Musical explorations from the edge

27 April 2022

Tune Noise Tune’s series of experimental performances is giving local audiences new opportunities to hear innovative sounds, and the latest instalment has Kristian Borring mesmerised.

Tom O’Halloran and unfold (Alice Humphries and Thea Rossen), TuneNoiseTune ·
The Ellington Jazz Club, 26 April 2022 ·

Forward-thinking experimental and improvised music is getting a new level of exposure, with the Perth Jazz Society and experimental music label Tone List – two important bodies for supporting improvised music in Perth – teaming up to present a bi-monthly concert series TuneNoiseTune.  

This brilliant initiative of six concerts began in February, and the second instalment at The Ellington Jazz Club this week attracted an almost full house buzzing with enthusiasm. 

It was a mesmerising and captivating experience, highlighting two very different acts. First, unfold – composer/performer Alice Humphries and percussionist Thea Rossen – with a piece commissioned by Tone List and supported by a crowdfunded campaign set up by the label. The piece, which lasted the whole set, had large elements of improvisation guided by preconceived cues and textures. It displayed delicate interactions of call-and-response between the two performers, mostly led by Humphries on the prepared piano and her alternately tuned electric guitar. Rossen complemented beautifully, exploring the sonic possibilities of her bass drum through rubbing rather than hitting, and created a soundscape by using glass jars, shaking them or dropping materials into them. 

Humphries’ minimalist personal interplay between piano and guitar created immense motion and tension within a static atmosphere. Both performers were disciplined in maintaining controlled and focused dynamics, keeping the audience right on the edge of their seats.

Tom O’Halloran delivered a stunning improvised performance. Photo: Edwin Sitt

In the second set, pianist Tom O’Halloran had the audience straight back to the edge, with a stunning improvised solo performance based on his experiments with reworking fragments and ideas from the piece “Vingt Regards sur L’Enfant-Jésus“ by French classical composer Olivier Messiaen. In four original pieces prepared for the performance, O’Halloran (no stranger to The Ellington Jazz Club) showed the depth of his understanding of the complexity in Messiaen’s dense sound-world, persistently exploring the material while maintaining his own distinct voice. The mood was abstract, intense and dark, but never sinister. With a sound and touch on the piano reminiscent of Chick Corea, O’Halloran rarely ventured into a strict groove but managed to produce a lively rhythmic flow, even in the quiet sections. 

Despite the dense and abstract soundscapes – and a refreshing lack of any sense of major and minor – O’Halloran showed a deft ability to maintain melody in the midst of executing the ebb and flow inspired by Messiaen’s music.

Read more about TuneNoiseTune in ‘The sounds of freedom’, an interview with Josten Myburgh.

At the beginning of the night, I was not sure if the Ellington would be the most suitable venue for the TuneNoiseTune series. However, besides the at-times noisy air-conditioning, the delicate dynamics of these talented acts could be enjoyed readily, as soon as the performers absorbed the space. 

This TuneNoiseTune concert was part of Audible Edge, Tone List’s Festival of Sound, established in 2017 to showcase experimental and improvised music. This year, Audible Edge runs throughout the year, but with a cluster of events this week, most of them at the Old Customs House in Fremantle.

TuneNoiseTune series continues on 30 June 2022 with an event at the Rosemount Hotel, North Perth.

Pictured top: Alice Humphries, on guitar and piano, and Thea Rossen on percussion, displayed delicate interactions. Photo by Edwin Sitt

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Author —
Kristian Borring

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