Music For Other Worlds

Adelaide Festival

Adelaide Town Hall

15 March


The concept is simple enough. Against a backdrop of superb photographs taken by Alex Frayne, piano master Paul Grabowsky would translate his impressions of the photos into spontaneous improvisation. Execution is, of course, a completely different matter.

Firstly, the photographic subjects and their presentation. A large horizontal screen above Grabowsky, flanked on either side by two vertical screens displayed three variations on themes that changed intermittently. Very effective. The Claypan’s church, and later subjects included dry, hot images, a very pretty creek and outback roads. Tellingly, there was only one action sequence, a girl on a swing.

After gaining an impression from the images, Grabowsky set about to convert those impressions into improvisations through the piano. To be able to do so and produce melodic music that reflected the photos is proof of great skill. Grabowsky has that in spades. In opening the church sequence, for example, there were hints of hymns. For the heat, he delved into the piano itself to extract sounds that reflected the dissonance of the conditions.

As noted above, however, there was only one set of photographs that involved any movement. The remainder were virtually static, even in the final beach sequence the only persons were motionless. This presented Grabowsky with a challenge how to add variety and dynamics to the presentation. He could have so easily played a series of slow improvisations which would have accurately portrayed the emotion emanating from the photos. But this would have led to a concert without variation and thus interest.  The girl on a swing presented no difficulty. To achieve this balance Grabowsky had to rely on his class as an improvisor and for the most part he certainly succeeded.

Michael Prescott

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