HERE NOW HEAR
Monash Art Ensemble reaches ever higher and farther afield for imagination-stretching material. Directed by Paul Grabowsky, this combination of students and professionals moves well beyond the jazz big-band mentality on this double album, taking listeners on the genre-crossing journeys of eight composers, deep into the land where improvisation and composition illuminate each other, rather than being mutually exclusive. Grabowsky’s For EE Cummings has Gian Slater singing a setting of the miraculously beautiful As Is the Sea Marvelous, the music otherworldly, the poem’s profound passion muted, like a memory.
Andrew Ford sets assorted poems in Comeclose and Sleepnow: Six Liverpool Love Songs, with Slater’s Ariel-like voice casting a spell of a different sort: the music exquisitely orchestrated, the dissonances acting as thorns that unexpectedly snag the emotions. The theremin on Cat Hope’s The Dark Hip Falls could be the voice of an old friend who’s an alien, Marc Hannaford’s Fainter, Stronger employs massive contrast between labyrinthine density and more sinewy passages, and Sandy Evans’ The Drunkard’s Walk is a wild and zany ride that will have you gripping the arms of your chair.