I think of musical space as open rather than bounded, which is why I speak about projection in the sense that I want to simply project a sound, a musical thought, to initiate it, and then let it take its own course.
Edgard Varèse

NEXT PERFORMANCE

Sessions, New York ’57
works by Edgard Varèse, Earle Brown, John Cage, Charles Mingus

Melbourne Recital Centre — Salon
Tuesday 20th February 6pm (60 mins / no interval)

$39 / $29

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This program recreates a series of open rehearsals that took place in 1957 in New York, where a group of improvising musicians was guided through a graphic score created by pioneering composer Edgard Varèse. Also presented are works by composers with a direct relationship to this event, including open-form compositions by Earle Brown and John Cage, as well as a tribute to the experimentalism of jazz bassist and composer Charles Mingus.

Recent research has shown that the score Varèse brought along was almost identical to that which he used the following year to create his Poème électronique for the Brussels World’s Fair—in each case, fixed sound objects became the springboards for musical development and extension. Musical director Charles MacInnes has reconstructed this score through a combination of surviving facsimiles and recorded archives, and has filled in the gaps by following the contours of the electronic work.

The organiser of the sessions was Earle Brown, who credits Varèse with providing the ideas and inspiration to create his own open-form compositions. The graphically-notated score of 4 Systems consists of horizontal and vertical lines that the musicians translate into sounds, as if moving through virtual space. In the audience for a number of the sessions was John Cage: included in this program is his late work Seven, in which the players make choices about the timing and placement of the notes within a tightly-organised structure.

One of the musicians playing Varèse's scores was bassist and composer Charles Mingus. Unusually for a jazz composer at that time, Mingus adopted extended techniques, changing meter, and episodic structures borrowed from modern classical composition. Ensemble Density presents its own version of Weird Nightmare as an example of this experimentation.

VARÈSE (reconstructed by MacInnes) Sessions
BROWN 4 Systems
CAGE Seven
MINGUS Weird Nightmare

Charles MacInnes musical director
Jeremy Alsop bass guitar
Helen Bower violin
Nikki Edgar cello
Aviva Endean clarinet
Steve Falk marimba, percussion
Michael Kieran Harvey piano
Caroline Henbest viola
Tony Hicks flute, bass clarinet
Peter Neville percussion
Tristram Williams trumpet

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COMING SOON!

Structures, Melbourne ’66

works by Keith Humble, Syd Clayton, Robert Rooney

Melbourne Recital Centre — Salon
Tuesday 31st July 6pm

1966 was the year Keith Humble returned to Melbourne after a long stay in Europe. The improvisations, tone-rows and graphic scores of the composers presented in this concert were regarded by the conservative elements of the contemporary music scene at the time as being too experimental. Happenings presents some of these exciting works, and aims to reproduce the atmosphere that Humble established at the monthly concerts/workshops in the Grainger Museum, where composition was presented as a process rather than a product.

Along with Humble’s collections of raw sonic material in Music for Monuments, two works are presented from the “angry young men” of the day—Rooney’s beautiful graphic work Second Landscape and Clayton’s very first work Snakes and Ladders, based on the board game.

An exploratory approach to music was to continue at La Trobe University, and one of Jeff Pressing’s project ensembles from the 1970s is revisited in the final work. gazebosplayed is a tribute to Pressing’s research into the cognitive processes of improvisation—each player is given a theme or rhythmic cell that acts as a referent for musical continuity and engagement in the ensemble.

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image design: Chrissy Chan


Ensemble Density was launched at 2017 Melbourne Fringe Festival

at the
Scrap Museum — Bakehouse Studios, Richmond

See photos from the night

Listen to the music




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Charles MacInnes
composer & musical director


Ensemble Density


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Tristram Williams
trumpet

Jeremy Alsop
bass guitar


Steve Falk
marimba

Nikki Edgar
cello

Peter Neville
percussion


Helen Bower
violin

Tony Hicks
woodwind

Michael Kieran Harvey
piano

Charles MacInnes was appointed to the position of principal bass trombone with the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra in Sydney at the age of nineteen. Four years later he moved to Germany to further his studies with Prof. Joachim Mittelacher at the Hamburg Hochschule für Musik und Theater. After working for two seasons as Praktikant with the Hamburg Staatsoper, for the following eight years he was a frequent guest with the North German Radio (NDR) Big Band. Since returning to Australia in 2000, he has performed with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Australian Art Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Deep Purple and has appeared at many major international arts festivals. Charles has lectured at the Victorian College of the Arts, Monash University, Australian National University and The University of Melbourne (including two years as Head of Brass). He has a Masters in Composition and is currently undertaking a PhD researching improvisation in new music. His compositions have been played by the Australian Brass Quintet, Sarah Curro, Syzygy Ensemble, Melbourne Chamber Choir, Bennetts Lane Big Band, Nunique Quartet and the Monash Art Ensemble. He has had music reviews published in Realtime Arts and was invited in 2017 to present a research paper and lead a workshop as part of The Living Moment: Exploring Improvisational Practice at the 3rd International Conference of Dalcroze Studies at Université Laval, Québec. Charles is co-director of the Monash New Music Ensemble and presents creative music workshops throughout Australia for people of all ages.
Michael Kieran Harvey studied with Alan Jenkins, Gordon Watson, and at the Liszt Academy under Sándor Falvai. His career has been notable for its diversity and wide repertoire. He has especially promoted the works of Australian and contemporary composers and recorded over 40 solo CDs on various labels. He has premiered many Australian and international concertos with all Australian symphony orchestras. Harvey's compositions have been performed in Europe, the UK, North and South America and Asia, in addition to major Australian festivals. He concentrates on non-standard formats, often humorously questioning classical music and embracing diverse influences. As a pianist Harvey's awards include the Grand Prix in the Pogorelich Piano Competition, USA (in 1993, the world's richest), the Debussy Medal (Paris 1986), the Centenary Medal (2002), the 2009 APRA award for Distinguished Services to Australian Music, and an AMC award (2014) for best classical performance (Elliott Gyger’s Inferno). Harvey gave the 2012 Peggy Glanville-Hicks address on the state of Australian music to acclaim and controversy. The Michael Kieran Harvey Scholarship was established in 2006 to encourage future directions in Australian keyboard art music.
Peter Neville is a graduate of the Victorian College of the Arts and was appointed Head of Percussion there (now the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music) in 2000. Since 2013 he has also been the inaugural Head of Percussion at the Australian National Academy of Music. While he works across a range of musical styles, he has a particular commitment to new music and chamber music, both of which he fosters in his role as Head of the Melbourne Conservatorium’s New Music Studio. As a founding member and percussionist with the ELISION Ensemble for 30 years, Peter has been involved with the majority of their concerts, recordings and international tours. A number of works, including Chris Dench's Driftglass, for percussion and ensemble, and Richard Barrett's Abglanzbeladen/Auseinandergeschrieben have been premiered by him and written with his unique set of virtuosic skills in mind. Peter contributes to other new music organisations including the Melbourne Composers’ League, Six Degrees Ensemble, Bolt Ensemble, Arcko Symphonic Project and the Nick Tsiavos ensemble, and has performed with numerous other contemporary organisations, including Chamber Made Opera, Speak Percussion, Syzygy, and is a regular performer at the Bendigo International Festival of Exploratory Music.
Possessing an interest in music of all genres and origins, Steve Falk embraces the process of creating new works with artists of varied disciplines and traditions. In addition to his work with contemporary classical music ensembles such as Speak Percussion, Chamber Made Opera and the Bolt Ensemble, he performs often with leading contemporary improvisers both within Australia and in Japan. Steve studied at the Victorian College of the Arts, Queensland Conservatorium of Music and later with the assistance of the The Seed Fund, at Toho Gakuen College of Music (Tokyo) where he studied marimba with the renowned soloist and composer Keiko Abe. Steve has played percussion with the Melbourne, Queensland and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestras, Orchestra Victoria and Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa (Japan). As musical director of the popular Australian dance show Tap Dogs, he toured New Zealand, Japan, China, Korea and India. In 2013, Steve completed a new work for solo marimba entitled A Long Way Home and was commissioned by Museum Victoria to write for the Federation Bells. Steve is based in Melbourne and work as a sessional percussion teacher at The University of Melbourne and Monash University.
Tristram Williams maintains a busy international career as a soloist, ensemble musician, improviser and educator, and has been a member of ELISION since 2003. He has appeared as a soloist in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, Britain, Ireland, the United States and China and many times around Australia, with Orchestra Victoria, and the Melbourne, Queensland and West Australian Symphony Orchestras. Tristram was Associate Principal Trumpet of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra at the age of 21. He has performed as acting Principal Trumpet with most of the Australian orchestras, and with several orchestras and ensembles in Europe, including MusikFabrik and the Gürzenich Orchester, Cologne. As a member of ELISION, he has given concerts of the newest and most virtuosic music, in cities such as Moscow, Warsaw, Berlin, Paris, Leuven, London, Boston and San Francisco. He has made several significant CD recordings, including the ELISION’s acclaimed brass CD Strange Forces. Tristram Williams is on the faculties of the Australian National Academy of Music and Monash University. His teachers have included Armando Ghitalla, Håkan Hardenberger, Reinhold Friedrich, Markus Stockhausen, Daniel Mendelow and John Kellaway. He is a laureate of major international trumpet competitions in Brussels and Eindhoven, an ABC Young Performers’ Award and a 2008 Churchill Fellowship, and was awarded a prize from Karlheinz Stockhausen at the 2006 Stockhausen Interpreters’ Course.
Australian musician Jeremy Alsop is a composer, producer and bass player of broad ranging versatility who has made a substantial contribution to Australian classical, jazz, rock, pop, folk and experimental music for over thirty years. He has had original works recorded by Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Chad Wackerman, Slava Grigoryan, David Hirschfelder, Paul Grabowsky, Mary Doumany, The Australian Concert Trio, Graeme Lyall and Colin Hay. As an electric bassist he has been featured on recordings with Michael and Randy Brecker, Joe Chindamo, Men at Work, John Sebastian, Don McLean, The World Rhythm Band, John Farnham, Robbie Dupree, Tim Finn, Olivia Newton-John as well as on hundreds of TV shows, advertising and film soundtracks. Jeremy has toured extensively throughout the USA, Europe, Japan and Asia including in performances at The Kennedy Centre in Washington, The Brooklyn Academy of Music, The Shanghai Music Festival, Live Aid 1985, The UK Chillout Festival and The Paris Music Festival. He has performed with Nigel Kennedy, Don Burrows, Juliet Prowse, Charles Aznavour, James Morrison, Thelma Housden, Bob Geldof, Tom Jones, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Synergy Percussion, The David Chesworth Ensemble, the Brodsky String Quartet and The Australian Ballet.
Tony Hicks has performed across Australia and internationally since the late 1970s. He maintains a prolific creative improvisation practice and works in jazz groups, function bands, TV and recording studios, theatre orchestras, big bands and productions by small arts organisations. As a creative improviser he collaborates with a range of artists including Carlo Carnevali, Dan Sheehan‘s Infinite Ape Trio, and Reassemble with Ren Walters and Phil Collings. Past projects include collaborations with electro-acoustic sound artists including David Tolley and the Bent Leather Band. Since 2000 he has performed in a number of Australian Art Orchestra projects including Crossing Roper Bar — an acclaimed collaboration with Indigenous Wagilak songmen from Ngukurr, Arnhem Land. He is also regularly invited to participate in the Monash Art Ensemble, collaborating with various international composers and performers. In 2012 he completed a practice-based performance Masters degree that focused on free improvisation processes and the development of improvisational facility with microtonality, tone-rows and extended techniques on woodwind instruments. He was a student of Australian saxophone virtuoso Peter Clinch, a member of the Peter Clinch Saxophone Quartet from 1977 to 1988, and in 1984 reached the national finals of the ABC Instrumental and Vocal Competition. He collaborates regularly with Gillian Howell to deliver creative music and composition projects for children in urban and regional settings.
Helen Bower is a versatile violinist who performs with artists from many different musical genres. She graduated with a First Class Honours Degree from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, London and upon graduation was awarded the Vivian Prindl Outreach Prize for her music/dance collaboration In the Loop. Helen has worked as violinist and backing vocalist for The Fanclub, a London-based rock band signed to Underdogs Music, played for recordings, live shows and UK festival performances for The Silent League and Misshaped Pearls, as well as writing, recording and performing with electronic band Ocarina. She has recorded at Abbey Road for Children In Need and 1916 The Musical. Since relocating to Melbourne, Australia, Helen has spent her time developing new and original work for solo violin and live electronic looping under the project title The Looping Glass. In 2014/2015 her show Through the Looping Glass [TTLG] was performed in Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth and was nominated for the music award at Perth Fringe World Festival. Continuing her exploration of the use of live looping in a contemporary classical music context, Helen worked with Melbourne composer Charles MacInnes to transform TTLG into Lost in the Looping Glass which premiered at the 2015 Melbourne Fringe Festival, toured to Perth and New Zealand in early 2016, and was performed at White Night Melbourne in 2017.
Nikki Edgar is a cellist and composer who specialises in improvisation in a contemporary classical music context. Nikki is currently studying cello performance at Monash University with Josephine Vains, where she explores new readings of mainstream solo repertoire. As a member of the Monash Art Ensemble directed by Paul Grabowsky, she performed in 2016 with jazz trumpet soloist Thomasz Stańko at the Malthouse Theatre in Melbourne and again in 2017 for the Stonnington Jazz festival. Nikki has performed her own works at Deakin Edge, the Melbourne recital centre and Melba Hall. As an outcome from a composition workshop she took part in directed by Lizzy Welsh, Ben Opie and Melissa Doecke at BIFEM, she was commissioned to write a work for Inventi Ensemble, and has had a composition workshopped and performed by the Australian String Quartet. In 2017 she won the Monash University Composition Prize for a solo violin work written for Erkki Veltheim. She was a participant in the 2016 Tilde New Music and Sound Art Academy and Festival, performed in the 2016 Future Creatives Music Festival at Second Story in Collingwood, and in May 2017 she premiered A Storm, A City for solo cello and electronics composed by Lewis Ingham.

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Ensemble Density was founded by Australian musician Charles MacInnes. MacInnes trained as an orchestral trombonist, and upon moving to Germany in the 1990s was encouraged by jazz colleagues to begin improvising. He is now a full-time composer of music that guides classically-trained contemporary players to improvise. The inspiration for forming this ensemble came from a series of open rehearsals that took place in New York in 1957. Before an invited audience, pioneering electronic composer Edgard Varèse directed a small group of musicians to read between the lines of his scores: the results signalled the tentative beginnings of a brand-new sound. Ensemble Density throws open the doors to that New York room, imagining what might have happened had the sessions continued each week to this day.


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