Live review: Clocked Out Duo and EcoSono

A program tied to the natural world



Clocked Out Duo and EcoSono
Creative Original Music Adelaide
The Wheatsheaf Hotel, 4 June


Creative Original Music Adelaide welcomed new guests to its jam-packed winter program. Queensland duo Clocked Out (Vanessa Tomlinson and Erik Griswold) partnered with Americans EcoSono (Matthew Burtner and Glen Whitehead) to bring a program of timbre-based sound worlds from eco-acoustic sources to COMA’s relaxed Monday series at the venue locals know as ‘The Wheaty’.

Delivered in two sets, the program spanned continents, reflecting the very different natural surrounds of each ensemble. Matthew Burtner’s Golden Sparrow opened the first set, using the characteristic call of sparrows living in Alaska’s Chugach State Park to create a still and expansive sphere of sound. Written for tape and solo trumpet, the work began by playing the call of the sparrow in its uninterrupted form before stretching and manipulating the sample. The trumpet joined the tape with a second, timbrally based melody, which sat still and in complement to the bird call.

Also appealing from this set was Nocturne (Music for a Moth Cinema), which answered a question rarely asked: what music do moths, who have an ultrasonic hearing range suitable only for hearing dangerous bat predators approaching, like to listen to? The answer, transposed for human ears, was sustained seconds and long tones, a contemporary lullaby in a New York style. Complementary to this work was Erik Griswold’s Heart of Light, which extrapolated expansive sounds from singular tiny ideas, in a style directly influenced by new American minimalism.

By contrast, the second set was a heavier, more anarchistic exploration of the ecosonic world. Highlights from this set included An Exquisite Corpse, a set of 10 miniatures composed over two recent weeks in response to Australian landscapes and surrounds. It’s an interesting question for those who compose miniatures: whether each work should contain the entire world, or only a very specific snapshot and, therefore, how those miniatures work together. Clocked Out/EcoSono opted for the second option and, in doing so, devised a set of sometime very chaotic vignettes that explored singular ideas in reduced form.

Equally engaging was the final work, an excerpt from Matthew Burtner’s Ecoacoustic Concerto (Eagle Rock). This work used field recordings and geological sonifications from Eagle Rock in Colorado Springs. Featuring the superb playing of percussionist Vanessa Tomlinson, Burtner also invited audience participation through instruction cards and rocks to be played as percussion instruments left on the table.

In a tour that features a diverse range of venues and performances, COMA’s relaxed offering made for an interesting space in which to hear these works performed. For a program so firmly tied to the natural world, it was a pleasure to experience these performances a step away from the concert hall, with an appreciative and intimate audience.


Image supplied. Credit: Greg Harm.

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