Review / Seven smooth unions

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Duo Blockstix, Joshua Hill on percussion and Alicia Crossley on recorder. Photo by Peter Hislop
ALICIA Crossley on recorder and Joshua Hill on percussion make up Duo Blockstix. They performed seven compositions specially written and adapted for them, all by Australian composers.  

The marimba was the main percussion instrument of the night. The sound of the marimba and recorder creates a smooth union. The qualities of these instruments blend into one another and offer similar tonal characteristics.

The first piece by Daniel Rojas, titled “of magic and realism”, was a world premiere, as were six out of the seven pieces performed. This tonal composition sh

Duo Blockstix’s Alicia Crossley on recorder. Photo by Peter Hislop
owed how well these two instruments can work together; it was a lively and bright piece.

Peter MacNamara’s “Duo-Generare” sat in complete contrast to the first piece. It owned a haunting, silvery quality, partly due to the use of the violin bow on the edge of the tone bars of the marimba. It had a unique sound that shifted through a dissonant and staccato pulse, and at times felt like world music from South America, especially when Crossley made the recorder sound like a panpipe.

The ABC Classic FM presenter, Julian Day, is also a composer. His work titled “Five Easy Pieces”, was written as a response to the 1970 movie of the same name, which starred Jack Nicholson. Another evocative work that used many deep tones on both instruments, and much repetition to the point of it becoming hypnotic. Its quiet voice throughout the work had multiphonics on the recorder and a variety of other sound effects that created a desolate sonic landscape.

“Resonate Voice” by Damian Barbeler was composed for a barrage of percussion and recorder. There were cymbals, gongs, crotales and a specially made percussion instrument that consisted of u-shaped metal tubes, which had a tinny and dry sound with little reverb due to its dampening as it sat on foam. The work sounded like some of the temple music from Thailand.

Percussionist Joshua Hill of Duo Blockstix. Photo by Peter Hislop
Mark Oliverio’s piece “Auto Dafe Suite”, inspired by certain rituals was said to have Malaysian rhythms embedded in its four movements. A piece full of effects and complex constructions, it had some wonderfully dynamic shifts in tempo. It contained a good blend of varying styles and techniques, such as using both ends of the mallets on the marimba.

The next work, by Tim Hansen, titled “Pencils”, showed just how suitable the marimba and recorder are together. Inspired by the pencils the composer had collected from people such as Shaun Tan, who created the book “The Arrival”, which is a migrant story told as a series of wordless images. The music flowed with some lovely melodies through its three movements.

The final work titled “Affirmations”, by Paul Cutlan, described as a worldly piece lived up to its description.  The amplified bass recorder created several sounds, such as the Irish fife and Indian flute. It contained some driving rhythms and a particularly challenging section for solo recorder.

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