Topology, Big Decisions

John Schaefer

By John Schaefer

on 04.04.12 in Reviews

Topology has established itself as a major player on the Australian new music scene, often specializing in minimalist and post-minimalist works. Several of the group’s members are also composers, and have clearly absorbed the musical language of Steve Reich and Michael Nyman (both of whose works they’ve performed elsewhere). The standout piece on this 2009 disc is bassist Robert Davidson’s “The Whitlam Dismissal,” a seven-part suite based on the 1976 dismissal of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam by the Australian Governor General, John Kerr. This event plunged Australia into the greatest constitutional crisis in its history, and the actual voices of the major players are woven into the fabric of the music — much in the way that Steve Reich, in works like “Different Trains,” used spoken voices to suggest melodic and rhythmic motifs. Even for listeners with no knowledge of Aussie history, the first movement (careful, it’s in two parts, tracks 3 and 4) is a delightful musical romp, as the deposed Prime Minister finds himself waltzing, literally, through his country’s darkest political hour.

A delightful musical romp through Australia’s darkest political hour

Good humor pokes its way through the sounds of contributions by sax player John Babbage (the short, snappy opener, “Chop Chop”) and violist Bernard Hoey, whose “I Am Petrified” riffs on Queen’s ubiquitous chant “We Will Rock You” (“petrified” literally meaning “turned to stone” — get it?). On a more serious note, “Paramell VI,” an incisive, relentless bit of early post-minimal music by American composer Stephen Montague, makes a welcome return to availability after an earlier recording (by the Philadelphia group Relache) had long been out of print.