How the hell do you play a watercolour? Just one of many new music challenges faced by pianist Zubin Kanga
Collaborating with composers on new works is the most exciting, challenging and rewarding aspect of my life as a performer. There’s nothing quite like creating a piece collaboratively from scratch; discussing ideas and influences; creating new techniques together; testing out the piece as it grows;
and then, finally, creating a little bit of history when you perform the world premiere.
Rosalind Page and I first discussed a new piece back in 2007, but Being and Time II: Tabula Rasa really took shape last year after she encountered the work of Australian painter Imants Tillers. After meeting Imants at his studio outside Cooma, NSW, Rosalind and Imants decided to weave their work together. Rosalind would take inspiration from the words, shapes and landscapes of his multi-layered painting, Tabula Rasa, and Imants would include some of Rosalind’s notation into this painting. Rosalind’s work draws on the folksongs of Imants’ Latvian heritage and echoes the painter’s preoccupation with landscape and memory.
Since meeting Marcus Whale when he was a first-year undergraduate, I’ve watched him grow into one of the leading figures in a particularly talented generation of students at the Sydney Conservatorium. His hypnotic Errata draws on his varied musical experiences, ranging from improvisation on electronics to fronting an R&B boy band.
Glasgow-based Australian Jane Stanley and I have worked together closely on her work Diptych, experimenting with pianistic resonance and extended techniques to create a work of kaleidoscopic colour, influenced by the turbulent flow of waterfalls and the subtle patterns of windchimes.
Andrew Harrison was inspired by the letters and experiences of his ancestor in the French battlefields of WWI to compose The drumfire was incessant, and continued all night with unabated fury… and our collaboration focused on finding ways of expressing the confusion and terror of trench warfare.
When I asked Chamber Made Opera’s artistic director David Young to write a piece for this concert, I knew he’d create something unusual and unique. I wasn’t disappointed… The score for his work Not Music Yet is a massive watercolour painting! The score presents me with a unique challenge as a performer, and I have had to draw on my skills as a composer and improviser to translate the swirls of colour in the painting into a mysterious and evocative sonic world.
Spectrum is a recital program with many different types of music: some profound, some dramatic, some surprising and some very eccentric. But all these works challenge the conventions of a traditional piano recital and push the boundaries of what a piano, and a pianist, can do.
Zubin Kanga performs Spectrum on August 11 at the Melbourne Recital Centre and on August 16 at the Independent Theatre, Sydney, including David Young’s Not Music Yet (below)