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Live music and stunning artwork - Dogs of Auckland

MEDIA RELEASE: 17 February 2009

The Dogs of Auckland features live music and stunning artwork

Modern classical and improvised electronic music, poetry, film and stunning artwork come together in a unique cross-media show in the Auckland Festival Club in March.

Based loosely on American ‘beat’ poet Robert Creeley’s poem of the same name, The Dogs of Auckland takes place in the Auckland Festival Club, Lower NZI, Aotea Centre, THE EDGE® for two nights only on Saturday 21 March and Sunday 22 March.

Devised by Jonathan Besser (piano) with Andrew Pask (clarinets and programming) and John Bell (vibraphone), The Dogs of Auckland also features projected visuals by well-known artists including Billy Apple, John Reynolds, Max Gimblett and experimental films by Len Lye and Jonathan.

Written on a visit to Auckland in 1995, Robert Creeley’s poem The Dogs of Auckland is an amusing take on the city and was originally published in 1996. A limited edition with ink drawings by Max Gimblett was published in 1998 and is now a collector’s item.

But, says Jonathan Besser, Max drew more than 40 images of dogs that were never published.

“This poem and the complete set of dog images became a significant starting point for a new improvised music and multi-media production,” says Jonathan.

Jonathan has since collaborated with artists Billy Apple and John Reynolds to create additional works. An early experimental film by artist Len Lye, Tusalava, and Besser’s own film, Shadow Walk complete the programme.

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“The music will be jazz-influenced with strong classical overtones and real-time computer sound manipulation using state-of-the-art technology.”

Jonathan adds that the live music will be combined with projected images by leading New Zealand artists using unusual processes to mix the media including the use of code and word patterns with design by highly-respected theatre designer John Parker.

The Dogs of Auckland is at the Auckland Festival Club, Lower NZI, Aotea Centre, THE EDGE® on Saturday 21 March and Sunday 22 March at 7.30pm. Tickets are available from THE EDGE® Ticketing on 0800 BUY TICKETS (289 842) or

Presented with the support of Gow Langsford Gallery, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Max Gimblett and Jetta Trust.


For more information contact Jonathan Besser on (09) 378 6569 or

An excerpt from the Robert Creeley poem: THE DOGS OF AUCKLAND

Curious, coming again here,
where I hadn't known where I was ever,

following lead of provident strangers,
around the corners, out to the edges,

never really looking back but kept
adamant forward disposition, a Christian

self-evident resolve, small balloon of purpose
across the wide ocean, friends, relations,

all left behind. Each day the sun rose, then set.
It must be the way life is, like they say, a story

someone might have told me. I'd have listened.
Like the story Murray recalled by Janet Frame

in which a person thinks to determine what's most necessary
to life, and strips away legs, arms, trunk--

to be left with a head, more specifically, a brain,
puts it on the table, and a cleaning woman comes in,

sees the mess and throws it into the dustbin.
Don't think of it, just remember? Just then there was a gorgeous

light on the street there, where I was standing, waiting
for the #005 bus at the end of Queen Street, just there on Customs,

West--dazzling sun, through rain. "George is/gorgeous/
George is..." So it begins.

Robert Creeley
Auckland, June 28 - July 21, 1995



Besser and renowned artist Billy Apple use the special code they have developed to create a chromatic music based on the names and instruments of the performers. Billy’s graphic representation of the coded information will be seen and will be the exactly represented in the music.


A work developed with leading NZ visual artist John Reynolds using Besser’s poem ‘Baghdad Egg face’ as the starting point. The music is solely based on the letters in the poem’s words and the images will be of the words drawn by the artist John Reynolds. All the words in the poem are made from the letters A, B, C, D, E, F, G. H ( H being B nat. in Bach’s time). The poem is read and the music follows the words exactly.


An early experimental film by the remarkable artist Len Lye. The original soundtrack has been lost. Andrew Pask is creating a new score.


An experimental film by Besser: It’s a minimal dark night time walk with the real wild sound track and music performed live.


Jonathan Besser – New York born Composer/Pianist

Over the last 25 years award-winning composer Jonathan Besser has written a number of large-scale works including commissions for The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the Royal NZ Ballet, Auckland Philharmonia, the Wellington Symphonia, and the New Zealand String Quartet. His association with the RNZB began in 1990 when he composed the music for the ballet Jean by Mary Jane O'Reilly.

Jonathan has also composed for Touch Compass, Red Mole, Warwick Broadhead, Michael Parmenter, and Mary Jane O'Reilly and worked with visual artists, composers and filmmakers, including Gaylene Preston, Ross Harris, Don McGlashan, Billy Apple, Allan Brunton, Peter Scholes, Deb Filler, Whirimako Black and the Waihirere Kapa Haka group.

Resident in New Zealand since 1974, Jonathan was based mainly in Wellington, but has lived in Auckland since 1998. He has created acoustic and electronic music in collaboration with leading writers, choreographers, musicians, artists and film makers. He has composed original music for many film, radio, stage and TV productions, and released numerous CDs of his own.

He has led his own music groups for many years including the 'Besser Ensemble' (1987-1997), 'Free Radicals' (electronic music 1983-1997) and 'Triphonics', touring China with Triphonics in March 1996 He is currently the pianist/composer with his Auckland based group ‘Bravura’, who are celebrating their 10th anniversary this year and perform in Auckland Festival’s Music at Twilight series on March 19.

Andrew Pask

Wellington clarinet and saxophone player Andrew Pask left New Zealand in 1993 to work in Hong Kong as a studio and touring musician.

He relocated to Los Angeles in 1999. He performs regularly in Los Angeles and other parts of the USA at festivals and concerts, and has recorded several albums. He also works as an audio and video programmer, contributing technically to computer based art projects.

His mixed audio/video piece Helicopter was awarded a completion grant in 2008 by the American Composers forum.

He performs with a system of computer based real-time audio effects he has created for himself to extend the sounds of his instruments.

John Bell

Considered NZ's leading contemporary improviser on Mallet instruments, John Bell has performed with many great artists in NZ, Australia and Korea and is a band leader in his own right. John’s current project is the Lippizanas, a psychedelic Latin band.

He is also in a modern jazz group with Phil Dadson and Joe Pineapple investigating prepared piano, bass and vibraphone.


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