Matthias Schack-Arnott has created a visually stunning, aurally hypnotic experience. Bourby Webster finds Everywhen the perfect antidote to a busy week.
Everywhen, Matthias Schack-Arnott
PICA Performance Space, 21 February 2023
Described as an “intricate and mesmerising sonic journey”, Australian percussive artist Matthias Schack-Arnott’s latest live performance is a thing of beauty and contemplation.
Multiple suspended objects of pitched and unpitched percussive items – including individual ‘notes’ from a marimba, gongs and chimes – and twigs and clusters of dried plant seeds are hung from what can best be described as a Hills Hoist. Fishing line dangles, holding each item.
Stunningly illuminated and curiously sensual, it is set in the dark and intimate surrounds of the PICA theatre, soft gold lighting catching each suspended instrument at just the right intensity.
As Everywhen begins, the structure began to rotate slowly in a clockwise direction, like a child’s mobile above a cot. Schack-Arnott slowly walks in the counter direction among the suspended items, tapping one or shaking another against the gentle song created by spinning instruments in motion. It reminds me of a swimmer navigating an underwater kelp forest, the kelp slowly swaying around him.
The live performance of sparsely touched and tapped items is underscored by a soundscape created in part by microphones within the structure picking up the slightest vibration, or harmonics reverberating from items as they move. Sometimes a powerful bass note resonates, contrasting with the delicate sounds of small chimes or seeds.
At times the ‘instruments’ are lowered to the ground to drag along the prepared floor, or gently crash into objects on the ground, subtly shifting the natural ebb and flow of this minimalist contemporary classical performance.
As the performance develops – changing as slowly and subtly as the Australian landscape on a long outback road trip – aural tricks began to happen. I hear rain, or whale song, a train, helicopter, or siren. This (mis)perception is in part due to musical collaborator Tilman Robinson’s gentle contribution.
Schack-Arnott moves to and from the centre of the structure, where he sometimes kneels to drum an insistent rhythm with two percussion sticks on notes cut down from the mobile, to the exterior where he strikes or shakes items as they pass him.
His movement is fluid, controlled and patient, like the precise rehearsed movement of a dancer. This entire performance is an exercise in mindfulness and relaxation – not for the easily distracted or the lover of intense action and entertainment.
The resulting sound is sometimes extremely gentle, sometimes more powerful. The absence of a strong rhythmic pulse at any point does at times make it hard to find a connection to the sound. In other places, moments of such beauty make my hair stand on end.
By its nature, each performance of Everywhen will be unique but, if recorded, this music would be at home on RTRFM’s show Difficult Listening.
The enthralled audience gives enthusiastic applause as a shy Schack-Arnott takes his final bow. Like me, I assume many have been transported away from a busy week of hard reality, into this dark, beautiful, mesmerising soundscape, lost in a unique, other-worldly experience.
Pictured top: Matthias Schack-Arnott has created a mesmerising and mind-altering experience with ‘Everywhen’. Photo: Bryony Jackson
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