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CCR: Closer Creative Relationships

6 September 2005

CCR: Closer Creative Relationships

Trans-Tasman artistic relationships are due to enjoy another step forward with the announcement that New Zealand composer James Gardner has been awarded the 2005 Trans - Tasman Composer Exchange. He will work with ELISION, Australia’s premier new music ensemble, developing musical concepts in preparation for performances by the group in 2006.

The Trans-Tasman Composer Exchange is a collaboration between SOUNZ: the Centre for New Zealand Music and their westward counterparts, the Australian Music Centre along with Creative NZ and the Australia Council for the Arts. The exchange aims to promote the music of Australia and New Zealand to a wider audience and to enrich collegial and artistic contact between Australian and New Zealand composers and musicians.

“This is a very exciting opportunity to work on some ideas that I’ve been thinking about for some time,” James explains. “I want to develop a work which - in performance - combines acoustic instruments and the real-time electronic manipulation of their sounds. If all goes to plan, the electronics will respond to what the players do during performance, and in this way I can avoid using a rigid click-track which locks players into counting off seconds and so on.”

In recent years digital technology has evolved to a point where creating music in this way has become a palpable possibility. “Real-time processing of sounds is now fast enough, the software sophisticated enough and the hardware portable enough to realise my ideas,” James believes. “Through the Trans-Tasman composer exchange I will now have the opportunity to turn the concept into a performance reality.”

“My intention,” James explained, “is to work with ELISION members Daryl Buckley on electric guitar, Richard Haynes on clarinets, Ben Marks on trombone, Peter Neville on percussion and Michael Hewes, a sound technician. Michael will be an integral part of the musical performance, working in real-time with the audio material being created by the other four instrumentalists. The whole process will be interactive and malleable. There are all sorts of possibilities to be explored: the use of the physical space, stereo or multi-channel manipulation, audience involvement and so on. Every performance will be unique as the players choose their pathways through the score responding to what they hear from each other.”

The Exchange is eagerly anticipated from the other side of the Tasman as well with Daryl Buckley, from ELISION, commenting that he has been “aware of the work and vibrancy of composition of James Gardner for several years now and welcome the opportunity to engage with his artistic imagination and to develop music specifically written for the virtuosity of the ELISION musicians.”

James will undertake the first part of his residency in the next few months. “The first phase will be a period of R & D – Research and Development,” he quips. “I’ll spend about four weeks with the musicians in Brisbane and Melbourne from mid-October recording things, trying out different techniques and sorting through the technical aspects of the work. Then I’ll come back to New Zealand and get busy. Early in 2006 I will head back over and rehearse with the group towards a premiere of the work.”

James emigrated to New Zealand a decade ago and has established a highly respected reputation as a composer, conductor, commentator and lecturer in contemporary and experimental music. He has also given guest lectures in New Zealand, Spain and the United States and lectured on electronic and rock music at the University of Auckland. His work as director of the Auckland-based ensemble 175 East has been an important catalyst in the development of his very individual style of musical expression. His works are now being played not only within New Zealand but also internationally in the UK, Europe, the USA and Australia.

He has just completed his term as the inaugural Creative NZ / Victoria University Composer-in-residence in Wellington. He found the time extremely valuable leading to all sorts of interactions and creative possibilities. “The collegial feeling among composers and performers was excellent. I can’t overestimate the qualitative difference between hearing and discussing musical ideas, hopes and fears with professional colleagues over a pint as opposed to e-mailing people long-distance.

It was wonderful also to be able to work discursively over a long period of time rather than working to pressured deadline of a commission. There is no doubt in my mind that residencies for composers are an important investment in future creativity”

James will be the third composer to take part in the Trans-Tasman Composer Exchange. The first, in 2003, saw Kiwi composer Gareth Farr in residence with Australia’s vocal ensemble The Song Company, resulting in a number of new works including the Les Murray Song Cycle, premiered to an appreciative audience at Australia’s Government House in February this year. In 2004, West Australian James Ledger spent a month with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra and a new work he has written for them will be performed in November this year.


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