'Play On Series Six: Review' / Margarita Bassova
The musicians of Melbourne are no stranger to taking creative risks in the name of revitalising the live music experience. Play On Music is an example of such a feat, having efficaciously curated Five Series of Classical-Electronic music concerts, featuring some of Australia’s most established and promising artists. While the unconventional pairing may at first appear baffling, Play On events prove that the genres can not only coexist, but that there are also unwavering similarities between the two. Both genres, for example, take the audience through emotional rollercoasters, from the tension in classical music developed by polyrhythms and crescendos to the anticipated drops of electronic music. Play On, by creating this event, also shatters the preconceived social exclusivity barriers that guard the music genres. Evidently, classical music is often associated with the elitist high class, while electronic boasts exclusivity based on trend or style. Play On successfully introduces new, diverse crowds to both genres, providing an all-inclusive environment with the pairing forming intergenerational gaps between music-lovers.
This March, Play On has returned to the depths of Collingwood Underground Carpark with Series Six. Volume I, on March 8th, featured violinist Kyla Matsuura-Miller with her quartet including Cameron Jamieson on violin, Henry Justo on viola and Steph Arnold on Cello, followed by DJ Babicka ending the night dancing. The experience began immediately upon entering the venue, whereby the underground lair met attendees with mild red lights and lit candles planted around the venue provided an ambient atmosphere seeded with anticipation. All elements came together to produce a night as emotionally captivating as bounce-n-groove worthy.
Matsuura-Miller and her quartet performed first, beginning with Steve Reich’s ‘Different Trains’. The solemn meditation on the pain of the Holocaust was masterfully performed by the quartet, who evoked the suffering through their silent chemistry and mutual glances. While the composition is not as brutal as Masao Ohki’s Symphony No. 5 “Hiroshima”, the recorded speech and painful screeches complemented by harsh lighting reflected upon how things could have been different for Reich had he grown up in Europe instead of the United States. Undoubtedly, many audience members likewise considered the privilege bestowed upon them by luck of their birth-country. The end of the piece was met with hesitant laughter from the audience, who were eager to be released from the tension of the music. The quartet then proceeded to transport the audience to the 12th century with selected works by the great female composer Hildegard Von Bingen; a perfect choice to celebrate the fantastic females in history on International Women’s Day. Von Bingen’s spiritual music language transformed the underground carpark into a transcendental meditative arena as the audience closed their eyes and let the drone-like experience encapsulate them entirely.
After the several shifts in mood buoyed by Matsuura-Miller and her quartet, DJ Babicka assumed his place behind the decks to charm the audience with electronic groove. Having played in the likes of Berghain’s Panorama Bar and acclaimed Australian venues, Babicka used his developed knowledge to entice the crowd for a wicked boogie. As it was great to see youth in Nike spray jackets watch the captivating sounds of Matsuura-Miller and her quartet, it was as exciting to watch older music-lovers in formal attire dance to the rhythms and beats of techno.
Undoubtedly, Volume 1 of Play On Series Six left the reverberating impression that all types of music can be for enjoyed by any person reinforced by the event’s ability to unite diverse crowds in an unconventional and exciting manner. There are still two more volumes this March to experience for yourself:
- March 15th: Thea Rossen + Ad Lib Collective ft Ben Opie and DJ Sleep D. The groups will join each other for a live improvised collaboration.
- March 22nd: Mindy Meng Wang and DJ Adriana.
It would be amiss to not experience the musical ebb and flow that is Play On Music.
Photography by Walter Mather