We wrote an article a while back about us and about Light Play, but... it was never published...
Well, here goes!
Premieres of new works are weird. You get a concert where an ensemble has chosen to perform a new work, usually putting it right in the centre of the program, but then they just get on with their usual repertoire – a bit of Beethoven, a bit of Haydn, maybe some Shosta or Bartok. Its amazing music, and as a contemporary composer its something special to be placed among the greats. But often, the program as a whole can seem a bit disconnected – that there is little tying all the music stylistically together. There is something to be said of a concert where everything just fits together, where there is still contrast, yet also a musical continuity.
This exactly the reason why two composers, performers and cross-disciplinary artists, Ben Heim and Connor D’Netto, decided to team up as Argo. Our aim is present new kind of ensemble, where composer/performers with a similar aesthetic approach create new works, and design events in collaboration with other performers. In these events, our focus is on the total experience not the work-to-work paradigm of the traditional concert, with a concept driven approach that fuses traditional instruments with contemporary influences and new modes of musical expression.
Our latest project is Light Play – an immersive chamber music experience, a concert at the University of Queensland Art Museum on October 30.
After first officially teaming up back in May, we were looking for a concept to base our maiden concert on. The year before we had collaborated with the UQ Museum’s exhibit Five Centuries of Melancholia, and so we thought to see what they had on, stoked to find their current exhibition Light Play: Ideas, Optics, Atmosphere. Focused on contemporary approaches to light and light based media, it was full of colour and pattern, as well as a variety of contrasting concepts and visual mediums – perfect material to inspire the writing of a set of completely new works, suiting our shared musical influences of neo-classical and post-minimal music, and contemporary electronic music. Equally, influence from the ideas and emotion embodied in the art shaped a lot of the works.
The music is curated to guide the audience through the exhibit, placing musical art alongside visual art to highlight, contrast and compliment, encouraging you to experience the event from the vantage of your choosing – moving freely around the space, following musical, visual and artist ideas at your leisure.
Ben Heim’s works feature explorations of instrumental timbre through sound design and live electronic manipulation in a touchscreen-controlled surround sound speaker array spanning the entire venue. He performs all electronic elements of his compositions live to ensure that performers maintain their ability to play expressively.
Connor D'Netto’s music combines driving post-minimal rhythmic elements with heartfelt lyrical expression drawn from his extensive performance experience as a classically trained bass baritone, contrasted with textural devices which push the expectations of the instruments’ capabilities without confronting the audience.
We’re currently in the final phase of production, putting in long hours, fine-tuning the works with performers, mapping out touchscreen devices to electronic instruments, and rehearsing with the surround sound setups. Its coming together nicely.