Moving the Blog

After thinking about the blogging process I’ve decided to move the blog to a Wordpress blog so that it can all be a bit more Web 2.0.

You can now read my blog at http://continuumsax.wordpress.com

A Retreat to Bundanon

Creating new work and collaborating with diverse musicians is one of the most exciting parts of being a part of Continuum Sax. Just after Easter, Martin Nick and I joined Margery Smith, Vanessa Tomlinson and Erik Griswold at the Bundanon artist retreat on the Shoalhaven River near Nowra. We were there to begin working on the project that we are doing in October in Brisbane (Wed 19th) and at Campbelltown (Sat 22nd). Perhaps the most important parts of such a collaboration are getting to know your co-conspirators and exploring the artistic terrain that will be explored. Bundanon was the perfect spot for both of these tasks.

Bundanon was the home of the artist Arthur Boyd and was left in trust to the Australian people in the 1990s. The old homestead sits in a grove of Bunyah Pines and other trees surrounded by farmland and the Shoalhaven river on one side and the dense bush escarpment on the other. As well as farm animals the native animals are everywhere, kangaroos, wallabies, birds of all kinds and especially wombats. The homestead is now a museum of works that remain in the Boyd estate and is open to the public on Sundays.

Resident artists stay a few hundred meters from the homestead in apartments and studios. One cottage, set away from the others is called the Musicians’ Studio and we also used the Writers Studio and two others. We shared the studios with the wombats who had created their homes underneath the buildings: they weren’t always quiet neighbours either, as Marge found out, being woken in the night by eerie wombat noises from beneath her studio.

Musically we spent the days working through ideas, improvising and practising. It was refreshing to be away from the pressures of home and work life, if only for a brief time. The luxury of working at our own pace and in such an idyllic space was not lost on us. We are very grateful to the Bundanon Trust for hosting us for our residency and hope that we’ll all one day be able to stay there again on another project.

Follow this link to see a few photos of our time at Bundanon.

Continuum Sax: something of a personal history

At the start of 2011, Jarrod announced to us that he was stepping down from Continuum Sax. This was something of a sad moment for me in particular as I’d been performing with Jarrod since I met him in 1989 and I’ve got to say that it feels kind of strange to be continuing the musical journey without him. What began as a bit of fun on band tour became the Senarius saxophone quartet, and, after being finalists in a big television competition in 1995 (ABC Television’s Quest 95) we toured to the UK to perform at the British Saxophone Congress and then did some concerts in Holland with the one and only Niels Bijl and his group, Helikon Saxophon Kwaartet (saxophonists will know Niels as alto saxophonist of the Aurelia Saxophone Quartet). While Senarius SQ didn’t last the distance, it was great to reacquaint myself with Jarrod in Continuum Sax, which I joined in around about 1999 or 2000. I’m a bit vague on the year, though I do remember the first concert I did with them was a Sunday Live performance for ABC Classic FM at Newcastle Conservatorium of Music. We played the Dubois Quartet, Russell Peck’s Drastic Measures and Thierry Escaich’s Tango Virtuoso. None of which we ever played again.

Throughout the next ten years the projects in which Continuum Sax were involved gradually became more elaborate and definitely more challenging artistically. Where repertoire like Drastic Measures posed some technical challenges, we all found that we enjoyed much more working on pieces like the Henri Pousseur Vue sur la jardin interdits and gave Australian premieres of pieces like Donatoni’s Rasch, Dmitri Smirnov’s Fantasia and Elena Firsova’s Far Away. Something about Far Away resonates so strongly with us as Australian musicians. We are, geographically, at a great distance from the centres of the saxophone world and the space that the textures of Firsova’s work evokes is so similar to the sense of landscape that all Australians seem to hold in their hearts. Alongside Margery Smith’s composition Tundra, Far Away became something of a touchstone for what we were all on about.

Alongside exploring challenging international repertoire, the relationships we had with Australia’s composition community has led to so many great pieces being written for us. I hope that Jarrod treasures as much as I do the time we all spent working with composers, particularly when the process led to the creation of works that we were really proud to play, such as Stuart Greenbaum’s Five of One, Half a Dozen of the Other, and Paul Stanhope’s Ockham’s Razor.

In an interesting quirk of history, Jarrod’s time with Continuum Sax ended with the recording sessions for Matthew Hindson’s Videogame Dreaming. This work is based on Matthew’s Five Movements for saxophone quartet that he wrote in 1996 for the Senarius saxophone quartet. When Matthew wrote this piece for Senarius SQ he was well known as an up and coming composer and working with him then it was no wonder that he’s done so well for himself since. When Matthew came back to the saxophone quartet he took the best three movements and revised them to become Videogame Dreaming. The new version was premiered by the SCM saxophone quartet in Shanghai in 2010 and later that year Matthew asked Continuum to perform it for some Musica Viva Australian Music Days events. Then an opportunity to record the work came up at the end of 2010 with Matthew as producer we jumped at the chance. I’ll write a longer performance analysis of the work when the recording is released later this year.

While Jarrod can never be replaced in any ensemble, Nicholas Russoniello has joined us for this year (and hopefully beyond) and we’ve been having a great time working with him over the last couple of months.

Anyway to sign off for this entry, I’d like to again acknowledge that working with Jarrod has always been a pleasure and that I wish him all the very best success for the future. Knowing Jarrod, I have no doubt that he will be valued wherever he is and whatever he puts his energy into. I treasure all the memories of music making with him and hope that he achieves everything that he wishes to in the years to come. Bravo and see you around, Jarrod!

Starting the CSAXBlog

Hi, it's Jim Nightingale here starting up a blog on Continuum Sax and the things we do. It might seem strange, but the first blog will be to write about our activities in 2010. We gave World Premier performances of works by Rosalind Page, Robert Davidson, Katia Beaugeais, and Martin Kay (Martin's pieces have just gone up on our site for you to have a listen to–you can also check out Martin's recent jazz recordings at www.kayoz.net). We recorded a huge range of new repertoire including new works by Julian Curwin and Damien Ricketson.

Working in Continuum Sax is about diversity. There is a huge contrast between Julian and Damien's work, for example. Julian is a jazz guitarist and composer who plays with in Tango Saloon and the Fantastic Terrific Munkle (amongst many other bands)- which you can find on the Jazzgroove Label. Damien is a composer who is artistic director of Ensemble Offspring, a new music ensemble based in Sydney. Couldn't be more different really but Continuum Sax can bring these kinds of things together in the one place.

Throughout 2010 Continuum Sax have been adjusting to a new direction with Christina Leonard joining the group. It's so important to respect and enjoy working with the other musicians in a chamber ensemble. We all get on really well which makes the whole endeavour really satisfying.

Check out the blog again in 2011 when we've got new collaborations with Sydney Chamber Choir, Clocked Out and the release of our recording of Matthew Hindson's Videogame Dreaming (maybe in March?).

Finally a big thanks to Barry at Reedmusic.com for hosting our website. His support of us is inestimable and I encourage all readers to have a look at the reedmusic site. There is a lot of Continuum Sax there to hear in samples and a lot of pieces written for us have been published by Reedmusic.com