Tag Archives: Jenna Lyle

BIFEM: Jessica Aszodi and Jenna Lyle, Grafter

Jessica Aszodi and Jenna Lyle in Grafter. Photo by Ben.

Review by Simone Maurer

Dressed in loose-fitting black and khaki clothes, Jessica Aszodi and Jenna Lyle began Grafter centre stage, facing each other. The stage was equipped with microphones, hanging speakers, and electronic equipment on a desk. Standing motionless, Aszodi sang a sustained vowel-tone as Lyle swayed her upper body over Aszodi, purposely interrupting her vocal projection. This example of what the performers describe as “choreographically affecting sound” underpins the work, and highlights the use of body movements for sound effect, rather than visual effect. The performers’ body movements were not intended as a separate artistic element—they were integral to the sound production. In fact, there was little movement which was not connected to a sound. Dividing the performance between acoustic and electronic production, Aszodi and Lyle used “gross and fine body movements” to interplay and interact with elements of vocal production, resonance, space, and electronics.

Although one uninterrupted work, I heard the performance as a book of etudes; each study seemingly designed to focus on a particular element. The focus of the first etude, choreographed sound manipulation, was developed in the following etude to interplay with the resonance of the performer’s bodies. Still facing one another, Lyle swayed and weaved around Aszodi’s open mouth, sporadically capturing its resonance as they sang. Lyle introduced a microtonal interval, producing a combination tone which created further aural distortion. This ‘third voice’ was perhaps a reference to the later electronic voice of feedback produced by two other bodies (microphone and speaker). The specific relationship between Aszodi’s and Lyle’s bodies allowed them to produce a unique set of sounds and movements, and it is hard to imagine the work being as successfully focussed if performed by substantially different bodies. For example, if a great height difference meant Lyle had to stand on tiptoes to reach Aszodi’s mouth, or if one performer was male.

The third etude introduced larger body movements and hinted at the upcoming electronic elements. Sound exchanges between long syllables, shushes, and hisses—accompanied by pulling and pumping of the performers’ arms—evoked imagery of piston-like forces and motions within a mechanical machine. The athletic spectacle of the work increased dramatically as Aszodi and Lyle linked arms behind their bodies and, in turn, lifted the other onto their back. This was a display of both physical and vocal strength, which left me wondering what it would be like to experience another vocally resonating body on mine as I either lifted or was lifted. Although these movements were interpreted by some as comedic, I saw the combination of strength and risk as one of the more physically intense moments of the performance. The slight bodily trembling and hesitance momentarily drew the performers’ experience to the foreground of the performance.

The second, shorter, part of the performance explored interaction between body, space, and electronics, specifically the two hanging speakers, microphones, and hand-held lights. Choreographically manipulating sounds from the speakers, Aszodi diverted the white noise around her flowing body movements. Lyle soon joined, mirroring Aszodi’s movements, while holding small lights. I am not sure if the lights had a deeper meaning, but their presence prompted interplay between both visual and aural ‘shadowing’. Later, the lights were rubbed over the live microphones, creating the perception of an ostinato.

The final etude explored interplay between human versus electronically produced whistles, and the handheld lights were now less of a visual influence. Aszodi’s soft whistles were accompanied by slow pacing across the stage; however, not moving may have better complimented Lyle’s still body, which only moved to rub a live microphone on a speaker, producing short, delicate pitches of feedback. The gradual dimming of the lights and human/electronic whistle interplay clearly signposted the closure of the performance. The first light went out. Aszodi’s whistling ceased. The second light went out. The feedback whistle stopped. Silence.

As a performer-researcher interested in the fields of musical gesture and embodiment, I found Grafter to be an informative study of some possibilities of choreographed sound manipulation. Live electronics is a performance element I am not experienced or knowledgeable in; however, Grafter has prompted me to investigate incorporation of electro-acoustic elements into my flute playing. I have greater confidence in pursuing this after attending the BIFEM Composer Colloquium, which was presented the day following Grafter. Chaired by Aszodi, both she and Lyle discussed their work and development as multi-disciplinary artists. Aszodi voiced her concern, held by other audience members (myself included), of being boxed in to the label of one discipline, such as ‘Singer’, ‘Composer’, or ‘Dancer’. She spoke of the difficultly in trying to include other artistic elements outside her label as ‘Singer’, which the panel (also consisting of Eliot Gyger and Matthew Horsely) attributed to concepts of authority and expertise. They agreed that expertise in an artistic discipline was achieved through formal accreditation and years of practise. However, Aszodi argued that rigorously committing to a secondary artform is possible—as she is currently doing with her dance education. Aszodi’s artistic ‘identity crisis’ resonated with my own as I am also beginning study in dance and struggle with feeling like an imposter. I think that Aszodi’s and Lyle’s combined expertise and knowledge of singing, dance, and composition strengthened and informed their performance. As Grafter is a continually evolving work, I hope to witness future adaptions by Aszodi and Lyle, resulting from their further interdisciplinary exploration.

Jessica Aszodi and Jenna Lyle
Bendigo Bank Theatre
Bendigo International Festival of Exploratory Music
1 September, 2017

BIFEM: Argonaut, Plank Rodeo

Jason Tavener Photography BIFEM 2017 PLANK RODEO_MG_9298
Plank Rodeo. Jason Tavener photography

Review by Joel Roberts

As the opening performance of BIFEM 2017, Jenna Lyle’s Plank Rodeo was a brief apéritif to a night of diverse musical events. The concept behind the piece is simple and beautiful: a group of four performers physically support each other while they ‘ride’ on top of a precarious pile of boards. The sounds of creaking and popping are captured by transducers and microphones as the boards give in to the performers’ weight and movement. Processed in real time by the composer, then amplified, the sounds created an inviting imaginary landscape as they reverberated through the halls of the Bendigo Art Gallery.

The sonic impression of the work was that of a geological soundscape, reminding me of a painting in the Tasmanian Museum where an Antarctic icebreaker gouges a path through sheets of sea ice. The work’s connection with landscape was also reinforced by its placement within a hall of nineteenth-century paintings of people and places. The juxtaposition of new music among old paintings was perhaps tongue in cheek, as this environment is typically reserved for performances from the classical canon.

For audience members who were familiar with these musicians, this was an opportunity to witness vulnerable musical exploration outside the instrumental and vocal specialisations that these performers are highly regarded for. This conjunction of human movement with wooden ‘instruments’ provided a fresh perspective to our conventional expectations of what instrumental performance is, or should be.

As the musicians indelicately clung to each other while fulfilling the physical and listening tasks of the work, they experienced and expressed ‘ensemble’ in its most primitive form. They were literally ‘together’ and physically dependent upon each other. In this sometimes painfully close proximity, they played and explored the sounds available to them as the piece swept from delicate moments of tiny creaks and crackles to outrageously loud moments where the musicians’ stomping generated explosive sounds that shocked the audience. In one moment of relative quiet, Jessica Aszodi delicately tickled the base of the ‘instrument’ with her toes, stimulating a subtle audio response from the soundscape.

While a performance of this work by dancers could have exploited a more refined approach to human movement, this performance of Plank Rodeo was an opportunity for the audience and musicians to experience aspects of music making and sound generation at their most fundamental level, and provided a re-examination of what instrumental performance can, or could be.

Plank Rodeo
Bendigo International Festival of Exploratory Music
Bendigo Art Gallery
Friday 1 September, 2017
Jacob Abela, performer
Jessica Aszodi, performer
Matteo Cesari, performer
Jenna Lyle, electronics
Jane Sheldon, performer