Bricolage & the Art of the Personal Challenge

I've always enjoyed a good personal challenge. Previous versions, completed or in-progress, include reading 50 books in a year, training to run a 10K, and baking my way through the Momofuku Milk Bar's extremely delicious cookbook. But the latest has been a particularly wild ride - pulling together a half-hour long set for Bricolage on roughly two weeks notice! 

This concert at Conduit Arts has been organised by singer Shani Mohini-Holmes and percussionist/uillean piper Matthew Horsley. When they asked me two weeks ago to the day if I'd be interested in taking the third set, I jumped at the chance. Conduit has been such an important part of Melbourne's live music scene for the past four years, and I desperately wanted to perform there once more before their doors close for good in May.

There's a lot of decisions you have to make when you're putting on a percussion performance, and these had to be made pretty snappily given the short notice for this event! Choice of repertoire often goes hand in hand with the space - Conduit's fairly small, so a lot of my bigger pieces were immediately off the list - and then there's the choice between learning new repertoire in a hurry versus revisiting old favourites. I decided on a couple of pieces for vibraphone I'd been wanting to learn for a while, Carolyn Schofield's Shallows and Elliot Cooper Cole's Postludes, with Christopher Deane's Mourning Dove Sonnet to round out the set.

While preparing this program, I've really enjoyed hearing the huge range of possibilities for the vibraphone showcased in these pieces. In Carolyn's work, for vibraphone and synthesizer, the sounds blend in such beautiful and interesting ways that it can be hard to tell where one instrument ends and the other begins. Mourning Dove Sonnet is an absolute masterclass in making music with extended techniques, while the selected movements from Postludes, for four players bowing a single vibraphone, are the most incredibly gorgeous, haunting studies of harmony and space.

I owe an absolute world of thanks to Carolyn, Madi Chwasta, Jonathan Griffiths, and Thea Rossen, who have agreed to go along with my temporary insanity and have been making incredible music in our rehearsals this week. It's been absolutely exhilarating taking on a project like this and seeing it come together, but it would have been impossible without the support of these musicians, who are all great players and great friends. I'm greatly looking forward to sharing this performance with everyone on Sunday!

What's next?  

  • 'Midnight Songs' with the Melbourne Metropolitan Sinfonietta, this Friday evening in Melba Hall. A great line up of new works and arrangements by Australian composers Julian Yu, James Wade, Liam Flenady and Elliott Gyger.
  • Tune in to 3MBS (103.5FM) at 10pm on Friday night for Australian Sounds! I'll be chatting with Leah Blankendaal about all things percussion, and as always there'll be a great playlist of Australian music.
  • Bricolage at Conduit Arts on Sunday night! Doors at 6pm, Shani Mohini-Holmes and Adrian Sherriff performing improvisations for voice and bass trombone at 6:30, Matthew Horsley on uillean pipes at 7, and the Bricolage vibraphone extravaganza at 7:30pm. 
  • A week of serious grant writing and coffee drinking - wish me luck!