“Genevieve Lacey and Marshall McGuire, using material from the 14th through to the 21st centuries, over 15 tracks and 77 minutes, challenge us to explore and immerse ourselves in stark alternate worlds.”
Genevieve Lacey is a musician, artist, performer and curator whose creative output almost defies definition. She has worked across music, film, theatre, dance, TV and digital mediums. Lacey has collaborated with authors, composers and scientists with an extensive discography including ARIA industry awards.
As a recorder virtuoso she has performed and collaborated with Australian and international orchestras and ensembles.
This new recording, Bower, sees Lacey working with harpist Marshall McGuire, producer Martel Ollerenshaw and sound engineer Jim Atkin.
Reflecting on this recording in the time of COVID 19 on her website, Genevieve Lacey discusses the obsessive collecting habits of bowerbirds, building nests and habitats from found fragments. Bower has subsequently become multifaceted versions of sanctuary as fashioned by Lacey, McGuire, Atkin and eight living and eight dead composers.
The opening track Baiyan Woka (Bennett, arr. Erkki Veltheim) invites us into the mysterious Bower with atmospheric electronics, then harp and recorder sounds and flourishes. The recorder melody enters clearly, yet layered, delayed and looped as Lacy eases us on our way into this journey.
The following track, ‘Bravade’ from The Dance Master by Playford, (arr. Lacey, McGuire and van Eyck) by contrast, would appear to be a straight-forward harp and recorder treatment of Playford’s Dance Steps and Melodies, yet as the track unfolds with grace, from dance to lament, harp interlude then to recorder and harp duet and dance, we have been given a compact demonstration of Playford’s gathered material. In fact, the contrasting of the 16th and 17th Playford, Purcell, de Rove, Froberger and Biber with the living: Bennett, Keller, Skipworth, Rodgers, Veltheim, van Kyck and Flynn, makes Bower an unpredictable and unsettling yet vast scape of auditory emersions.
At 77 minutes and 15 tracks it is easy to enter the bowerbird’s nest of sounds and provocations. At times nothing is clear with unanticipated loops and overlays side by side with baroque clarity and step. Bower requires us to surrender to sounds and possibilities.
For example: Cavern by Skipworth opens with dips and drips, harp flourishes, and once resident in the semi-darkness Lacey’s recorder bends and laments with percussive and electronic treatments. Make no mistake, the performers do not dally or indulge. The music that emerges, develops and embellishes in texture and fragment, shaped by design with big ears to all possibilities. Cavern turns out into the abstract brilliant light of Birds for Genevieve a high-pitched flurry between harp and recorder, with call and answer, reflection and repose.
By the time we reach A Mutual Support for Precarious Times by Flynn and Humphrey we have been prepared for the unpredictability yet atmospheric multilayered and menacing mix of the static and percussive, blurring the boundaries of contemporary music explorations with a disturbing yet comforting bed of the meditative and the exuberant.
O Virgo Splendens is a three-part canon from Llibre vermell de Montserrat, one of the oldest mediaeval manuscripts containing music. This arrangement by Lacey and McGuire begins with harp, enjoined by recorder in rhythmic unison. The final and third part of the canon flowers with two voices in the harp, one with the recorder.
For the technically minded, soak up the second and third voices in 3rds, 5ths, 6ths, unison and octaves with a few 4ths and 2nds. Harmonic beginnings.
Erkki Veltheim, Finnish born, now Australian based composer and performer, has written Nocturne Over Blue Ruins for Genevieve and Marshall. Here we are bathed in another highly atmospheric universe instigated by harp, electronics, distortions, white sound wash and Lacey’s recorder. Intervals between voices pulsate unison, rising semi-tones, falling semi-tones and quarter-tones. (Technical descriptions appear redundant in this immersive world.) Intensity is built with relentless repetitions, call and answer. Time and pulse are immaterial as textures collide and collude to create one of the most vivid and rewarding tracks in the Bower collection.
Lamentation faite sur la mort tres douloureuse de Sa Majeste Imperiale Ferdinand III is Marshall McGuires only solo turn on Bower. Elegant and spacious as required to span the centuries from this disturbed and discomforted 21st back to the 17th.
Bower ends with a Heinrich Biber Passacaglia (arr. John Rodgers). It opens with a four-bar progression before the recorder enters, crystalline lines rapidly developing to scales and embellishment. Here Lacey and McGuire take the opportunity to demonstrate their supreme artistry without the assistance of loops and electronics. At times McGuire is given the chance to dance and shine yet there are moments of stillness within the intensity of the Passacaglia’s relentless drive. We cannot help to be dazzled by their poise and skill as exemplified in this final track.
Genevieve Lacey and Marshall McGuire, along with sound engineer Jim Atkin, have successfully collaborated to create this intricately rich recording of material from the 14th through to the 21st century. Some would say that much of this music reaches beyond the centuries, challenging us to bathe, explore and immerse ourselves in these stark alternate worlds.
Lacey and McGuire and all these composers, living and dead, have created multiple sanctuaries for solace, elegance and nostalgia. Worlds we can only imagine and long for.