Australian Electric

by Jennifer Bryce

This concert was presented by the group, Three. An unusual combination: trumpet, trombone and guitar who are unified in their goal to expand the chamber music repertoire for their instruments.



As well as having three players, the ensemble focuses on three timbral modes: acoustic, pre-recorded electronic soundscapes and live electronic sound manipulation. The first piece was by Fay Wang, Steps to the Unconsciousness. The effects of the guitar were almost bell-like and the sounds from the brass instruments were sometimes unusually delicate, sometimes threatening and more conventional.

The second piece was by Australian  composer Wally Gunn. Perhaps because I knew he’d been brought up in the country, Pinwheel, seemed just a little country and western, with a somewhat more conventional use of guitar, which provided an arpeggio-like support to the brass instruments.

Third on the program was a work composed by the guitarist, Ken Murray, Three Sketches, I As Such, II Waltzing and III 798. There were no program notes to explain the titles – eg why ‘798’ – it didn’t seem to be the beat. Waltzing was a very slow waltz.

James Ledger’s Voodoo Sonnets (based on Shakespeare) were very exciting, with much of the guitar work reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix. The composer says: ‘I thought of this instrument [the electric guitar] as a modern day lute – it was both ubiquitous and significant in Shakespeare’s time – perhaps much like the electric guitar has been in our own time. The voodoo in the title comes from Jimi Hendrix’s song Voodoo Chile, which features Hendrix’s canny use of the wah-wah pedal with his staggeringly powerful guitar sound.

The sonnets, refer to the short poetic form that was exemplified by Shakespeare’. Thus the pieces were not based on specific Shakespearean sonnets, but used the idea of their structure.

The second CD of Three is due to be launched later this year.