SeeSaw_Proms_970x90.jpg
Reviews/Music

A study in deep listening

29 August 2019

Review: Decibel ensemble, ‘Partition Concrète: The Music of Lionel Marchetti’ ⋅
The Sewing Room, 26 August ⋅
Review by Rosalind Appleby ⋅

Lionel Marchetti is a French composer of music concrète, a type of electronic composition that draws on sounds from the natural world as well as computer generated sounds. In recent years he has collaborated with Decibel, an Australian ensemble who explore the intersection of electronic and acoustic instruments. Their work together is being featured in a national tour which commenced in Perth this week.

Marchetti’s work with Decibel heralds his first venture into performing with acoustic instruments. In order to seamlessly integrate the electronic and acoustic parts he has developed the concept of a ‘partition concrète’. The part, as explained in the program notes, functions as an ‘alter ego with whom it is possible to engage in an intimate dialogue – a support or an ally into which musicians can lean’.

On Monday night this electronic part was played through speakers carefully spatialised (in some instances facing the backstage walls) so that it was impossible to distinguish the instruments from the electronics. The Decibel instrumentalists (wind, strings and percussion) interacted with the partition concrète to create what, at times, felt like deeply thoughtful musical poetry.

In The Last Days of Reality, written in collaboration with Decibel’s director Cat Hope, the sounds of the tam tam (Louise Devenish) and bass flute (Hope) interwove with Marchetti’s partition concrète in a wash of eerie, low tones. The Earth Defeats Me had a similar slow-breathed expansiveness. Long bass clarinet tones emanated from the speakers and Lindsey Vickery playing live bass clarinet. Cello (Tristan Parr), viola (Aaron Wyatt) and flute joined in the responses, creating an ebb and flow that had the pulseless constancy of the sea. There was even what sounded like echoes of mournful gulls and distant fog horns in the percussion and electronics parts.

The ensemble presented the world premiere of Le Cerveau, a work which invited a musical response to pitches generated in the electronic part. Marchetti joined the Decibel members on clarinet for a study in deep listening as they mirrored the slow, warm sounds emanating from the speakers.

By the time we reached the final work on the program, the premiere of Inland Lake, the performers had established an atmosphere of quietude and aural acuity. With deeper listening the delicacy and beauty of Marchetti’s slowly evolving electronics became more apparent, as did the sensitivity and control demonstrated by the performers as they blended almost imperceptibly with the partition concrete. The whine of wind blurred into a more percussive bubbling, layered micro-glitches and fast pulses swirled. The focus moved to pitches slowly bending and building in intensity then evaporating, leaving behind an aching absence. By the end of the 30 minute work Marchetti had shaped our listening: sounds were emancipated from their source and the music became simply and purely sound, or the absence of sound.

The Lionel Marchetti national tour continues to Melbourne and Sydney.

Pictured top L-R: Aaron Wyatt, Cat Hope, Stuart James, Lionel Marchetti, Louise Devenish, Lindsay Vickery, Tristan Parr. Photo by Rachael Barrett.

Like what you're reading? Support Seesaw.

Author —
Rosalind Appleby

Rosalind Appleby is an arts journalist, author and speaker. She is co-editor of Seesaw Magazine, author of Women of Note, and has written for The West Australian, The Guardian, The Australian, Limelight magazine and Opera magazine. She loves the percussion instruments which can be found in the uber cool parks.

Past Articles

Read Next

  • Kiki Saito and Matthew Lehmann in Nils Christe's Before Nightfall. Photo by Bradbury Photography copy Two West Australian ballet dancers on stage - a woman is perched on one pointe, her other leg extended upwards in a split. She arches back, supported by a male dancer. Hitting high notes at 70
    Reviews

    Hitting high notes at 70

    25 June 2022

    Traversing a range of human emotion, West Australian Ballet’s latest triple bill is an evening of beautifully performed contemporary dance, reports Kim Balfour.

    Reading time • 6 minutesDance
  • Cabaret festival. A singer wearing a fur hat is on stage with a pianist, guitarist and drummer. We can see the dress circle seats of the theatre in the background lit in a greenish light. Tributes to musical idols light up stage
    Reviews

    Tributes to musical idols light up stage

    23 June 2022

    A cabaret veteran and opera performer bring very different interpretations of the greats of classical, jazz and pop in the second week of the Perth International Cabaret Festival, writes David Zampatti

    Reading time • 6 minutesCabaret
  • A semi circle of 8 singers, with one standing in the centre, facing an audience. They are in a large hall and there are cnadles, chairs and pot plants decorating the floor around them. Vanguards bring poetry to vocal music
    Reviews

    Vanguards bring poetry to vocal music

    20 June 2022

    Armchair poets become legends in their own lunchtimes in Vanguard Consort’s imaginative Saturday Night Poetry, writes Claire Coleman.

    Reading time • 5 minutesMusic

Cleaver Street Studio

Cleaver Street Studio

Cleaver Street Studio