BY STEPHANIE ESLAKE
Classical music shouldn’t be restricted to compositions of the Classical period, centuries ago. At least, that’s what flautist Jodie Rottle reckons, and she’s set to bring a series of modern works into the mix as part of Brisbane ensemble Kupka’s Piano for this month’s QSOCurrent festival.
“Classical music is such an evolving topic, and having people performing and composing and interpreting new things as well as old is the essence of classical music,” Jodie says. “I think we need a huge range of everything that’s happening. If we had a narrow slice of classical music in terms of one genre or one era, then would it really be classical music?”
The flautist considers QSOCurrent a valuable event in Australia’s changing musical landscape, providing contemporary musicians with an “audience reach that generally smaller ensembles can’t gain”.
Kupka’s Piano will perform works by four composers in the State Library of Queensland during this concert series which also showcases new talent from Rafael Karlen to Gordon Hamilton.
“Being able to perform our music in such a public space as the library, and have our audience draw from the Queensland Symphony Orchestra listening base, I think is fascinating. It’s also great to see an organisation that size promoting contemporary Australian music.”
The group’s program features works from the ’70s to today. The concert title Things are Becoming New is drawn from the 2014 work of Melbourne composer Samuel Smith.
The composer writes of his own works: “Things are Become New is driven by the experience of change. This idea manifests in the piece’s constant renewal and reinterpretation of musical parameters, its structural tendency toward abrupt departure, and its willingness to develop peripheral sound worlds”.
From a performance perspective, Jodie adds that “his music blossoms slowly – it’s very colourful”.
“He does a lot of chamber work and it fits what Kupka’s Piano really likes to do. The title says a lot about QSOCurrent and the landscape of the music.”
Part of the group will also perform Treatise by Cornelius Cardew. Featuring two musicians, it’s represented on the page as a visual score of shapes and symbols, and is bound into a book spanning 193 pages. Jodie dubs it “one of the most well-known graphic scores because of its length and variety of images – and it can be interpreted in any way”.
“I think it was Cardew’s intention that it would sound different every time.”
But the ensemble has performed sections of the work before – and when also considering time taken to practise the work, how can it be kept fresh?
“Sometimes we get to a roadblock of: ‘How do we rehearse it if it’s going to sound different every time?’. We’re rehearsing it as the raw structure of what we want to do with the music, and then having a mix of things in our bag that we can pull upon in live performance.”
The musicians have chosen the pages to perform based on moments they find visually interesting or could fit well with the other pieces they’re playing.
“How can we improvise new sounds to make the entire program of our work sound very contrasting?”
Also on the program is Brett Dean’s Old Kings in Exile and Phillipe Hurel’s Tombeau in Memoriam Gerard Grisey.
Kupka’s Piano is the ensemble-in-residence at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts.
Kupka’s Piano will perform as part of QSOCurrent on April 29. For tickets and more info about the festival, visit the website here.