Recording of Iron in the Blood Jan 2015

by Jeremy on February 9, 2015

With six Melbourne musicians, 11 from Sydney, two actors and 70 minutes of music, recording  Iron in the Blood was an exciting, exhausting and emotionally riveting experience. Iron in the Blood is a project I have been working on for the past two years, inspired by one of the best known books on Australia’s founding, Robert Hughes’ The Fatal Shore (1987). The work is concerned with my feelings about this country – its dark history, its conformist yet sceptical people, its unforgiving landscape, and its timelessness. Reading The Fatal Shore in 2012 had a profound effect on me, changing the way I viewed Australia in many ways. I felt I had been denied the real truth of Australia’s history, which had often been romanticised during my schooling years and in particular, was denied much of the cultural experiences of Australia’s early settlers. The work was motivated along similar lines to Hughes’ desire to explore the origin of cultural tropes in Australian culture, and to revisit Australia’s colonial history, in effect to explain it to myself and convey it through music.

IMG_1528The work was not intended to have an Australian ‘conscience’ but to assert individual conscious of our surroundings and historical context. The work was intended to resonate with both Australians and the greater international community, just as the book is widely known around the world. The work follows the convicts’ narrative from slavery towards freedom and the incredible brutality and genocide of the Tasmanian Aborigines. The work not only reinvigorates the rich tapestry of Australia’s colonial history but serves as a continuing call for Australia to remember its origins and build a future that embraces a broad perspective on cultural identity.

The work uses Hughes’ gripping narration and voices from a variety of primary sources, including convicts letters, doctors, magistrates, captains, soldiers and many more, creating a rich fabric of perspectives, and an oratory history that follows the convicts difficult path from Georgian England to labour camps on the other side of the then known world. The book also conveys a sense of pathos and deep remorse towards the inhumane treatment of Aborigines, including the genocide to the Tasmanian indigenous population.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iFnXSsA6P_k

The project included two days of rehearsals and two days recording. With an entirely new ensemble, and music that was on occasion quite difficult, this posed many challenges. The first day we rehearsed the entire work, the second spending more time on particular sections and getting levels in preparation for the recording the following day. I had composed four new movements (10 in total) since the first stage performance of the work with the Con Jazz Orchestra. I hadn’t road tested this material and so was excited to hear it performed. Here is a performance of a re-orchestration of the second movement Time Immemorial, performed by the SCM Modern Music Ensemble with soloists Steve Barry, Peter Koopman and myself.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SjFc4B9QiRI

The experience was intense, as I had decided to conduct the ensemble instead of performing, as well as co-producer with recording engineer Bob Scott. This involved commenting on players performances in open ended improvisation sections, providing feedback on less defined elements in the score, and managing recording challenges such as headphone levels, spill and most of all time. Melbourne based drummer Danny Fischer did a remarkable job of playing a challenging part, as did Melbourne pianist Joseph O’Connor, who also made a cameo appearance on harpsichord.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gRE4DnDv4M

Philip Quast and Bill ZappaThe actors Bill Zappa and Philip Quast arrived on the first evening to record the narration parts. Both were seasoned professionals, and the recording session was made easier with their comedic jovial camaraderie. The best part was hearing them sing the chorus folk song, which i had originally planned for the orchestra to read out. Thankfully the actors recommended against this, humorously saying that it was like asking a dancers to sing (most musicians can sing to a certain degree right?).

Heres the opening line from the work:

The very day we landed upon the shore,

the planters stood around us, full 20 score or more,

They ranked us up like horses, and sold us out of hand,

They chained us up to pull the plough, upon Van Diemen’s Land

The recording was greatly assisted by the ingenuity of recording engineer Bob Scott, who is widely known for his work recording the Australian Chamber Orchestra. Since the recording was at the Conservatorium of Music’s Music Workshop, an entire mobile setup was required. We pushed through the first day of recording with remarkable efficiency, recording two of the most difficult movements and three subsequent movements. Almost half of the second day was spent recording the second movement - Time Immemorial. Perhaps the biggest challenge was recording the harpsichord, which we relocated to the locker room, finding the acoustics ideal. Although it was impossible to conduct Joseph from the Music Workshop, we managed to link some headphones and incredibly long cable. Heres a clip:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIHYNWS9_xI

On a more personal note, I arrived home from the first day of recording and collapsed in an emotional state of reliving the story of The Fatal Shore. It had been a traumatic experience extracting the text and reading sections of the book several times but somehow the combination of music and narration had a profound effect on me. I felt the brutality imposed on the convicts, the people who’s backs this country was built upon and the injustice caused on the Aboriginal people. The musicians seemed to feel it too, at least those that were compelled to share their thoughts with me.

Thanks goes out to Bob Scott for his tireless efforts recording the project and all the musicians involved: Evan Antwell-Harris, Scott McConnachie, Michael Agenicos, Matt Keegan, Paul Cutlan, Patrick McMullin, Callum G’Froerer, Charles Casson, Nick Garbett, Mike Raper, James MacAulay, Eleanor Shearer, Colin Burrows, Joseph O’Connor, Ben Hauptmann, Thomas Botting, Daniel Fischer.

I look forward to sharing the recording with you.

 

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Ensemble Offspring Hatched new work

by Jeremy on November 22, 2014

Border Control

Border Control is a work for piccolo/flute, bass clarinet, trumpet, and vibraphone. It is an extension of Rose’s investigations into cross-cultural music paradigms. The work utilises material from a recent field trip to Bali, Indonesia, where Rose studied at the Cudamani Gamelan school in Ubud, and from a workshop with traditional Korean musicians and Sydney drumming icon Simon Barker at the Australian Art Orchestra’s Creative Music Intensive in Cairns. The impetus for the piece draws from two sources – the dissemination of musical stylistic borders and the ongoing movement of people over national borders. The work is in three movements – fast, slow fast.

In particular, the work acts as a response to the Australian government’s asylum seeker policy. Unfortunately this time will be looked upon in years to come as a dark period of Australia’s history in which many of its policies towards its refugees are unnecessarily hard-hearted. It will be morally condemned alongside Australia’s ‘White Australia’ policy and the stolen generations of Indigenous children. Asylum seekers who risk their lives to travel to Australia by boat are moved to off-shore processing centres where they wait with indefinite detention and no certainty of their fate for themselves or their families. The inhumane treatment of them in these facilities also include stories of rape, malaria and a sense of desperation that has led some refugees to sow their lips together in hunger strike.

Rites

Rites is a work for trumpet with vibraphone and microtonal pitched percussion. The parts exhibit a series of deformations of rhythm, pitch and timbre, and the dialogue between the trumpet and percussion is explored in a number of ways that unite and juxtapose against one another. The piece carries a meditative quality that is often trance-like, and introspective. The utilisation of micro-tuning is an attempt to explore a world beyond equal temperament, diffusing our expectations of pitch.

The creation of the work undertook a reverse engineering approach. The trumpet part was written using material from a series of recorded improvisations by the composer. These utilised chromatic and quarter-tone improvisations based on a shifting limited range. The vibraphone and percussion part was then written to accompany this material. The work was then deconstructed and restructured to develop and juxtapose a number of melodic and rhythmic ideas.

 

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Time Immemorial: ABC video

November 22, 2014

I’m happy to release the video of my performance with the Sydney Conservatorium’s Modern Music Ensemble, performing music from my major work Iron in the Blood: Music inspired by Robert Hughes’ The Fatal Shore.  The full recording of this work, which will be performed by a jazz orchestra, will take place in January 2015. Music composed […]

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2014 Cairns Creative Music Intensive wrap-up

October 21, 2014

Music is often said to be the universal language. This phrase has been used so often, but is it entirely true? Unlocking common ground between musicians from different backgrounds can be challenging when their musical languages are rigidly defined. This week we were faced with such challenges in a meeting of cultures, musical styles and […]

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Iron in the Blood: music inspired by Robert Hughes’ The Fatal Shore

August 12, 2014

Sydney Conservatorium of Music Music Workshop – Level 2 Friday 29 August – 6.30pm Tix – Adults – $20/ Seniors – $10/ Pensioner – $10/ Full -Time Student – $10 Book online at: https://tickets.cityrecitalhall.com/single/SelectSeating.aspx?p=2339 or purchase from City Recital Hall – Angle Place Sydney – ph: 8256 2222 (booking fees might apply) media enquiries/interview requests […]

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Lawn bowls, improvisation and musical games at Sizzle 2014

July 6, 2014

This is taken from the Ensemble Offspring website Lawn Bowling Clubs are an icon on the Australian suburban landscape. Black shining balls gracefully roll down their well manicured lawns. Our competitive nature rises to the surface in games that excite and bring a smile; the casual sharing of stories and catching up with mates over […]

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Ubud Gamelan studies May 2014

July 6, 2014

Earlier this month I spent a week studying Gamelan Music in Ubud in the mountains of Bali at Cudamani Music School. I watched rehearsals and performances of their orchestra and took lessons with a Balinese musician – Pasta – at the school. I learnt one of the songs played by the orchestra, taking time to […]

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Oneirology (Compass Quartet with Jackson Harrison) CD Reviews

September 13, 2013

John Hardaker – AustralianJazz.net  “Oneirology  is a beautiful album from The Compass Quartet, a group who continue to amaze as they explore deeper and deeper into the possibilities that can bloom from the conversation between four saxophones.” Read more on AustralianJazz.net > John McBeath – The Australian SYDNEY’S Compass Quartet, led by award-winning altoist Jeremy Rose, […]

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New Choral Work: Scenes of Wild Solitude

July 26, 2013

The second movement of my new choral work ‘Scenes of Wild Solitude’ will be premiered by Leichardt Express Chorus at the Italian Forum Theatre, Leichardt, on Sunday 4 August at 2pm. The new work takes its libretto from Watkin Tench’s account of the first colonial settlement in Sydney in 1788. More info from their website: www.espressochorus.com.au

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Australasian Sax and Clarinet Conference Lecture ~ Oneirology

July 14, 2013

This presentation formed part of a lecture I gave at the 2013 Australasian Saxophone and Clarinet Conference at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. The lecture discusses my suite for Compass Quartet with pianist Jackson Harrison, which was featured in a performance at the conference. Compass Quartet, as the name suggests, takes the compass as an […]

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