Hackett Hall Gallery
copyright The West Australian April 2012

The way John Cage explores sound has a playful thoughtfulness about it. It reminds me of my fourteen month old son who covers his ears with his sticky hands and listens to the suction as he takes them off. The musical potential of everyday sounds was the focus of the second Cage tribute concert in Tura’s Scale Variable series and involved performances by local and international artists.

Berlin-based duo Werner Dafeldecker and Valerio Tricoli presented Cage’s Williams Mix, an eight channel tape piece which in 1952 was the first of its kind. Snippets of sound were relayed through eight surround-sound speakers in rapid succession, sounding blurred as though heard underwater. Cage’s six sound categories were city sounds, country sounds, electronic sounds, manually produces sounds, wind produced sounds and small sounds. Dafeldecker and Tricoli used the same categories to create Williams Mix Extended, drawing on no less than 5000 sounds and extending the four minute piece to 32 minutes. Their sounds were crisper and more industrial and the higher quality audio production made the skin prickle and floor vibrate. But after twenty minutes the sounds began to feel monotonous.

Cage’s popular 4’33” was a surround sound experience featuring the ambient noise of the performance space ‘performed’ by Perth percussionist Callum Moncrieff who stood behind a snare drum without touching it. Moncrieff also performed Composed Improvisation for Snare Drum where chance was used to determine all aspects of the performance. Story from Living Room Music had an obvious beat and sounds were layered to create something more traditionally recognisable as music. Not forgetting the source material for the entire piece was the phrase “Once upon a time the world was round and you could go on it around and around.” Moncrieff’s skilful delivery made the nonsense words melodic and mesmerising; my 14 month old would have loved it.

The final Scale Variable concert is on Tuesday and features the Etica ensemble performing works by Smalley, Ligeti and MacMillan.