Mambo Vinko

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Published: 19th June, 2018

Enyato Duo was formed last year by woodwind player Luke Carbon and percussionist Thea Rossen, both ANAM graduates and established freelancers in their own right. Formed with the intention to further explore and expand the body of woodwind and percussion repertoire, their interest in a large scope of contemporary repertoire and versatility as performers was shown in Mambo Vinko. 

Set in the foyer of the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) in Southbank, and joined by an even newer ensemble, Ossicle Duo, formed by percussionist Hamish Upton and trombonist Ben Anderson, the program was created to complement the current ACCA art exhibition “Dwelling Poetically: Mexico City, a case study”. While only a minority of the programmed works explicitly referred to Mexican themes, the program consistently reflected the raw energy of a bustling urban landscape.

 The concert began with Enyato Duo performing Female Nude (1993), a work written for alto flute and percussion by Australian composer Andrew Ford. The work began with a short, simple motive on the flute, while the flautist literally sang notes in-between. The percussionist then gave depth to the earthy flute tones, traversing across multiple wood instruments, from a marimba, to a set of wooden blocks. The work was natural, relatable and sensual, and both Rossen and Carbon approached it with a palpable sensitivity and honesty.

 The work was followed by another Ford piece, Composition with Yellow Square (1993). Carbon swapped his alto flute for a piccolo, and Rossen explored a percussion setup of metal instruments, the sound world drastically changing to one more piercing and present. The piccolo shrilled long notes, which were coloured by clanging and resonant metal sounds. The piece was charming and conversational, both Rossen and Carbon theatrical proponents of their instruments.

 Enyato then presented Ishi no mori (Stone Forest) (2008) by Carlos Sanchez-Gutierrez, for ryuteki (Japanese flute), percussion and audience “stone choir”. Carbon introduced the piece, and presented this translated haiku to the audience:

 Water in the woods/ The stone, like a serpentine / dives into its death.

 Rossen’s motions were elegant and pronounced as she played the tam-tam and the marimba. Carbon then played a melody on the ryuteki, it’s unfocused and organic tone pulling the audience into a traditional Japanese soundscape. The audience was then motioned by Rossen, and chosen audience members picked up small stones (placed under their chairs from the beginning of the concert) and hammered them together. The cacophony of stone sounds heard across the room were not dissimilar to a downpour of rain, as though the prior musical gestures acted as a ritualistic call to a rain deity. It was overall an enchanting and connected performance.  

The next two works were solos by the same composer, Javier Álvarez. The first was Mambo Vinko for trombone and tape, played by Ben Anderson from Ossicle Duo. The piece was a whirlwind of colour and sound; the sound of a car starting was heard on the loudspeakers, and the trombone cmimicked the rhythm, at some points sounding exactly like a car horn. The car sounds were joined by animated street sounds, which were broken down and pasted together to form a mambo groove, as Anderson revelled over the top. The remainder of the piece fluctuated between a traditional mambo and a faux-mambo created by sampled street sounds, seamlessly bleeding into one another as though co-dependent. The piece was truly reflective of a busy, cavorting Mexican city, and Anderson was enthralling on trombone, grooving in select moments while bringing unashamed brashness in others.

 Temazcal for maracas and tape featured the second half of Ossicle Duo, Hamish Upton. Upton was inspiring to watch on the maracas, expressing a child-like excitement as he guided the instruments across the periphery of his body. His virtuosic technique was seemingly effortless, and he brought out unexpected colour to a seemingly one-dimensional instrument by varying the distance between his two maracas and the microphones. A highlight of the performance, his calm demeanour and alluring skill made for a charming interpretation.

 Maninya IV(1986) was the only tonal piece to featured on the program, and was typical in Ross Edwards style; fiercely tonal, rhythmically quick but light, and motivic in nature. Written for bass trombone, bass clarinet, and marimba, the characteristically low and resonant sound world was pleasant to engage with. However, the easy rhythmic lilt that would be expected of Edwards’ music was a little unstable. Otherwise, a refreshing variance from the rest of the program.

 The oldest piece on the program, and the last piece of the concert, was Le Moutons de Panurge (1969) by Frederic Rzewski, and was played by both Enyato and Ossicle Duo. The piece is a celebration of human error, directing “any number of musicians playing melody instruments” to autonomously navigate a 65 note melody through additive and subtractive means. While the musicians always stayed in time, they inevitably fell out of unison, creating a rhythmic grid of dissonant harmony. While it was not exactly an easy listen, the relentlessness of the harmonic incongruity made for a playful and interesting finish to the performance.

 Mambo Vinko was a pleasing performance which celebrated a large variety of intriguing soundscapes, prominent Australian and international composers, and the spirit of collaboration. While the program was quite long and could have been more refined, it proved that both Enyato and Ossicle Duo curate and perform with an informed musical understanding, and are highly conscious of the relationship between art music and contemporary visual art.

Given both duos are quite young, it will be exciting to see the trajectory of these exciting ensembles as they establish their voices in the contemporary classical landscape.


Madi Chwasta reviewed this performance at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art on June 4, 2018.