Concert review: Recent Student Works, UC Music

A review by Riho Kojima:

UC School of Music had an exciting time at our concert ‘New Music Central: Recent UC Student Works’, on Monday 13 May. This was one of our regular Monday programmes, but this time it was at a different venue – the TSB Space in Tūranga, the new central library. Having our performance here certainly made it outstanding!

Our usual venue, the UC Arts Recital Room in the Arts Centre, is so small and cosy you feel close to the performer. However, the TSB is almost double the size so there was enough space between the stage, audience and especially for technical equipment, without the venue feeling tight. As soon as you walked into the site, you could feel the sharp mood given from its spaciousness and being surrounded by black walls and floor. It seemed to be encouraging people to join in even during the concert by having entrance at the opposite side of the stage and stylish cylinder-shaped sofas placed behind the regular seats. 

The program had variation of performances such as quiet and sensitive strings, strong and energetic piano, pop music and even fully electronic compositions and theatre-performance using cell-phones.

One of the performances that I personally found appealing was Echo of a Sonata composed and performed by Gabriel Baird (piano), influenced by Debussy and a Russian composer and pianist, Kapustin, who is well-known for using jazz idioms within classical structures. Gabriel’s piece is in sonata form, which consists of two sections. The A section was a beautiful shower of rapid, chaotic piano tunes with colourful jazzy chords, while the B section was brooding, calm and mysterious in its mood. Gabriel says that this piece was mostly based on a few improvised phrases. These phrases expressed frustration and anxiousness through their unstable and irregular tempo, with the addition of occasional accents with clashing chords.

The most unique spectacle in the concert was certainly Voice Pollution: Quartet for Four Cellphones composed by Rosa Elliot, performed by John Armstrong, Naomi van den Broek, Oscar Days and Daniel Mathers. Through this performance, what you see is four characters sitting on equally spaced chairs. Their bodies are facing the audience but eyes are locked on their phones while chaotic noises of social media are coming through the loudspeakers. Rosa says that this was a new challenge for her, to compose something fun and non-orchestral, and to point out the addiction to smartphones and the internet which everyone would have experienced these days.

It was spine-chilling to see those figures connected online via messaging or calling, but with the physical distance between them, each trapped in bubbles of the lights from their device – which is the only way for the audience to see their face in the pitch dark room. Rosa said that the performance differs every time since all the noise on the speaker is from their phone, playing  what they swipe on from whatever website they are on at that time. I think this makes the performance more realistic thus it successfully conveyed her strong message of warning about the dangers of this type of addiction.

Lastly I want to talk about one of the contemporary music performances which was full of powerful emotions. This was the songs Wondering and Rise Up composed by Nicole Taylor, performed by Nicole (voice) and Jeremy Lidstone (piano). Nicole says she composed the melody of both songs in group work from her high school. She says her influences are Shawn Mendes and Alessia Cara, both Canadian pop singers and songwriters. She made an interesting comment that every time she performs Wondering it changes the perspectives and meaning as she gains more experience in her life. In contrast, Rise Up is created with the purpose of releasing the struggling emotions caused from an accident that happened to her and her friends in which they lost a friend. 

For those who missed this concert there is good news! Another concert, Recent Student Works 2 is coming on October the 14th so make sure to mark it in your schedule! There are also several videos of performances, not only by UC music students but guest performers from various countries, uploaded on our Youtube channel, University of Canterbury Music Performance. I truly recommend watching these videos as this is definitely a fantastic opportunity to engage with a variety of music genres; just what UC Music is aiming for.

The remainder of the programme featured the following student works:

Yggdrasil for Violoncello and Harp composed by Thomas Bedggood; the concert started with this calm, mysterious and empyreal music. This piece was inspired from Yggdrasil, the massive world tree in Norse mythology. Performed by Mark Mensies (viola) and Ning Chiang (harp).

Volkstanze no. 3 “Djupblå” for Solo Violin, composed  by Thomas Bedggod; Thomas notes “this is the third in an ongoing series of solo works for stringed instruments, that seek to explore different aspects of the instruments written for whilst incorporating material from a wide range of cultural sources.”

Sonata for Violin and Piano, composed by Rakuto Kurano, Performed by Rakuto (violin) and Gabriel Baird (piano). This splendid and speedy tune with Japanese music idioms quickly shifted the atmosphere in the room from classical to modern vibes.

Miniature Compositions for Computer group work by Pius Lee, Cameron Buyers, Rosa Elliott, Nicole Taylor and Oscar Days. This collection of compositions by students studying electronic music and sound design was played through loudspeakers, and consisted of distorted voices and synthesised tunes, exploring “the idea of the virtual phantom sound space that exists between the loudspeakers”.

Where My Heart Used To Be and Makeup composed and performed by Hannah Everingham (voice & guitar); her sweet breathy voice with quiet guitar was the perfect way to relax at the end of a busy day. 

 

 

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