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Metapraxis: Surreal string sounds (Review)

Sarah Lim

Tue Jul 31 2012


IF you thought string instruments were only good for classical music, Metapraxis will prove you wrong. Sarah Lim recalls her evening discovering the weird but wonderful sounds of  the violin, cello and double bass.

Metapraxis was a fascinating evening showcasing 20th and 21st century string compositions, performed by talents from Melbourne’s emerging contemporary music industry.

For three nights only, audiences were treated to the highly unusual, almost electronic sounds produced from classic instruments the violin, cello and double-bass (the show’s three main instruments).

The blend of concepts on display throughout the night were both artistic and experimental, and the performers did not restrict themselves to the expected. They played modern compositions instead of sticking to traditional classical styles, delivering a performance that was certainly not typical orchestra fare.

Famous composer, violinist and innovator Jon Rose led the fray of performers, which included well-known local Australian string quartet, Atticus.

The first performance of the night was “Crystalline” by Anthony Pateras, a suspenseful, thrilling string number with Minor key notes. The edgy mood was enhanced by the stage setting of red spotlights shining onto the musicians.

Violinists rehearsing for Metapraxis. Photo: Ponch Hawkes

But the highlight of Metapraxis was definitely the Australian premiere of Jon Rose’s “The Long and Short of It”, which involved the quartet Atticus and several other guest performers on violin, playing along to a film on the big screen behind them for the crowd to watch.

The film showed many cuts of different people drawing a violin bow across a wired fence to illicit abnormal noises. It also featured  a brief slideshow of paintings on the wooden poles of the wired fence.

The musicians’ task was then to try to manipulate sounds to somehow match the movements in the video, thereby highlighting the different types and lengths of the various string instruments.

Violinists and video

"The Long and Short of It" by Jon Rose. Photo: Ponch Hawkes

Overall, Metapraxis was definitely a unique experience, capturing the weird but wonderful sounds and feelings that come from the tension of both the logical and illogical playing of strings.