Polyphonic Social is an annual Liquid Architecture project with the proposition that artists think about polyphony in a vastly expanded way.
Polyphonics have much artistic and social potential: to make difference audible, to ‘sound’ disobedience, choreograph dissonance, and explore the harmonies possible when we bring voices together (and apart) in a shared space.
Our 2017 Polyphonic Social program takes place over two events; the first, a Saturday evening concert at The Good Shepherd Chapel, and the second, a full afternoon of activities across various Convent spaces.
2017 participants: Uncle Bill Nicholson (Wurundjeri Elder); Áine O’Dwyer (Ireland); Lin Chi-Wei (Taiwan); Erkki Veltheim, Rohan Drape and Alex Garsden (of Inland Concert Series); Dr Nino Tsitsishvili, Dr Joseph Jordania & Melbourne Georgian Choir (Georgia; Melbourne); Hi God People (Melbourne); Pauline Oliveros’ Sonic Meditations featuring Bruce Mowson, Aviva Endean, Danae Valenza, and Fayen d’Evie (Melbourne); Rosie Isaac (Melbourne)we are we, uttering together
Polyphony is state in which we hear many different voices, in their full texture, simultaneously. (Poly/many + phonos/voices). But polyphony is also the many voices in the one voice; it is voices in disguise; it is my utterance that consumes yours; it is your voice in my head (and mine in yours). Is it humans, instrumentalised?
A plural-singular can be many and one; it is both. Everybody solos, nobody solos. What if the power of collective voicing is also its greatest vulnerability? Think again about crowds, choirs; think about speaking in tongues. Aren’t they all the state of being possessed by the voice of another, a voice that speaks through you, but is largely unintelligible? As sonic textures go, the colours have run a bit, things lose their distinction. Our threads are still intact, so we can ask things like: For how long have we been speaking in tongues without knowing it?
The throat thickens, the sign solidifies and our ears rush with blood, so we don’t notice or maybe don’t care that the meaning has moved, because we are uttering together.
The problem with unison is that it means ‘one sound’, which we know can never truly exist. The problem with polyphony may be similar, the conditions that make it possible also make it impossible.
If you tap on the bricks there’s a little hollow space. You do have to listen out for it. In chanting there is also whispering; in there the exaltant collective voice-body can also be prised apart, so that voice and body gain just enough space to speak through one another.
Sat 13 May 2017
8pm – 10pm
The Good Shepherd Chapel at Abbotsford Convent
Tickets $15 / $12
Áine O’Dwyer, Melbourne Georgian Choir, Erkki Veltheim, Rohan Drape and Alex Garsden
Áine O’Dwyer (Ireland) makes multi-layered works that celebrate chance choreographies, acoustic phenomena, acts of listening and the search for alternative scorings through instruments, drawings, space, time, memory and the body. In recent years she has developed a unique specialisation for experimentation with pipe organs, culminating in the new albums ‘Locusts’ and ‘Gegenschein’ which follow her acclaimed ‘Music for Church Cleaners’. O’Dwyer’s works beg questions of historicism and the social proximities of the everyday, exploring sacred, found and forgotten spaces, and the animism of instruments – turning historic sites themselves into instruments. This concert marks O’Dwyer’s first visit to Australia.
Melbourne Georgian Choir (MGC) will also perform, led by celebrated Georgian-Australian ethnomusicologists, Dr Nino Tsitsishvili and Dr Joseph Jordania. The choir features 20 vocalists singing together in the rich Georgian polyphonic tradition which dates back to at least the 4th century AD. The choir will perform challenging works from its repertoire, with an emphasis on strange tones, shifting drones, clashing dissonances and outré scales.
Erkki Veltheim, Rohan Drape and Alex Garsden (of Inland Concert Series) will present a new fifteen-minute antiphonal work for instruments and computers of fragments of sonic things created independently.
This concert is presented in association with Inland Concert Series
Sun 14 May 2017
10am – 6pm
Abbotsford Convent, various spaces
Uncle Bill Nicholson (Wurundjeri Elder); Lin Chi-Wei (Taiwan); Dr Joseph Jordania & Melbourne Georgian Choir (Georgia; Melbourne); Hi-God People (Melbourne); Pauline Oliveros’ Sonic Meditations featuring Bruce Mowson,Aviva Endean, Danae Valenza, and Fayen d’Evie (Melbourne); Rosie Isaac (Melbourne)
Day two of the Polyphonic Social Program offers a ‘polyphony of polyphonies’. Multiple experimental works will overlap across times, spaces (tiled halls, salons, parlours, and the Convent’s famed indoor-outdoor in-between zones) and experiences (in sound and listening – moments that invite participation, imagination, and, in the case of one work, a moment to recline).
The day will begin with child (and parent-) friendly polyvocalities for families on Mother’s Day, with creative activities for voices, hands and ears (10am – 12pm) led by musician and educator Jody Kingston in collaboration with our 2017 artists.
We begin the afternoon program (2.00pm – 6pm) with a Welcome to Country from Wurundjeri Elder Uncle Bill Nicholson, who will lead us through the Yarra landscape by ear and hear multiple voices of land and country.
Marking his Australian debut is Lin Chi-Wei, a legend of Taiwanese sonic art, whose practice incorporates folklore culture, noise, ritual, and audience participation. Chi-Wei will stage his famed participatory sound work, Tape Music, in which audience members pass a paper score (sometimes 200m long) around a circle, singing as they go, generating a ‘human tape machine’.
This program also pays homage to the great American experimental musician and artist Pauline Oliveros, who sadly passed away last year. Oliveros gave inspiration to a generation of artists through her sublime compositions and improvisations and, importantly, her philosophical approach to sound and ‘deep’ listening. In the spirit of musing, Melbourne artist Bruce Mowson is revisiting Oliveros’ 1974 suite Sonic Meditations, along with fellow artists Aviva Endean, Danae Valenza, and Fayen d’Evie. These meditation works are playful and imaginative, functioning more as thought experiments than music, we undertake a vastly expanded listening, extending to the sensation of the motion of the planet in which the physical motion of the interlocking patterns of our planet, system, galaxy and universe are in some way detectable, at the extremities of physical perception”.
Also performing will be Melbourne’s Hi God People whose strange relations play out in a dynamic of ritualised hyper-awareness and self-disregard. They will perform a new work, Running Bathing Singing With The Hi God People, which they say will involve “bathing each other while dressed in sleepwear, wetting the sleepwear in the process”. How this will be done is yet to be precisely realised, but the group agree “it might be better to do this outside”.
Rosie Isaac will deliver a subtle, but very distinctive site-responsive work that operates at the intersection of text and performance, reading and speaking, standing up and lying down. She likes to explore the confusing ambiguous situations opened up by words that have multiple meanings and, therefore, suggest multiple hearings (which she thinks of as unspoken polyphony).
Ethnomusicologist and evolutionary musicologist, maverick thinker Joseph Jordania from Melbourne University will speak about the evolutionary roots of human polyphonic singing, discussing the array of transformative powers of choral singing, from preparing soldiers for the battle, to helping the alzheimer’s sufferers to regain their memories. He will also share his thoughts why the polyphonic traditions from the most isolated regions of the world sound like a music from the future.
The organisers and artists acknowledge the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation as the first owners of this country, and we recognise that sovereignty was never ceded. We pay our respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging. We would like to reflect that active and respectful listening is inherent in acknowledgement.
Curators: Liquid Architecture and Emily Siddons
Liquid Architecture: Joel Stern, Danni Zuvela, Anabelle Lacroix, Georgia Hutchison, Jessica Row, Mino Peric, Jody Kingston
Production Team: Lauren Squire, Anatol Pitt, Jason Heller, Keelan O’Hehir
Liquid Architecture is an Australian organisation for artists working with sound. LA investigates the sounds themselves, but also the ideas communicated about, and the meaning of, sound.