Month: August 2013

Seminar

Seminar

From August 15th until September 14th, The Ensemble presents the Australian Premiere of “Seminar”; play by Theresa Rebeck, directed by Anna Crawford.

I thought it was a brilliant play, but that’s because it resounded with me. In the words of the director herself, the play “reminded me what writers actually do for society- the fact that everything they write comes straight form their heart and they’re serving it up for us to be praised or ripped to shreds.” Featuring four aspiring and ambitious young writers, the play follows their journey as they embark on a term of seminars with a successful veteran writer who critiques their works and souls. I, myself, am an aspiring young writer, so I understood their jokes and frustrations. The play really connected with me and embarrassingly, I saw too much of myself in a number of the characters.

I do acknowledge, however, that the majority of the audience may not have been the target audience, so I heard many mixed reviews while coming out of the theatre. There were many laughs, but not all in the same places, so I tend to think that not everyone received the same jokes or came to the same understandings.

In my opinion, the play was slick, witty, smart, dark and a very interesting insight into the bowels if the creative industry- I expect the complications they encountered may not be specific to the writers but also relevant to musicians, artists and the like. I feel that the target audience may have been geared more toward young people, especially as the play presses buttons like Hopes and Dreams. With this in mind, I highly recommend seeing this play. I’m glad I did, I loved it. While I think people should see it, I understand that not everyone will necessarily appreciate it.

The character development was very much focused on learning about the motivations and background of each of the four writers, compared with the harsh reality that a veteran writer was presenting. The actors were absolutely fantastic. They played characters who must have been incredibly taxing, for an hour and a half straight. Their characters were powerfully intense, cynical, passionate for their cause, intelligent and very raw with their emotions, as most in the creative industry are. Their portrayals of these characters breathed life into dialogue and gave believability to their stories. For example, as the play opened, I heard the American accents (as the play is set in New York) and I sighed; “my, not another phoney US play” but the actors slipped into the mood, gathered momentum and soon after, we forgot about their accents and we listened to their despair, mourned their heartbreaks and condemned their resourcefulness when yearning to achieve their ambitions. Due credit must be given to Natasha McNamara as dialect coach on this production.

The set was wonderful, the lighting was perfect and the scene changes seamless. I can’t stipulate how difficult it is to produce a play set in the same apartment for the duration of the play and keep the audience involved. They achieved so with a very dialogue heavy script and intense conflicts, so the set became secondary. Nonetheless, the Ensemble never ceases to amaze me in their set design and ability to utilise and maximise space.

 

For more information, please visit: http://ensemble.com.au/whats-on/play/seminar/

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Source: http://ensemble.com.au/whats-on/play/seminar/

http://australianwomenwriters.com

http://australianwomenwriters.com

Nationally, even internationally, there seems to be a bias in the publication and representation of work by women.  In light of this, literary reviewer Elizabeth Lhuede, founded The Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, in order to address the gender imbalance in not only the number of works published, but also the number of works being reviewed. The Challenge identified that the published works by Australian female writers were being under-publicised in comparison to those of men and thus there was a significantly less chance to gaining critical acclaim or readership, if the works weren’t being recognised. With the aid of the ever-dynamic blogosphere, the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) and Radio National Drive, the Challenge, which began in 2012, managed to attract international attention and literary acclaim.

The Australian Women Writer’s Challenge forms an online database for novels by Australian female authors, by cataloguing reviews for them. For female authors, this is an extremely useful resource for its value in publicising works and receiving critical reviews from academics and the like on an international stage. Furthermore, this resource is extremely useful for readers who wish to make themselves accustomed to contemporary Australian literature, as well as contribute to the database of reviews by taking part in the Challenge, if they so choose. Because the Challenge is accessible via multiple interactive cyber-platforms such as Twitter, WordPress.com and email subscriptions, the Challenge to put female writers in the spotlight becomes a collective achievement. In saying so, the calibre of the reviews published may not be necessarily of a reliably high academic standard. Nevertheless, the Challenge has been endorsed by newspapers such as The SMH, Radio National and has been linked with Australia’s forerunner literary prizes; deeming its credibility and authenticity as a resource. In fact, many of the reviews in the Challenge have identified titles long listed for the 2013 Stella and Miles Franklin Awards respectively. This is a great example of convergence in digital media coming to the aid of Australian writing scene.

The Challenge provides a database of works from all genres, the only prescription being a female Australian needs to have written the piece. Therefore, the more experimental or non-traditional genres of speculative fiction, historical fiction, memoir, short stories and such, become more accessible, especially to the digital audience.

Moreover, being nominated as one of the Best Australian Blogs and being endorsed by reliable sources (mentioned above) as a database, elevates this initiative above other online resources for writers. For example, the database Wattpad.com is a collective, international bank of unpublished works. While the purpose may be different (to publicise unpublished stories rather than publicise/review existing published novels), the aim remains the same; that is to raise the awareness of talented authors who haven’t been acknowledged for whatever reason. The Challenge is more useful as a resource because it provides access to literary awards, quality reviews and novels, provides information on the diversity of Australian writing and attempts to confront Australia’s history of sporting a gender imbalance in the recognition of Australian writing. More importantly, this database is an online resource which supports the Australian writing scene, helping to nurture existing contributors and inform those who wish to use it for  further study.

Jonno Zilber’s Winter Blues

Jonno Zilber’s Winter Blues

 

My goodness, this album really slows down the pace. It’s so, light, so airy and such a great showcase of talented musicians. This calm, even lethargic album has a lovely blues-swing vibe to it. Interestingly, the album was recorded live at 1am for blues dancers and each song is the same slow tempo, because, well because we all know how irritating it can be to dance at length, but have different tunes blare different tempos. This album boasts no sporadic outbursts, each of the 11 songs is (relatively) the same slow pace and I can testify (from personal experience), that while this may seem monotonous, it really creates a mood, sets it, lets the mood marinate a little, then soothes the soul.

It sounds like a dark jazz bar, with a multi-coloured cocktails and smooth timber floors and low ceilings. The music seems to work its way from your hips, up through your torso and wiggles out your shoulders, especially the tune, “Never Hear The Words I Sing”. While Zilber’s own voice is perfect for the genre, perfect for the music, I feel that all the attention in this album goes to the exquisite clarinet and baritone saxophone. When the clarinet comes out, you can just close your eyes to look over the moonlit rooftops of Paris, or not, maybe you see a tall tan lady in a deep red halter-neck, her lightly tousled hair falling down past her shoulders as she sways to her sultry dance.

Or not. Maybe my imagination getting out of hand. Nonetheless, this album is less about the lyrics and more about the sensual swinging sass that is slow blues. So in a sense, it’s ability to give me mental images of slow-dancing night clubs means that the album is doing its job. The guitar is slow and the whole album is a pleasure to listen to. Take for example, “I Cry Alone”- the guitar in this song sort of borderlines jazz-blues. It is in the stunning simplicity of this song- one voice, one guitar, that the musicianship really shows. They understand the dynamics of song, or voice, of tempo, of volume, that all of these components become second-nature and the tune takes on a life of itself. It’s really great to hear tunes like this up against songs like “Winter Blues” with their heavy saxophone and sensuous swing. This album is wonderful.

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SOurce: http://www.jonnozilber.com/

Jonno Zilber’s Winter Blues

Jonno Zilber’s Winter Blues

 

My goodness, this album really slows down the pace. It’s so, light, so airy and such a great showcase of talented musicians. This calm, even lethargic album has a lovely blues-swing vibe to it. Interestingly, the album was recorded live at 1am for blues dancers and each song is the same slow tempo, because, well because we all know how irritating it can be to dance at length, but have different tunes blare different tempos. This album boasts no sporadic outbursts, each of the 11 songs is (relatively) the same slow pace and I can testify (from personal experience), that while this may seem monotonous, it really creates a mood, sets it, lets the mood marinate a little, then soothes the soul.

It sounds like a dark jazz bar, with a multi-coloured cocktails and smooth timber floors and low ceilings. The music seems to work its way from your hips, up through your torso and wiggles out your shoulders, especially the tune, “Never Hear The Words I Sing”. While Zilber’s own voice is perfect for the genre, perfect for the music, I feel that all the attention in this album goes to the exquisite clarinet and baritone saxophone. When the clarinet comes out, you can just close your eyes to look over the moonlit rooftops of Paris, or not, maybe you see a tall tan lady in a deep red halter-neck, her lightly tousled hair falling down past her shoulders as she sways to her sultry dance.

Or not. Maybe my imagination getting out of hand. Nonetheless, this album is less about the lyrics and more about the sensual swinging sass that is slow blues. So in a sense, it’s ability to give me mental images of slow-dancing night clubs means that the album is doing its job. The guitar is slow and the whole album is a pleasure to listen to. Take for example, “I Cry Alone”- the guitar in this song sort of borderlines jazz-blues. It is in the stunning simplicity of this song- one voice, one guitar, that the musicianship really shows. They understand the dynamics of song, or voice, of tempo, of volume, that all of these components become second-nature and the tune takes on a life of itself. It’s really great to hear tunes like this up against songs like “Winter Blues” with their heavy saxophone and sensuous swing. This album is wonderful.

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SOurce: http://www.jonnozilber.com/

Chicken Walk’s album Shakedown

Chris Russell’s Chicken Walk

 

I’m not going to lie. I’m not really a fan of metal or rock or anything “hard-core”, I’m more of an indie-folk, flowers-in-your-hair and glitter-on-your-eyelashes kind of lady. However, I love a good guitar riff and the opening guitar riff from the opening song, “(Somebody Call The) Po’ Po’” on Chicken Walk’s Shakedown album, is so great, so addictive, such a catchy beat and so worthy of my head-bopping. In fact, all their songs start with a strong guitar beat. This hard-core southern blues album is gritty and it’s earthy and it’s just a good solid sound. The duo, Chris Russell (on guitar and vocals) and drummer Dean Muller sound like legends who just take life in their stride and maybe the music is just something they play with on the side- it’s that effortless. “Pretty Little Girl” has a traditional sound, the kind where you begin to think that talent with the guitar is just second nature. They seem to sing to get the words across, but that’s not the focus, oh no. The main attraction in Chicken Walk is their uncanny ability to play great, real music with a guitar and a drum set. None of this auto-tune business, this album permeates with a warm summer air, with golden flecks of dust softly carried by the wind.

I was shocked to find that these guys are from St Kilda and not some true-blue southern American state. This album is rich and it’s full and the sounds of “hard-luck balladeering” give the album a unique, no-joke seriousness. Since its release in late July, 2013, the band have been glorified as having a real, human sound and, I don’t contest that at all. Their tunes are catchy and I just want to play these as the soundtrack to a summer roadtrip or rather.  They’ve got a talent in holding interest, even in the mid-song riffs, because their professional execution lets you feel like your ears are resting in good hands. They don’t over-do the guitar solos, like some other bands and, they seem to understand the placement, the need even, for changes in tempo and volume. Great album for head-bopping.

 

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Source:https://corner.ticketscout.com.au/gigs/1512-chris-russells-chicken-walk—matinee

Ali Penney and The Money Makers

Ali Penney and The Money Makers; “And On It Goes”

 

Ali Penney and The Money Makers’ album And On It Goes is a lively soul-jazzy album that makes you just wanna dance.

While the band has a traditional jazz-soul sound, a truly wonderful and refreshing sound in its rustic and powerfully raw blare, I feel that Ali Penney’s role as leader of The Money Makers, is just like that of Stevie Nicks in Fleetwood Mac. The band is fantastic, but it’s her voice which takes the gold. Controlled and husky, Penney tells tales of emotion, whispers in your ear, then unleashes the roar of a lion. Supported by the solid soul sound of The Money Makers, some critics have described Penney’s voice as having an ‘honest vulnerability’. Listening to “Mother’s Love,” I agree to some extent; there is a deep honesty in her voice, but there’s no vulnerability- only that she sounds as though she’s singing to herself, or singing for herself and that exudes a purity of emotion.

When she’s not being emotionally taxing in her simple jazz-piano songs, Ali Penney and her Money Makers sing upbeat jazzy songs like “And On It Goes” and “Devil On My Back” which made me want to wiggle in my seat. It’s the kind of music you could have playing in the back of a vinyl record store, or in a vintage café. Their sound is smooth, but not silken, they’ve rough edge, a grounded earthy sound. Penney’s piano scales are flawless, like “an 80 year old black guy- she’s got losta soul” according to Freddy King’s right-hand-man, guitarist Andrew ‘Junior Boy’ Jones.  In her personal career, she has played for and supported some soul-jazz greats, from Australia to New Orleans. And On It Goes is an album by Ali Penney and The Money Makers which shows a great variety of music and a versatility in the band and genre. It is a testament to the high calibre of singer-songwriting and a pleasure to listen to.

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Source: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kiama-Jazz-Blues/136424523070726

Alanna and Alicia’s “Twinlines”

Alanna and Alicia’s album; “Twinlines”

 

The release of Twinlines in March earlier this year, is a part of the ever-growing career of the band Alanna and Alicia. Since their debut album in 2006, the original singer-songwriters have attended countless folk and jazz festivals and their songwriting has received considerable recognition, winning awards at several national festivals. Twinlines is no exception and stands testament to their professionalism and creative flair as a unit. When I listened to their album in play-order, I was in fact amazed by their versatility and breadth of talent. While the opening song, “Sister Blister” is a light, whimsical, comedic piece, the songs that follow are smooth jazz, a professional smooth jazz. The album really sounds like a mix of what they know they are great at and, what they find fun and amusing; one is because they can, the other is because they want to. I have no issue with this, both approaches illuminate with passion and exude talent- it’s evident that the ladies really love what they do.

Their third album, Twinlines, features twelve original songs which showcase their incredible versatility across genres. In my opinion, their voices are strong, sultry and smooth, just as a jazz voice should be and, the fact that they are identical twins with identical voices, helps create some of the most subtle harmonies, with brilliance like liquid gold. In this particular element, they have voices that sound a bit like Zooey Deschanel and Grace Knight. When singing folk-jazz, like “The Waltz of the Last Lover” and “Fly Like a Bird”, their voices become nothing but silken smoothness, feathery whispers, then waves of loud laughter, in a sing-song fashion. I prefer these essential jazz-blues songs, rather than some of their other original tunes like “Sister Blister” and “Double Trouble”. Songs like these are riddled with humour in a comedy-cabaret setting and they really highlight the twins’ personalities. They have a very great skill in being able to articulate and tell a story through their lyrics, and the sound of the band is wonderfully complimentary to their voices. I love the purity of their voices and I think that the tunes where they simply sing with perhaps, one accompaniment, are the songs which are able to create feeling, to generate a connection with their audience. Just as their voices can be deep and jazz-like, so too can their connection to the audience be deep. They have such wonderful stand-alone voices.

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Source: http://thethornburytheatre.com/event/alanna-alicia-album-launch-w-pugsley-buzzard-carolina-cordeiro-leni-philippe-janon/