The experience of lockdown during the global pandemic has presented a strange mix of challenges. However, I am enjoying a pause, the general communal slow-down, with time to reflect upon what matters in terms of human relationships and material needs. I particularly miss the social aspect of being a performing arts spectator – the shared experience of connection with performers, in a time and space – listening, watching. I have dreamt of many artist friends who live all around the country turning up at the one place – notably a massive afternoon tea party here in Sydney’s Inner West (I never host afternoon tea parties).
With the distraction of so many fluctuating uncertainties, how many of us are working at our best? I am trying to lower the bar of achievement a little, because a musical livelihood is difficult enough to sustain during ordinary circumstances. I have found it difficult to create music so I have focussed on other aspects of creative work that I usually delay, namely releasing some beautifully recorded works from my back-catalogue, featuring fantastic string players from Melbourne and Sydney.
Pieces for String Quartet and Drum Machines began as experiments during my Post- Graduate composition study at the Victorian College of the Arts in 1988. I had not long purchased a Yamaha RX11 drum machine and was keen to make it work hard in ways beyond its design, which was principally for electronic popular music. I then transferred the virtuosic sequencing experiment to the non-idiomatic instrumentation of a string quartet. I made four studies that were performed at Linden Art Gallery, and also my Postgraduate recital at the VCA, by Bernard Larsen and Hope Csuturos (violins), Vince Parsonage (viola) and Helen Mountfort (cello). These built upon studies for Belinda Saltmarsh’s choreography Twisted, commissioned by Australian Dance Theatre, and performed in a season at the Balcony Theatre, Adelaide in 1989.
Two years later, choreographer Beth Shelton used five of the pieces for the Danceworks season “Common Touch” performed at the Beckett Theatre, Malthouse. Those performances featured the musicians of the Melbourne Symphonic Players String Quartet with Don Scott and Tony Conolan on violins, Alida Ferrands on viola, and legendary conductor and teacher Phillip Green on cello. The total collection of seven works form the release “String Quartet, Drum Machines”.
Doron Kipen of Music and Effects engineered tracks 1,4,5,6 and 7 for the Danceworks season featured on this release. Tracks 2 and 3 are from the live performances recorded by Robert Vincs, at VCA in 1988.
In 2000 I was delighted to compose the score for the acclaimed film City of Dreams, written and directed by Belinda Mason. The Film Australia documentary is about the life and work of architects Marion Mahoney Griffin and Walter Burley Griffin, and there were many arresting montages of architectural drawings and buildings for me to work to. The instrumentation is for string quartet and piano, recorded and mixed by legendary engineer Shane Fahey at Megaphon Studios, Sydney. The musicians are Rachel Easton, Stephanie Zarka, James Eccles, Geoffrey Gartner and Alison Clarke.
I am reminded that investing in a good recording is gold and I have enjoyed revisiting this music in the process. In the coming months I plan to release some more collections of pieces I have scored for screen and performing arts, before I become too absorbed in my next composition project. I have a new chamber opera underway with US-based writer Christine Evans and once I re-enter that composition space I know I will not want to leave it!
City of Dreams and Pieces for String Quartet and Drum Machines are recommended for lovers of all things post-minimal. Both recordings are streaming on Bandcamp and you can also consider a download purchase to support independent Australian music making.
PIECES FOR STRING QUARTET AND DRUM MACHINES: https://andreegreenwell.bandcamp.com/album/pieces-for-string-quartet-drum-machines
Soundtrack Artist Website: www.andreegreenwell.com