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Helen Bower

Review by Brandon Taylor

A naked stage, a thoughtful artist, a solo violin performance and a few gadgets allowing sound to be recorded, looped and layered over itself. These are the sole components of Lost in the Looping Glass, but they are used to create something more – an exploration of time, echoes and atmospheres that tempts one to follow it into a place between them all.

Violinist and performer Helen Bower has been experimenting with looping technology for two years – a venture that has led her to embellish a series of soundscapes in collaboration with composer Charles MacInnes and build them from scratch in front of the audience each time they are performed.

The show begins with a darkened stage. The lights flick on to reveal Bower curled up in a ball next to a lone violin. She quietly unfurls, picks up the instrument and approaches a blinking array of foot pedals before her. Reaching out with her bare feet, she begins with birdlike precision to tap a series of buttons on the pedals. She then lifts the violin, raises her bow, rests it on the violin strings, and waits.

Only after a moment is the complete silence broken, and only by a single note drawn carefully from the instrument. The note is recorded, looped and sustained. Bower then begins to add harmonic tones over the top of it, and the sound grows. Then come textures. String plucks, tappings on the wood of the violin and isolated short notes. As more and more are layered, repeating, a rhythm becomes evident, and then a melody, and finally an entire landscape – in this case a lonesome and expansive chord like a night sky, peppered with plucked starlight and wandering thought-like tunes.

That’s Max Perryment’s Four Miniature Loop Compositions for Violin. Three more pieces are performed – They’ve all been developed and reworked from their original forms by Bower and MacInnes for this act. Grace Huie RobbinsLandscapes calls to mind discordant storms and sighing birds, MacInnes’ Wall Fragments makes pickaxes of plucked strings, and Ade Vincent’s The Clockwork Owls creates something different again.

Though their characters differ widely, the pattern of silence, build up and eventual realisation of a theme is what Lost in the Looping Glass is all about.

When: 28th – 30th January 2016 (6pm)

Where: Four5nine Bar

Tickets: From $20

Info: Duration 40mins, suitable 18+

Link: http://www.fringeworld.com.au/program/event/ebdf54f9-a073-426b-862a-36b57746ef43/