It’s almost the weekend, and I’m finishing up my final days in Japan before flying to Argentina on Sunday, so to celebrate I’ve decided to drop two posts on you in quick succession! In a minute I’m going to upload my second quarterly report that I wrote for the Watson Foundation. It includes more details on what I’ve been doing lately in Japan. Before I do that however, I want to posts some notes I made on a concert in Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia that I attended way back in September. I feel really bad about never getting around to posting this, but in spite of my procrastination, I feel that it’s important to make you aware of Luke Jaaniste’s work. Too often, composers aspire to be mere skilled technicians of their art. Luke, who has a PhD in visual and sonic arts from Queensland University of Technology, is a rare exception. He is cultivating a cohesive creative practice supported by extensive reading in the field of aesthetics. Perhaps this is in part a necessity for Luke since his work runs somewhat counter to the mainstream of Australian experimental music. His work reminds me of Alvin Lucier or La Monte Young. However, Luke is starting from very basic building blocks both in digital and analogue sound and building his own creative practice through personal experimentation. Please checkout more of Luke’s work at: http://www.lukejaaniste.com/
What follows are my notes from September. Writing the morning after the concert, I began with a description of my somewhat eventful night and then skip back to talk about the concert.
Just a quick post from Newcaste, Australia! My attempt to CouchSurf last night crashed and burned. This is the first time anything bad has ever happened to me while CouchSurfing. My host, a gregarious electrician, went off for a drink with his mates while I attended a concert. He then apparently got massively drunk, forgot all about me, went home, and passed out. Long story short, I ended up locked out, standing on this guy’s stoop at about 3 am. After an hour of fruitlessly calling his mobile phone and another trying to get comfortable on a park bench, I walked to a 24-hour McDonalds where I spent the rest of the night eating soggy pancakes.
Anyway, the real reason for this post is to document the concert I attended last night. I met Australian composer Luke Jaaniste in Brisbane earlier this year when he contacted me in reply to an online post I had made concerning my research into computer music and ambient sound. I was immediately stuck by the similarities in our musical interests and by Luke’s eloquence and curiosity as he described his ongoing musical experiments. The setting of the concert at The Commons—with its quiet café ambiance and “after hours” feeling—turned out to be perfect for a meditative contemplation of this subtle music.
Luke played a selection of works including one in which he placed a ceramic weight on an LP. As the needle rubbed against the weight with each rotation the needle skipped, creating loops of varying length. At the same time the weight was moved in towards the center of the turntable causing the loops to slowly change and advance.
In another work, Luke overdrove the speakers to such an extent that a hot, metallic scent caused momentary concern. I was previously aware of Luke’s work “Propagate,” which is created in the programing environment SuperCollider), but this was an opportunity to hear the work live and at full volume. These studies are simply composed of huge numbers of beating, microtonal sine waves (that is, sine waves at closely-spaced frequencies that create additive and subtractive interference patterns resulting in loud, dynamic pulses at regular intervals). The texture in this work is thick and unremitting without being “noise” (in the sense that noise-music artist use that term). Speaking from my personal tastes, I’m impressed by the “artistic honesty” of this work. It concedes nothing to listener’s preconceptions, but offers an ocean of allusive filigree if you can meet the work on its own terms.
“Portal,” another drone-based exploration that uses Luke’s collection of vintage, electronic keyboards, shares the immersive effect of “Propagate.” However, beating in this work in created by tiny imperfections in the manufacture of the electronic components themselves. Several identical keyboards are laid out, and chords are sustained by places weights on the keys. Although I’m not sure if this is Luke’s primary intention with the work, I like to think that “Portal” reclaims some individuality from mass-produced artifacts of consumerism. An additional layer of interest is created when the work is performed in an industrial, civic, or otherwise utilitarian space as Luke has done before. The work then becomes a kind of installation piece utilizing the acoustics of the space as much as the means of production and confronting the accidental listener with the (admittedly overanalyzed) illusory dichotomy between music and ambient noise.
The evening ended like this, with musical coffee pots, ball bearing, and eventually, forks being bounced off the floor.