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Artist Profile: Matthias Schack-Arnott

By Next Wave / 5 May

Melbourne-based percussionist Matthias Schack-Arnott works in the realms of contemporary classical performance, hybrid art and experimental improvisation. After a stellar 2012 Next Wave Festival show (Chrysalis) Matthias is back – this time with a gigantic percussion instrument in tow for his Festival project Fluvial.

Ahead of the show, Matthias sat down with music critic Matthew Lorenzon to talk about the project.

Matthew Lorenzon: I’m speaking with Matthias Schack-Arnott about Fluvial, his upcoming installation performance at the North Melbourne Town Hall.

ML: What are people going to see when they first walk into the rehearsal room at the North Melbourne Town Hall?

Matthias Schack-Arnott: Basically, the focus of the work is a metre-long percussive instrument/installation that I’ve been creating. It consists of lines of black granite, which is the hardest stone you can purchase, aluminium panels, and glass suspended from the ceiling. I’m trying to create textures—these teaming masses—that kind of take on a liquid fluid quality.

Water is dispersed in this set up so that the metal and these very solid materials sort of disintegrate into water through the course of this eight-minute long instrument into these pools of water. When you play an instrument and dip it in water it changes the pitch, it changes the timbre, it changes the resonance. It’s a recurring theme and sort of underlies these ideas of instability and transmutation and change, which happens through the course of the work.

ML: I imagine that once it gets going the sound is going to be absolutely deafening, would that be right?

MSA: It’s definitely going to explore the absolute extremes of volume and frequency. One of the types of wind chimes we’ve been creating are these really tiny, miniatures that are actually made from the pins inside grand pianos that are used to tune the strings. They create such high pitches that you can almost not hear them. But—yes—it is at times very noisy and complex, while at others it’s sort of exploring space and resonance much more.

ML: As well as being known for your installations you’re also an incredibly adept improviser and also an incredibly adept classical performer. How are you going to bring those skills into this installation?

MSA: Being classically trained means that I have an almost orchestral technique, which allows me to execute quite precise and nuanced musical ideas – which is a really nice in combination with—you know—21 wind chimes and extravagant percussive installations. It’s a nice contrast of aesthetics.

ML: But even the most traditional percussionists are no stranger to making their own instruments. Isn’t this right?

MSA: Yeah, it sort of comes with the profession.

ML:  So much so that you knew the exact proportions to make these metal poles. Isn’t that right?

MSA: Yeah, exactly. Tuning bell plates and bells and tubes and panels, basically taking any object and thinking about it as a potentially musical sounding object is very normal for us…It’s a great starting point for making new and wonderful things.

ML: What do you expect people to say about this work?

MSA: I hope that they are happy to go on a journey. It is quite – at times – unrelenting and overwhelming I think sonically. But I think there’s something in there that is hopefully meaningful for people. It certainly is for me.

This is a transcript of an interview that first appeared on our 2014 Next Wave Festival app. Download it here

Image: Jesse Hunniford

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