Guild Theatre, Melbourne
Thursday 11 July
Gian Slater’s compositions are kaleidoscopic musical worlds of dazzling rhythmic geometricity and ecstatic jazz-inflected polyphony. In contrast to this brilliant musical space her lyrics deal with day-to-day struggles like mustering the courage to deal with paperwork. The result is an enchanted hyper-reality where the mundane becomes the cosmic, or perhaps an internal space of solace in the face of a dull external reality. It is a world embraced by her ensemble, the Invenio Singers, who never fail to deliver an impeccably choreographed and polished performance of a good hour or so of music (in this case two) from memory.
Luminesce focuses on the abstract, musical side of Slater’s work, occasionally delving into more spikily chromatic territory than is usual for Invenio. The work is a collaboration with musician, video artist and creative coder Robert Jarvis. Using his software Voxstripe, Jarvis transforms the seven parts of Slater’s composition into visuals that are then projected onto the white-draped singers. Jarvis’ visualisations are simple and effective, like Slater’s music, using shapes and primary colours to highlight the shifting rhythms and phonemes of each singer. It’s such a magical combination of sound and light that it would seem a shame to ruin the surprise of future presentations of this work, which is currently in a “pilot” stage. In short, pastels bathe the ensemble in a glowing rainbow as they fill the room with diffuse harmonies, geodesic spheres are poetically transformed into jagged burrs as though a spiritual transformation is being enacted with each note and apertures like the insides of eyelids reveal and eclipse each singer as though under the gaze of a seven-eyed musical consciousness.
As well as being intensely satisfying for the pattern-searching brain we all share, Jarvis’ visuals highlight the polyphonic nuances of Slater’s composition, which reconciles the worlds of abstract musical composition and the extended possibilities of the vocal organs. It is remarkable that interactive technology is so familiar and affordable these days that elegant pieces such as Invenio can be produced without reliance on any technological “wow” factor, but rather trusting to the poetic integration of interactive projections into the composition. I’ll keep you posted about future showings of this hypnotic work.