Tall Poppies


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Claire Edwardes

$23   (Australian dollars)


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Claire Edwardes has been making a mark on the Australian contemporary music landscape since winning the ABC’s Young Performer of the Year in 1999 and the prestigious Freedman Fellowship in 2005. She has returned from studies and performances in Europe and is now involved in several new music ensembles in Australia as well as establishing herself as a soloist.

This is her debut solo CD, and sparkles with the energy and vitality that characterise her live performances. The centrepiece of the repertoire Claire has chosen for this recording is Ross Edwards’ More Marimba Dances. His earlier Marimba Dances has become one of the world’s most-played and most-loved percussion works. This second work contains all the qualities that made the earlier piece such a favourite with both performers and audiences alike.

Middle-generation Australian composers are further represented here by substantial works from Gerard Brophy, Andrew Ford and Andrew Schultz. The individual compositional and rhythmic styles of these three composers is very evident when they write for solo percussion. Each has written a strong piece, with elements of both virtuosity and emotion.

Claire has also encouraged composers of her own age to write for her, and we see the results in the works by Damien Ricketson and Dominik Karski - not wildly outlandish works but pushing the conceptual and musical boundaries just far enough.

When all that is done we can relax with the gentle minimalism of Mark Pollard’s two short works - better than an aspirin!

This CD has been funded by the Music Fund of the Australia Council.

Gerard Brophy
Ross Edwards
More Marimba Dances
Damien Ricketson
Dominik Karski
Beginnings to no End
Andrew Schultz
Winter Ground
Andrew Ford
The Armed Man
Mark Pollard
Just a Moment
One Sweet Moment


Percussion music has tended to represent the more innovative side of recent Australian music, due to its capacity to draw ideas from different cultures and to cross stylistic boundaries.

With playing of well-coloured liveliness, Claire Edwardes captures a range of characteristic sounds (predominantly marimba and vibraphone) from the meditative ambience of Mark Pollard's Just a Moment and One Sweet Moment, to the more undulating free movement of Ross Edwards' More Marimba Dances and a kind of loping rhythmic gait in the gentle sprays of notes in Gerard Brophy's Coil.

Andrew Schultz's extended work, Winter Ground, is emotionally remote without bleakness, while Andrew Ford's The Armed Man taps into the ancient warlike associations of drums.

Damien Ricketson's Hol Spannan Luiden for wood, skin and metal instruments displays clear structure, while Dominik Karski's Beginning To No End alternates between fragmentation and continuity.
Peter McCallum
Sydney Morning Herald. December 2007

Having just seen Claire Edwardes performing with great subtlety in the bracing Song Company/Ensemble Offspring Cage Uncaged celebration and, a week before, in a superb concert in duet with guitarist Geoffrey Morris, i was eager to immerse myself in the percussionist’s first CD, titled Coil after the magical first track on the CD, composed by Gerard Brophy. My expectations of textured, nuanced and characterful playing were fully met.

Coil is a wonderfully apt image for the album, conjuring something wound, expanding and contracting, full of force but also of a controlled unleashing of sounds delicate and powerful, whether in a music box or a grand pendulum clock or, as realised here, on vibraphone, marimba and drums. The compositions on the CD beat and pulse regularly as we would expect of percussion but, by turns, they dance, muse, grow introspective, dramatic and ache for transcendence.

In Brophy’s Coil (8’39, 1996) little melodies surge, rise, turn back on themselves and take flight again generating a palpable optimism. I wanted to invent words to sing with these sparkling, bell-like vibraphone musings and the rise and fall of their memorable cadences in Edwardes’ able hands. In contrast, Andrew Ford’s The Armed Man (5’42, 2004) is, the composer says, founded on a mediaeval tune. We don’t hear it, besides the tonal range is restricted to a drum kit, but the effect is powerful, a drum solo without a band, hinting at things ceremonial (march, attack, execution) and even rock’n’roll and, for Ford, the Iraq War,

Ross Edwards’ More Marimba Dances (7’05, 2004) furthers the magic of the widely played earlier set and had me on my feet. Edwardes and producer Belinda Webster bring to the trio of dances an enveloping range and depth of sound, the timber ringing with sublime bottom notes and high ripplings, resonating with buried references to music Latin and Asian and Baroque. The first and last dances open with buoyant riffs that you quickly embody—they are the springs out of which the compositions rise before falling and rising again—while the middle piece revels in an elegant tentativeness. Refreshing is the word for More Marimba Dances, and they are never less than utterly intelligent.

Next, in works by Andrew Schultz, Dominick Karski and Damien Ricketson, I found myself in very different, more demanding territory. Schultz’s Winter Ground [12’05, 2000] for vibraphone, is palpably reflective, establishing an ambiguous emotional state and working it over and over, winding and entwining, growing denser by accrual, expanding from a narrow note range into a stream of consciousness reverie with just enough of a rhythmic anchor to keep the work sensually engaging, often quite beautiful, right to the final residue of the repeated ringing of a single note. Something has been completed.

Dominik Karski’s Beginnings to No End [7’45, 1999], writes the composer, comprises “seven short fragments called ‘beginnings’—small pockets of musical material that could have been developed further, but instead collapse unexpectedly.” Fast pulsed, insistent ‘beginnings’ on marimba first simply stop. The impulse to cease soon seems to come from the instrusion of a very different voice. Sweet marimba and gruff bongos dialogue, a remarkable exchange which must have stretched Edwardes, brain and limb until, finally, the marimba takes off on its own, happily monologuing, galloping, riffing, locked into a final pulse with minute diversions, into...

Damien Ricketson describes his Hol Spannen Luiden [18:12, 1997] as “a variation without a theme”, “a recounting of a musical work where the original is never heard”, with a focus on “the nature of memory, in particular processes of recollection and decay.” The most demanding work on the CD, this work requires several listenings before it takes because it forsakes obvious beat and pulse for the very textures of percussive sound—small rolls, the vibration of dropped sticks, the natural reverberation of struck metal, all listened to and pondered in very real time. Once relaxed into, Hol Spannen Luiden is subtly if sparely immersive.

The CD closes with a return to more accessible material but both pieces have their own complexities. Mark Clement Pollard’s Just a Moment (3’20, 1996) has a gentle minimalist-cum-gamelan feel on vibraphone with brisk phasing which yields upper end sparkle and a mid-range pealing, generating rich layering in mere minutes. It’s fascinating that in a reversal of expectation, the cyclical melodic drive for Just a Moment comes from the top end of the instrument, while the occasional mid-range notes suddenly colour the composition from below. Pollard’s One Sweet Moment (3’00, 1997) starts ringing strongly, if hesitantly, like carolling bells, and subsequently takes shape as a continuous pealing with an emphatic beat, the intervals finally opening out, the pulse slowing, decayed notes hanging...These are brief works, but feel big and embracing and leave a glorious ringing in the ears.

Claire Edwardes has located the kinetic energy in these compositions and let them uncoil. With each play of the CD, their magic is released.
Keith Gallasch
RealTime issue #81 Oct-Nov 2007

I normally avoid percussion CDs like the plague, not because I don't like percussion, but because the recorded experience invariably misses so much of the often spectacular visual element in the performance of such works. My main workplace, the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague, has an internationally recognized percussion department, and I had the pleasure of sharing a stage with Claire Edwardes a few years ago, having like her been shipped in to help out with one of those excellent composition projects in which few of the other students seemed to want to be involved. 'The Seven Deadly Sins' it was called - seven pieces based on some new bronze sculptures on that theme. I was delighted to see that Claire has been making a mark on the Australian contemporary music landscape since winning the ABC's Young Performer of the Year in 1999 and the prestigious Freedman Fellowship in 2005. She has returned to Australia from studies and performances in Europe and is now involved in several new music ensembles in Australia as well as establishing herself as a soloist. This is her debut solo CD.

One thing you have to say about the programming of this disc is that there is plenty of variety. Seven composers each with a different approach to the incredible sound palette available to the contemporary percussionist, each using Edwardes' admirable technique without losing their individual identity to the altar of pure virtuoso display. Gerard Brophy's Coil is for vibraphone, and, with limited thematic content, has an attractive feeling of unity. Much of the melodic content is clipped into short segments, and the rhythmic character of the piece shows the vibraphone in a new light.

I liked Andrew Ford's Memorial for cello solo, and while a piece for drum kit might seem a little daunting, his compact work The Armed Man has almost as much melodic interest as Brophy's. The inevitable militaristic associations are created with the snare drum as a central element in the sound picture, but the opening tattoos serve merely as an introduction - the full range of bass, toms, hi-hat and cymbal create a fascinating solo as good as anything by Carl Palmer.

Ross Edwards' More Marimba Dances are a follow-on from his earlier Marimba Dances, which has become one of the world's most-played and most-loved percussion works. This second work contains all the qualities that made the earlier piece such a favourite with both performers and audiences alike. This kind of music is so well-written for the instruments that it sounds as if it must have been around for ages. This 'classic' feel with its easily assimilated themes and light, lively rhythms makes it easy to hear how such work is readily taken up.

With Andrew Schultz' Winter Ground we return to the vibraphone, this time with more of an ethereal, sustained feel. Schultz actually uses the vibrato function of the instrument, which is quite refreshing to hear, and the piece is far from being vaguely atmospheric, with a set of variations exploring timbre and contrapuntal technique in some depth. Dominik Karski's Beginnings to no end employs marimba and bongos, mixing the tuned and the untuned to interesting effect, even if the music itself has too much of a fragmentary feel to make it a huge success in my humble opinion.

Damien Ricketson's Hol Spannen Luiden also employs the marimba as a central instrument, each word of the title being an individual movement: Hol = wood, Spannen = skin, Luiden = metal. He describes it as 'a recollection, or a recounting, of a musical work where the original is never heard.' There are some nice elements in these pieces, which I'm sure work well on an attractively presented stage, with the player focussed under a single spotlight. There are a few 'hoketus' moments where the composer might be alluding to the work of one of his teachers, Louis Andriessen, and the metallic nuances in the Luiden movement make for an interesting contrast in the programme as a whole. I just feel that these works are too long, given their actual musical content. I would recommend the Steven King formula 'On Writing', reducing by a third on the re-write.

The CD concludes with Mark Pollard's two short Moment works for vibraphone, which have a gently minimal, almost Asian feel with touches of Javanese Gamelan and an attractive miniature quality.

The recording on this Tall Poppies release is excellent as usual, with the clean acoustic of the Sydney Conservatorium recital halls helping the instruments to glow and sparkle. Claire Edwardes is a marvellous advocate for her profession and this repertoire - much of which she helped to create by commissioning, cajoling and encouraging composers to take solo percussion seriously as an option for expressive new work.
Dominy Clements
Music Web International July 2007

The first official solo CD release from Australian percussioninst Claire Edwardes is a showcase of local works from the last decade or so. Edwardes has recently returned to Australia after successful stints in Europe, and we are luckier for it - how nice it is to see local talent returning home. The playing itself, as expected from this acclaimed musician, is precise, vigorous, passionate and actually highly personal. Highlights are Ross Edwards' More Marimba Dances and Damien Ricketson's Hol-Spannen-Luiden.
Katarina Krostakova
Limelight August 2007

In the last years the star is rising for the Netherlands-residing Australian percussionist Claire Edwardes. She pairs her energetic point-precise playing with an open stage presence. And she has a good nose for interesting composers. Furthermore, Edwardes is a preferred guest with international
ensembles and orchestras. Last year, as part of Duo Vertigo she brought out the nice CD “Vertigo One' on Karnatic Lab Records (KNR 009).

And with 'Coil' she now has her first solo CD. She goes back to her roots with works purely by her compatriots’ -a very colourful array of composers of different generations, which all have a pop-like drive as a vehicle, in common. The title piece “Coil” is the groovy work for vibraphone from Gerard Brophy that opens immediately setting a good tone for this recording: freshly interpreted and placed in one gesture, with guts and risk, reaching far borders.

Edwardes builds, on throbbing drumskins, a martial proof, in the piece “The Armed Man" specially written for her by Andrew Ford. Again played full-out with no reserve.

Through to the exciting search of “Hol-Spannen-Luiden”, beautifully layered, from the former Andriessen student, Damien Ricketson, the disc has Edwardes finishing with the foundation of vibes-ambient tones from Mark Clement Pollard.

Delicious! The CD can be bought at www.tallpoppies.net
Anthony Fiumara
De Trouw, Amsterdam 30/6/07

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