Metapraxis ~ theatre notes

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


North Melbourne Arts House is making my life very complicated this year. It has always been a venue notable for its curation of contemporary performance, but under the eye of creative producer Angharad Wynne-Jones, Arts House has put together a stunning season of work. Amid a rich offering of performance, exhibitions, live art, workshops and residencies, upcoming shows include Back to Back's Hell House and Black Lung's Doku Rai. If you haven't already, look up the season and mark your diaries. The season are short, so easy to miss.

Metapraxis, a vivid evening of New Music, demonstrates the quality we can expect. 11 young string musicians, including the Melbourne ensemble Atticus, presented a various program of contemporary compositions under the leadership of notable avant garde violinist Jon Rose. They included Anthony Pateras's quartet Crystalline, Cat Hope's Cruel and Unusual, Jan Christou's theatrical celebration of ensemble, Praxis for 12 and The Long and the Short of It, a performance of Rose's Fence project. On the night I went, this was preceded by an improvisation between violin and electronic sound by James Rushworth and Joe Talia.

At its best, New Music invites its audience to listen closely: exploring the subtlety, precision and complexity of sound in ways that surprise your ears out of lazy expectations. From the witty exchanges of the aptly named Crystalline, where musical phrases are tossed and playfully transformed between the members of the quartet, to Cat Hope's sinisterly looping strings, which somehow recall the skittering anxieties of armed conflict, to the use of incidental sound in Rushford and Talia's duet, this concert was a constant pleasure, a cumulative succession of little shocks of alertness.

The two major pieces were a study in contrast.  Jon Rose's Fence project transforms wire fences - ugly lineations of border - into instruments of play and liberation. In The Long and the Short of It, video footage of Fences is is integrated with live musicians conducted by Rose using instruction cards. It was intensely absorbing and unexpectedly moving. Praxis for 12 is playful and theatrical, at once a celebration and a fond satire of performance. All these works, drawing from Christou, are about transformation: sound into meaning, one pattern into another pattern, order into disorder (or another level of order, which is what chaos really is) and back again.

The concert was designed with careful attention to space, with the audience seated in a semicircle around the stage, and the musicians placed and lit to highlight the differences between the works. I'm no musicologist, but I really enjoyed this concert and walked out feeling alive and exhilarated: a tribute to the energy these performers brought to the music. All you need to bring is your ears.

Why the short reviews? Here's why.

Metapraxis: music Anthony Pateras, Jon Rose, Cat Hope and Jani Christou.  Ensemble led by Jon Rose. North Melbourne Town Hall, Arts House. Closed.


MS said...

Yep. Agree with all this. Well done to Arts House for putting this on. It was a revelation.

Alison Croggon said...

Thanks MS.