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IAN BLAKE: News

February 25, 2008

Lots of shows coming up: have a look at the Gigs section. Particularly at the Zoey Pepper concert on March 7th, featuring a new piece for voice, bassoon and computer. I'll post a recording of the results after the concert. In June, I'll be at Canberra's Street Theatre in a satirical cabaret with Shortis & Simpson and Queenie van de Zandt, exploring our shiny new regime...

To Europe in July for Finland's Kaustinen Festival; and WOMAD in Wiltshire with Andrew Cronshaw, Tigran Aleksanyan and Svetlana Spajic. A new CD should be forthcoming at the year's end. Meanwhile, Svetlana and Andy, plus soundman Jamie Orchard-Lisle, have been working with some remarkable singers from Žegar in Dalmatia: the group and the resulting CD are known as Žegar Živi: "Žegar Lives".

It's Sydney's turn for a Clarity Clarinet Quartet CD launch: Second Door on the Left will lurch down the slipway on February 25, 6pm at The Australian Music Centre, which lives at The Arts Exchange, 10 Hickson Road, The Rocks, Sydney. This worthwhile disc includes my tune Starling.

November 22, 2007

To those of you who attempted to attend the Sean O'Problem & The Alpha Rhythm Boys happening in downtown Canberra on the 22nd: our apologies. There was a bit of weather around which meant that this al fresco gig got canned. Not to worry! With a Sean O'Problem performance, not being there is as good as being there. Or you could be there even if the Rhythm Boys aren't....

There'll be other opportunities to take in the Sean experience: meanwhile, Cassidy's Ceili will be celebrating St Cecilia's day at 8.30 on the 22nd. Belconnen Labor Club is the place, and remember, this is a classy joint, so if any of you scruffy beatniks are planning to attend, could you please make an effort for a change. It'll be Celtic Twilite Theme Nite for us, so expect the band in something green and diaphanous as a wisp of chlorine, wafting away while the pokies bleep and jingle merrily in the background.

November 14, 2007

Back in Australia, working on some new projects: spent a few days with Moya Simpson and director John Bolton in a creative development period which will lead to a one-woman show from Moya.
Sandy Evans was also taking part, and I'll be meeting up with her again in Brisbane for Fundamental Sounds: a multimedia concert featuring Sandy's saxes, William Barton's didge, Jon Jones' percussion, and soundscapes from myself, along with dance from Saman plus text and images from Keith Armstrong and Inkahoots. That's on December 2nd at the Conservatorium Theatre on Brisbane's South Bank.

pocket score company menage postcard The Pocket Score Company will be singing at The Carriage Works in Redfern on November 23rd: part of the new Musica Viva Ménage series. There'll be live electronics from Jen Sochackyj and images from Adam Dewhirst.

More from the PSC on December 16th, when we'll be presenting Spanish Music for Advent at All Saints' Church, Ainslie, ACT, featuring the delicious Missa de Beata Virgine from Cristóbal de Morales plus late mediaeval music from the Red Book of Montserrat. Kickoff at 4 o'clock.

Clarity Clarinet Quartet is playing Starling at BMW Edge, Federation Square, on Saturday November 17th, 8pm: it's the Melbourne launch of the CD Second Door on the Left (bookings 1300 723 253)

And on November 29th at 6pm the new National Folk Fellowship is announced at the National Library of Australia in Canberra. I'll be talking about the work I made as this year's Fellow, and giving a brief performance in glorious surround sound...

The appallingly Celtic Cassidy's Ceili had a fine old time of it at the Beechworth Celtic Festival last weekend. More kilts per kilometer than I've seen hitherto. There is apparently a Jones tartan, a muted and tasteful little number in shades of blue and green; so we of the Welsh rhythm section could have run up some fetching outfits for the occasion, had we but known. And there's something engagingly marsupial about a sporran or sgrepan... a pouch in either language...


Paris. Canberra. Dartington - July 11, 2007

Porcine organist from a misericord carving now in the Musée de Cluny, ParisYet another soft day in gray Paree: ideal weather for taking in organ music at Notre Dame and a visit to the relatively untouristed Musée de Cluny. Here's another organist found there on a misericord carving. Having fun with other vintage hardware at CCMIX, pursuing early music (in electronic music terms) with instruments such as Xenakis' UPIC and GENDYN.

Clarity are launching their new CD, second door on the left (Move MCD 340) at various Australian locations, starting on Sunday 22 July at 3pm in the foyer of the National Library of Australia. The CD includes my clarinet quartet Starling, written for the ensemble; and it features works by fellow Canberra composers Sandy France and Ruth Lee Martin.

The Blue Bear recently recorded the voices of Faith Bandler, Evelyn Scott and Sir Laurence Street for a sound installation and sculptural work in Reconciliation Place, Canberra, to be opened shortly.

And at Dartington Hall in Devon on August 1st, Lowri Blake plays two of my pieces for voice, cello and electronics: RockFace and Verklärter Bungalow. The programme includes works by Domenico Gabrielli, John Keane, Peter Sculthorpe and Judith Weir.

Salamanca café frenzy - June 12, 2007

The Pocket Score Company gave its debut concert on May 20th: its success encouraged us to plan an Advent-flavoured programme for early December, featuring Spanish music of the Renaissance. There's the inevitable PSCspace, where lots of intense chaps in big hats seem to have taken us to their hearts.
Helen Rivero seated on the rocks at the back of the Peacock Theatre, Hobart

The recent Luminous show in Hobart went beautifully thanks to our hosts Constantine and Marianne of Ihos Opera, who gave us a great welcome. The Peacock Theatre in Salamanca is one of my favourite venues so far: the backdrop is a rockface, and it feels like playing in a well-appointed cave. On the right is Helen Rivero halfway up the wall.

Helen's new CD Yes Capitan is out now: to find out more, visit Helen's pages.

Blue Bear Studio has been busy with a variety of projects: Dianne Fogwell and I produced the audio guide for the Edition + Artist Book Studio exhibition at the State Library of Victoria, which features Kern: music written for the opening of Dianne's Resonance show.

The Bear also recorded Judith Crispin's music for the short film Canvas, by Bobby Farquhar. It's been doing well at the festivals.

My clarinet quartet Starling is out on the new Clarity CD, second door on the left (Move MCD 340).

I'll be in Europe in July and August, working on new electronic music in Paris and a project with Serbian singer Svetlana Spajic, Andrew Cronshaw, duduk player Tigran Aleksanyan and soundman Jamie Orchard-Lisle. In Walthamstow...

There will be a CD centred on Svetlana's remarkable singing and research into traditional music from Dalmatia, and we'll be touring in Europe next year.


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Space. Dance. Gigs. Pigs - March 13, 2007

Jenny Gall submergedI've been knitting MySpaces recently: in addition to mine own, which has been lurking in the Links for a while, there are now presences for Helen Rivero and Ian Blake, Cassidy's Ceili and, swimming into view here, Jenny  Gall.

I'm working on one for Blue Bear Studio, but just need to sort out a few details with Ted Ibert, the manager, who is small and grumpy, and combines obstinacy with his inherent pragmatism, as you might divine from his photo. Sometimes he just gives me the old thousand mile stare, as if he were some sort of stuffed toy. We need to work on our relationship.

And, talking of newish web presences, you could take a look at my Australian Music Centre bio, where I attempt to come across as a serious composer...

Helen Rivero, Peter Kennard and I have just done a concert in Bendigo, Vic., showcasing new songs from Helen's forthcoming CD Yes Capitan, plus material from Luminous and Helen's trademark Sephardic song. Thanks to Musica Viva and Judy McDonald for a great gig at the Capital: a fine venue.

from a misericord carving at the Musée de Cluny, ParisI've joined a choir. A very small one: The Pocket Score Company.
We have a concert coming up in Canberra on May 20th at 3pm. All Saints' Church, Cowper Street, Ainslie, ACT. The well-balanced programme features a Byrd Mass, various motets and an inspiring piece from Jannequin about trying to engage in sex with a pig tied to one leg... I think. Must check the translation.

And if you're in Canberra this weekend check out Cassidy's Ceili: darlings of the West Belconnen smart set, and a band so gratuitously Celtic it'll turn yer ears green. Playing at King O'Malleys on Friday 16th at 5pm: that's the pub with the 'E-Z Kiss'™ version of the Blarney Stone amongst other essential bits of theme pub paraphernalia. You know the sort of thing: stuffed and mounted musical instruments, toilets gendered in Irish, genuine fully imported barstaff. Thus Cassidy's Ceili bids farewell to the working week, for those who still have one...

Round about 7pm, another local combo, Franklin B. Paverty, will be hopping onto the weekend's merry-go-raum of Celtic excess just round the corner in Garema Place. So if you stand in the right spot, you'll experience an intriguing collage effect. We'll see if we can do a synchronised 'Whack fol the daddy-o' . Combined with the slapback off the buildings, this should make for a grand bit of psychogoidelic sound art: I recall this sort of thing at the Leeds Folk Festival of 1983, when folk-rockers Eavesdropper were unkachunking vigorously on stage, and the inevitable shanty singers were at the bar in a related key giving it 'Way-hey, roll and go' and you could shuffle up and down the venue enjoying the polyrhythms and doing your own head-related mix. Daddy-o.

Moving right along now to Saturday 17th: Cassidy's Ceili and scores of pilgrims will be converging on the Irish Club (now a snake-free venue) at 8pm to celebrate that famous Welsh saint.
There's no charge; in fact, several sins may well be remitted.

'Yea, the Band we seek is at Weston Creek'...

That's Parkinson Street, Weston.

First rehearsal this weekend for the dancers of Quantum Leap, directed by Vivienne Rogis, working on a piece for the Folk Fellowship concert at the National Folk Festival on April 8th. I'm basing the music on kids' rhymes and games taken from recordings in the National Library, and I'm presently working on two other new pieces for the concert. One of these, Lucciola, will be in the programme of Postgraduate Composers' Stuff to be performed at the ANU School of Music on Wednesday March 21st in Rehearsal Room 3 at 7.30pm.

And on May 15th at the ANU School of Art Gallery, the exhibition Water, Water opens: my sound work A Drop and an Ocean for two dinky wee ghettoblasters will be in the show.


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Melbourne
- January 17, 2007

Off to Melbourne this weekend for a gig with family entertainer and ukelelevangelist Mike Jackson. It's at midday on Sunday 21st, at the Waterfront City Piazza (Docklands), followed at 1pm and 2.10 by appearances from the Melbourne Ukulele Kollective.
At 1.30 and 3.30 there will be Uke'n Play Ukelele Workshops in which Mike and Di Jackson demystify this underrated instrument with a chance to get to grips with it yourselves.

I've made quite a few records with Mike: one even went Gold, which looks good on the wall when clients wander round the Blue Bear Studio complex. Most of my subsequent releases have gone Knotty Pine.

You can have a listen to what we got up to in days of yore: try this setting of CJ Dennis' The Triantiwontigongolope for voice - that's Mike - and clarinet quartet - that'll be me. The song also features the kids of Canberra's O'Connor Co-op School and my son Robin's recording debut: Tri.... Trianti.... Triantiwontigongolope!

And re clarinets and Melbourne: Clarity is recording my clarinet quartet Starling at Move Records' Eaglemont studio this weekend.

This month's Proverb of Hell ? — One for the newish year:

The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship. (Blake c. 1790)

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New Noise for the New Year - January 16, 2007

Classical Music?

I'm working on a couple of pieces with lyrics obligingly supplied by Lucretius and Ovid, from de Rerum Natura and Metamorphoses respectively. Lucretius speculates on the nature of sound in a passage which I reckon will work just fine in a piece for digital pipe organ, chamber choir and counter-tenor. One of the nice things about the digital organ is that MIDI socket: you can run it from the laptop enabling it to do inorganic things more associated with the Mammoth Gavioli and the serinette.
Zoey Pepper is a singing bassoonist (haven't seen one of those since Rosie Cross of Pyewackett) and will be dealing with Ovid's account of the transformation of Daphne: a nymph to laurel tree scenario which seems well-suited to a player of this very woody instrument. Frank Zappa said of the bassoon: 'It has the medieval aroma...I can easily understand why a person could get excited about playing a bassoon. It's a great noise – nothing else makes that noise.'

Peasant Girl Cabaret!

That's not necesselery the title, but a hint at the contents of the imminent CD from Helen Rivero, which we're now recording: it will be launched in Canberra at the National Folk Festival this Easter. I've just been applying ukelele, and we've recently had the tuba and musical saw in to do their things, and Helen is honing her pixiphone chops for the finishing touches. There's double bass, fiddle, accordion, bouzouki and various wind-up toys, too, in a collection of highly original songs by Helen. You can hear some relatively traditional tracks from our CD Luminous here or go to our CD Baby page, where you'll find the 'missing manual' for the album: all the details of sources and instruments that didn't get onto the CD package itself. ...OK, it's also a thinly-veiled attempt to invite you to a place where you can buy the thing...

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National Folk Fellowship recipient announced - December 24, 2006

From the National Library of Australia's e-newsletter:

Ian Blake, a highly regarded Australian folk composer/performer and 2005 ACT Creative Arts Fellow, is this year's recipient of the National Folk Fellowship, organised by the National Library of Australia and the National Folk Festival.

Ian, who lives and works in Canberra as a performer, composer, sound engineer and sound artist, has a strong research background, extensive knowledge and practice in folk music traditions.

The National Folk Fellowship, now in its fourth year, offers performers such as Ian a unique opportunity to research original folklore materials held in the National Library.

Through his Fellowship project, Ian intends to create a combination of live and electro-acoustic music based on melodic and rhythmic ideas from children's songs and games recorded in Australian children's folklore collections.

The Fellowship will culminate in performances and workshops at the 2007 National Folk Festival.

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It's that time again - December 18, 2006

...at a shopping mall near YOU... (well, Woden Plaza actually)

...the mince pies and tinned plum duff have hit the shelves as the mercury soars in the Widely Browned-Off Land. Time to cower in the coolth of the Mall and listen to curious cultural imports from the freezin' season half a world away: In the Bleak Midwinter, Jingle Bells, Drive the Cold Winter Away... Once again, sweaty Santas are girding themselves in the red shellsuit and wellies and assuming the position in grottos from Geraldton to Gerringong. And we're coming to set the whole thing to music! Bagpipes, hurdy-gurdies (recently de-criminalised in our libertarian Capital Territory) saxophones, bodhrans and other blunt instruments will be inserting seasonal sounds into Woden Plaza to encourage people to Buy Lots Of Stuff, while the Bordonian Heritage Dancers provide a splendidly costumed and choreographed distraction from the awful noise.
A Regency Rumble: 10.30 am to 12.30pm, December 23rd.

New CD from Moonshinefunk - December 14, 2006

This Canberra band is releasing its eponymous first LP shortly, recorded here in swinging Latham. It's jolly good: experience their MySpaciousness.

This month's Proverb of Hell - December 9, 2006

You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough.

(Blake, c.1790)

Come, friends, who plough the sea - November 17, 2006

How ironic - this bunch of middle-aged losers under an elite athletes' banner "Now and then we had a hope that if we lived and were good, God would  
permit us to be pirates."

- Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi


Had my first taste of piracy (as a profession) at a function the other day. Donned a bad pirate cozzie and underwent an instant personality change. And I was moved to write the following in case anyone wants to hire us to do it again:

Davy Jones' Locker
Four very silly pirates with no fashion sense will entertain youse at your next function with an Ocean Fresh™ selection of jigs and reels, hornpipes and hosepipes (subject to current restrictions of course). Davy Jones' Locker will introduce you to the unique Piratical Tango, PLUS an alarming meet and greet technique which should loosen your guests up nicely.

AAAAAARRRRRHH!

These four pensionable privateers - recently returned from a life of copyright infringement and other piracy on the high ©s - are guaranteed Villains of the Deepest Dye:

'Dead Ear' Gibbney: fiddling!
'Dead Wrong' Wrichens: guitarrr!
'Dead Man' Blake: clarrrinet!
'Dead Beat' Jones: hitting things!

A - HAAAAARRRRRHH!

These pirates are very, very bad. They are possibly the worst pirates you've ever seen, and they're not afraid to admit it. That's why they've given it away and are now available for weddings, parties and workshops on anger management, men's issues, intellectual property rights and prosthetics. Why not invite them to walk YOUR plank?

AAAAAAARRRRRRGHH!

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Clarity Clarinet Quartet plays 'Starling' on October 20th - October 17, 2006

At the Alliance Française, Canberra

From the programme notes:

Starling is a new quartet for clarinets (first performance at the Adelaide Fringe in March this year) Don't pay too much attention to the title: originally the music was to have been based on the idea of the movement of a huge flock of pre-roosting birds over St Peter's Square: a refreshing and life-affirming experience after a day's tour of the Vatican. But Starling remained as a working title as the piece took on its own personality and changed into something quite different: overlapping drones supporting a fluid, improvisatory exploration of the main themes, leading to dance-like sections (with footstomping obbligato) and quieter interludes, concluding - inconclusively - with a trancey dronal ending.

You'll hear a scale with a sharp fourth and a flat seventh that pops up around the world: Tatra Mountain fiddlers, Hindustani musicians, and film composers writing music (usually involving lots of fench horns) for those wide ocean and deep space scenes are all fond of this mode . The English folk song 'Lucy Wan', quoted briefly, has a similar flavour.

The piece is basically in a slow 3/2 rhythm, which lends itself to interesting subdivisions, becoming quite jig-like at times and subverted by the occasional hiccup in 11/8 when it helped the flow, or I couldn't make it stick to the rules...

Clarity will be featuring Starling on their next CD, to be recorded early in 2007. And I'm now contemplating a piece closer to the original idea behind Starling: a swarm intelligence, 'multiplex of wing and eye' type thingy, which will possibly end up being called Pipistrelle if it doesn't get away like the last one did.

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Increased ukelele activity detected in Melbourne - October 14, 2006

There's a lot of it about: I was doing some playing for the new Mike and Diane Jackson ukelele project (mostly reeds and bass from me) and was introduced to the M.U.K (Melbourne Ukelele Kollective): a hotbed of nylon-strung surreality. I'll be back...

Masque - a new piece for The Haydn Bande - June 12, 2006

On June 24th, The Haydn Bande, conducted by Geoffrey Lancaster, will be playing Masque, my new work for small string orchestra. It's turned out to have a distinct aroma of JPP - that's a favourite Finnish band. Plus a whiff of dystopian pastoralism... I'll record it and post the audio: see what you think.

Cantara - the new CD from Jenny Gall - April 11, 2006

The cover of Jenny Gall's 'Cantara' features the painting 'A Rolling Sea' by Janet Goodchild-Cuffley. Text at the base of the picture says: 'after this the Syren made the King sit upon her Fishy Tail and both sailed away in a Rolling Sea with all imaginable Satisfaction' -is launched at the National Folk Festival this Easter weekend. It's available from indie-cds.com, CD Baby and iTunes

The Nexus Project presents café music and tangos by Astor Piazolla - March 13, 2006

The players:
Ian Blake - soprano sax
Nicole Canham - clarinet
Mark Norton - guitar
Zoey Pepper - bassoon

...at the Alliance Francaise, 66 McCaughey Street Turner. phone 6247 5027

7.30 pm
Saturday 1st April
$20/15

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More about the music of Luminous - November 27, 2005

The cover art for 'Luminous' is based on a painting by Helen Rivero, and designed by Greer Versteeg As Mark Moss pointed out in his SingOut! review, the background information on the CD is a bit sparse, so here are some track-by-track details: Helen and Ian are joined on this recording by percussionist Peter Kennard, cellist Julian Thompson, yayla tanbur player Paul Koerbin and members of the Canberran wildlife community. We should also point out that this release marks Helen's recording debut as a pixiphonist.

1. O Tula (Zulu)
‘your mother is in the hills, on the zigzag trail…she will bring you a treat.’
Peter plays shakers and metal percussion, Ian plays cittern and guitar.

2. Nani Nani (Sephardic)
The chld's mother sings: 'sleep, my soul, my life’, while the father says: 'I come home very tired from ploughing the fields.'
Helen's voice merges at the end with a swarm of bees and some drones from a passing double bass ...

3. Gleam
Improvisation with Peter Kennard on percussion and Julian Thompson on cello, Helen's voice and Ian's soprano sax.

4. Rozinkes mit Mandlen (Yiddish)
A widow sings a song of prophecy ‘…it will be your calling – trading in raisins and almonds…some day you will wander the world, you will grow rich, someday…’
Ian plays keyboards, and duets on bass clarinet with Helen. Peter plays junk percussion.

5. Le Chat à Jeanette/ Cola (French)
'when he wants to make himself beautiful, he washes his nose with saliva...'
Helen duets with Tiger, a small kitten with a mighty purr.
Ian plays melodica, soprano sax and cittern - from Canberran maker Gillian Alcock.
Peter plays frame drum.

6. Pium Paum (Finnish)
‘innocently…cradle swinging…enjoy your life…some day bells will clang…your soul will roam on’
The piece begins with a peal of saucepans from Peter. Ian plays guitar, Helen plays pixiphone.

7. Akh ty nochenka (Russian)
‘dark little night…with whom shall I pass the time? We do not live peacefully as one…’
Ian plays four bass clarinets.

8. Dust
Improvisation with bass clarinet, joined by voice, percussion, gu-cheng (a Chinese zither) and cello.

9. Ela hypne (Greek)
'...grow big as a mountain, straight and tall as a cypress tree.'
The crickets of Canberra set the scene: Ian plays thumb piano and brass-strung harp [by the Rigby brothers of Victoria: James and Andy]. The harp also appears at the end, wind-driven by a backyard breeze. Paul Koerbin makes a cameo appearance on yayla tanbur, which resembles a bowed bass banjo.

10. La rivyer Tanier (Creole)
Concerning African slaves who had to find extra food to survive. '...walking by the river Tanier, I meet an old grandma and an old grandpa fishing. They say: 'one must work to eat…’
Ian plays harp, bass, melodica, reed organ. Peter gives the junk percussion another workout.

11. Sofðu unga ástin mín (Icelandic)
‘...the rain is crying... black sand, glaciers, bones ...' A dialogue for voice and guitar based on an Icelandic lullaby. Ian plays guitar and sax, which introduces fragments of the 17th century English dance tune 'Lull me beyond thee'.

12. Naa ska'en liten (Norwegian)
‘now the little one shall have sleep so sweet…so warm and so soft…’
Voice and piano improvise freely around this Norwegian lullaby.

13. Ba ba (Micmac)
Two harps here, both from the Rigbys, one nylon and one brass strung.
Seedpod shakers and a big goatskin tambourine.

14. Flicker
Ian: soprano sax. Julian: cello. Helen: voice. Peter: percussion, gu-cheng.

15. Fi la nanae mi bel fiol (Italian)
Ian plays tenor recorder and bass harmonica. Helen duets with herself as mother and crone...

16. Suo gân (Welsh)
‘nothing is able to disturb your composure…smiling gently…do not fear, only a leaf beats on the door…a little wave makes a lapping noise on the seashore…’
Voice and piano.

17. Om Tare (Tibetan mantra, melody by Helen)
Just voice ...
Tara is a female Buddha loved in Tibet: she is a symbol of compassionate action.


Blake and Cronshaw in Germany: photographic evidence
- November 8, 2005

Ian Blake playing soprano sax, Andy Cronshaw on fujara Here's Andy and me at the Krefeld Folklorefest, busily begeistering the audience in all directions with our many Stielrichtungen.

The shiny new organ in the background is, as we say here in West Belconnen, bonzer, boomer, ripper and grouse. For a tragic old organorak like myself it was grand to fire it up and put the pedal to the metal.

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