The Tilde festival is named after the symbol “~” used to identify objects in the sound processing environment MSP, which is a staple for composers, sound artists, and experimental musicians. This year the festival demonstrated how far it has expanded beyond its namesake. Welcomed to the blazing aluminium and hot-pink stages of Southbank’s Testing Grounds were musicians from experimental, improvisational, notated, and world music traditions. Testing Grounds have also grown around Tilde. From a field of temporary structures made from recycled wooden pallets, Testing Grounds is now a fully-equipped venue with four highly customisable stage areas and a bar. Just the sort of place to spend a hot day in January.The Tilde Academy that takes place leading up to the festival graces the schedule with high-quality student work that has been workshopped with leading composers and practitioners. A true double bass virtuoso, Patrick Lyons, played new works by the composers Jaslyn Robertson and Sam Wolf. With the help of a whispering electronic part in her work Imposter Syndrome, Wolf helped draw the audience’s focus away from the hulking solo instrument to contemplate sonic minutiae. Another student highlight was the performance of John Zorn’s Cobra by the academy students directed by the experimental guitarist Gary Butler. Part of the fun is working out what on earth is going on as the students respond to incomprehensible directions held up by Butler.
A Tilde festival wouldn’t be complete without some impressive home made sonic gadgets and John Ferguson’s Circles did not disappoint. A box containing a single-board computer (maybe a Raspberry Pi and two Arduinos) sequence live samples in an intelligently random way that the performer then has to respond to and negotiate with. The device gives the impression of having a life of its own. Its dials and lights are thankfully turned towards the audience, who can watch the performer react as the device throws up autonomous changes.
From hacked electronics to hacked guitars, Chris Rainier performed songs by Harry Partch on his modified microtonal guitar. Rainier’s medley of readings, tape recordings, and songs make his program a complete theatrical performance.
Jacques Soddell’s electroacoustic work In the Park was a timely exploration of Australian nationalism, including field recordings of nationalist chanting and speeches. It was followed by the multi-instrumentalist Rebecca Scully’s performance of solo works on double bass, cello, viola, and violin. While Scully can certainly play all of these instruments, a more confident performance on one would have sufficed. Scully was joined on stage by Mirren Strahan for her work “Gratitude,” an ironic juxtaposition of violent frotting on violin and double bass with shouted exclamations of gratitude.
Flutes featured heavily this year, with performances by Hannah Reardon-Smith, Melanie Walters, and Laura Chislett Jones. Chislett Jones’ recital was a particular delight, taking the audience on a finely curated tour through works for flute and electronics of the past few decades. Taking place days after the murders on Burke St, Michael Smetanin’s at times violent and gentle Backbone was thoughtfully dedicated “to those who are suffering”.
The open stage in the middle of the Testing Grounds hosted a kaleidoscope of acts, making the experience of queuing for an artisanal burger all the more enjoyable. A highlight was Bianca Gannon’s solo gamelan with loop pedal performance, which brought a meditative tone to the balmy evening.
After a long day of new music it was refreshing to hear Nunique Quartet, a complexist super-group turned jazz band. It’s great to know people can have so much fun counting their irrational rhythms. Definitely hire for your next party.
21 January 2017