Danish and English, Duelund-Hansen’s light and pure voice sings of waves, tussocks of grass, and terraced hillsides over Garsden’s floating acoustic guitar harmonies. Duelund-Hansen’s double bass part journeys along in melodic counterpoint. The overall sound is reminiscent of Alela Diane and Ryan Francesconi’s album Cold Moon, albeit denser and with a greater rate of textural change. True Strength’s songs are series of reflective tableaux, but they never let you linger too long. You can and should hear True Strength on Spotify (though don’t mistake them with the christian metal band), or live in Hobart and Melbourne over the next week.

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Crys Cole and Oren Ambarchi play the mysterious tin box game. Photo by Keelan O’Hehir

Having last heard Oren Ambarchi perform a richly-textured noise set through a hulking battery of amplifiers at the Aurora Festival in 2011,  I brought my earplugs to the Abbotsford Convent. These turned out to be completely unnecessary, as Crys Cole and Ambarchi’s principal source of amplification were networked smartphones. Cole used an iPad to send nocturnal field recordings to the phones spaced around the hall. Croaking frogs and chirping insects wafted through the room while Ambarchi repeated a single note on an acoustic guitar. Throughout the set, Cole’s sound design shifted into man-made analogues, including what sounded like rustling paper and vocal whispers. I found this set no less affecting than a full-body immersion in noise. Who can innocently listen to the sounds of nature any more? Every environmental sound is now an indictment of our custodianship of it. Once the purview of dollar-bin relaxation tape manufacturers, recording a cicada is now a radical act.

The synthesiser and tape collaborations of James Rushford and Joe Talia have long stretched the limits of the audible, but their whisper-soft set for “Nothing but disaster” gained a new poignancy from the ecological preludes of True Strength and Cole and Ambarchi. Among the Lynchesque synth drones I heard distant wolf-howls and crickets, all suffused in an electromagnetic, static glow.

Okkyung Lee’s set heralded from the other side of the world and the opposite end of the dynamic range. Playing behind the audience and in complete darkness, Lee let us know what an efficient noise machine the cello is. Growling, grinding, and never still, Lee savaged her instrument in new and remarkably dexterous ways, though this was only evident to me when I craned my neck to catch the shadow of her bow arm. We’ve all heard a cello getting murdered, but it would have been good to see how Lee does it. For the most part her technique was lost on the audience.

Liquid Architecture and Inland are the products of an adventurous and discerning experimental music community with the ability—more or less unique in the contemporary music community—to attract audiences from other art forms. Such curatorial vision has the power to develop powerful artistic responses to the social and environmental disasters of our age (take your pick).

Liquid Architecture and Inland
Nothing but disaster follows from applause
The Abbotsford Convent
20 January 2017
True Strength, Crys Cole and Oren Ambarchi, James Rushford and Joe Talia, Okkyung Lee


Ida Duelund, Winterreise (album launch)

Winterreise by Ida Duelund, Chamber Made Opera Records
Winterreise by Ida Duelund, Chamber Made Opera Records

Winterreise (album launch)
Ida Duelund
Peter de Jager
A living room in Williamstown
Chamber Made Opera Records
Saturday 25 May

A supermoon hung in the seaside gloaming as I inexpertly navigated the streets of Williamstown. Getting a little lost is all part of the Chamber Made Opera experience. In the company’s successful Living Room Opera series, the audience is given the address of a household venue somewhere in Melbourne, hoping that the door they knock on hides the host, audience and performers they are looking for and not a family preparing dinner. Chamber Made Opera’s new record label is taking a similar approach, eschewing the trappings of bar or concert-hall launches for an intimate engagement with performers in a suburban living room. Though the autumnal ramble towards last Saturday’s coastal home was far from the lonely winter’s journey depicted in Franz Schubert’s Winterreise song cycle, the experience lent a heightened sense of strangeness and discovery proper to Schubert’s subject.

Gathered around cheese platters with cups of mulled wine, we were not to hear Ida Duelund’s unique interpretation of Schubert for voice and double bass before pianist Peter de Jager treated us to Bach’s Toccata in F# minor, Schubert’s Impromptu in Gb major and Australia-based composer Chris Dench’s E330. Jager’s sensitive articulation of polyphonic voices adds fresh depth and interest to works as well-known as Schubert’s Impromptu. Appropriate for an evening dedicated to the erring soul, all three works performed by Jager pitted a wandering, arpeggiated accompaniment against a searching prinicpal line. Dench’s E330 (from the opera We based on the novel by Yevgeny Zamyatin) strikingly contrasts a Scriabin-like Fantasy with a faux-serial study. In We, the piece is played by a character in a strictly regulated, utilitarian dystopia to demonstrate the difference between Scriabin’s hyper-emotional music and the coolly-formulated music of the One State. Both parts are marvelous constructions on their own, but gain value in their juxtaposition. The icy, crystal-clear vistas and balance between the principal and accompanying voices in the latter half of E330 comes as an epiphany, but only after the Scriabinesque turmoil.

Ida Duelund in Another Lament, 2011. Photo by Paul Dunn
Ida Duelund in Another Lament, 2011. Photo by Paul Dunn

Duelund intoned the first falling notes of Gute Nacht a capella as the night turned black and ship lights passed by outside. Wedged in an opening between two rooms, she performed to one, then to the other audience, accompanying her seraphic voice with bowed and pizzicato double bass. Duelund’s interpretation of Schubert is an intimate rediscovery of counterpoint, at times dissonant, at others of the purest, open intervals. Missing from the launch was Jethro Woodward’s electronic manipulation of the double bass, which accompanied Duelund in the first outing of her Winterreise programme in 2011. Woodward’s subtle atmospheric support is reproduced to great effect on the album itself, available online through Chamber Made Records. What was lost in Woodward’s absence was more than compensated for by some of Duelund’s new compositions, mostly sung in Danish, which show her wandering contrapuntal style extended to new extremes, with an extended vocal range, daring leaps and completely exposed singing against semitones and quartertones in the bass. Like Schubert’s wanderer, Duelund’s voice always returns to some sort of home, though never that from which it sets out, creating a challenging, unnerving, but ultimately rounded experience.

If Ida Duelund does not become a stratospherically famous avant-garde pop star then it will be by no fault of her own. We can blame the market, or the public, or any number of extraneous circumstances, but the counterpoint of Duelund’s seraphic voice and searching double bass confronts, confuses and finally wins one over in a way that is utterly unique today.

RealTime has three copies of Ida Duelund’s Winterreise to give away courtesy of Chamber Made Opera Records. Details here.