Club Zho is an ongoing series of concerts run by TURA New Music and its latest edition featured Melbourne-based clarinettist Aviva Endean in collaboration with Josten Myburgh, solo artist Nathan Thompson and Lee / Jacobs / O’Connor.
First up was Thompson, who performed on a modular synth built by the artist himself, the instrument included a series of effect pedals, microphones and sensors that responded to Nathan’s actioning. His approach to performance reminded me of the tinkering and soldering composers of the sixties, people like Gordon Mumma and David Behrman who pioneered the use of scratch parts to build their own interactive synthesisers. Like them, Thompson’s focus is on process and spontaneity, he allows sounds the freedom to act on their own while modelling them if he finds something interesting. There is a high level of respect for the intelligence of this machine, forming a two way relationship that is open to the unexpected, like when a radio signal was picked up by one of its sensors. After the set, the artist graciously talked to audience members who wanted to have a closer look at his creation.
The second set featured Djuna Lee on double bass, Lenny Jacobs on drums and Dan O’Connor on trumpet; musicians who drew on their jazz background as a springboard for a freely improvised set that did away with meter and harmonic structures. The rhythm section worked as a unit, amplifying the minuscule gestures provided by O’Connor; but there was a tension coming from O’Connor’s predilection for non-pitched sounds, and the rhythm section wanting to assume a more functional role. A give and take that saw the trumpet player running through jazz inflected patterns, or pulling Lee and Jacobs into less referential territory. Bassist Djuna Lee weaved her solos around her bandmates, using them as foils to create inventive lines with clarity. Whereas most improvisers prefer spontaneous collaborations, long term projects can have benefits and it would be interesting to see more groups like this in Perth.
The last set of the night came from local improviser Josten Myburgh and Aviva Endean, a clarinettist and composer based in Melbourne whose visit to Perth included a series of concerts and workshops organised by TURA New Music. Her practice is multi-disciplinary and incorporates installation, video and audience participation. All of these elements offer a considered engagement with sound and an awareness of space. At the same time, Aviva does not shy away from social commentary - a recent work comments on the detachment globalisation and wealthy lifestyles bring about.
The set started with a strong call of their individual styles, Myburgh is a musician who is forthcoming in his ideas and aesthetics; he used a laptop and a “no input mixer” to create abrasive outbursts of noise and piercing sine waves, contrasting with Aviva’s more pathos-filled sensibility. She possesses a formidable technique that allows her to play idiomatically or to explore the clarinet as a found object, tapping on its amplified body, or clicking on its keys to compliment the electronic glitches of Myburgh. Even her changing of set up was used as performative aid, like when she began to take out the neck of the clarinet, twisting it slowly to obtain screeching sounds. The best of their improv came when both allowed space for each other; towards the end, they had settled into a static zone that enhanced the nuance of their sounds with tranquil interactions.
From the soldering DIY aesthetics of Nathan Thompson, the jazz infused improv style of Lee / Jacobs / O’Connor to the electro-acoustic explorations of Myburgh and Endean; it is interesting to note how improvisation is not tied to a specific genre, but rather results from musicians engaging creatively with sound and the space it inhabits.