Sean Carpio, Simon Jermyn and Joachim Badenhorst
Sean Carpio’s front room
14 September 2006
It was the first evening of three on which drummer Sean Carpio and a varying selection of musical accomplices were due to play in his flat as part of the Drama Festival Fringe. There’s an element of theatre to any musical performance, no matter how austere, but in this case there was a little suspense as well – for those of us who didn’t know where Carpio lived. The first few arrivals at the corner of Waterloo and Upper Leeson looked at each other a little uncertainly – was this someone who happened to be standing on the street corner or another seeker after music? Before the event had begun at all, audience interaction was the order of the evening.
Soon enough the main man had arrived and was leading us to the venue. This proved to be a groundfloor flat – two rooms becoming one when the dividing door was folded out of the way. The living-room (with sofa, chairs, floor) was ours; the other room was set up for the musicians. A second wave of arrivals and then a few individuals squeezed aboard and soon we were off.
The music-at-home format does not lend itself to meticulous reviewing – you don’t usually take notes when visiting someone’s house. A little impressionistically then… that evening, Carpio was joined by Simon Jermyn on guitar and by Joachim Badenhorst on saxophones and clarinets. We started with a piece by Jermyn – centred on a motif that was like a repeated promise; the promise was delivered on in a briefer more dynamic and involved phase that faded gently towards silence. Compositions by Badenhorst and Carpio – run together but passing through distinct phases – took us up to the interval. The playing was restrained but quite satisfying. Both Jermyn and Badenhorst showed familiarity with sonic and textural exploration that might be classed more as improv than as jazz, but they were equally comfortable in elaborating clearly defined structures and rhythms. Carpio’s brushwork was discreetly effective, whether he was applying extra colour to his companions’ work or nudging them towards greater expressivity.
Another Carpio composition, with driving rhythm and punchy playing from all three players, got the second half off to a flying start. This drew yelps of approval and the loudest applause of the evening. With the musicians appearing more confident and at ease with each other, a composition apiece from Badenhorst and Jermyn rounded off the evening.
In recent years, we have had theatrical performances in cars, public toilets and other venues, while disused buildings have hosted art installations. As time goes on we may expect more musicians to work in unconventional formats and spaces, to integrate the surfaces and objects offered by the space into the process of creation, and to play around with the performer/audience relationship.
This area was recently explored in the French magazine Revue et Corrigée. An example would be a percussionist invited to perform in someone’s kitchen and using only the window, table and whatever other objects and implements are present. Carpio’s triple experiment (with vocalist/guitarist Rebecca Collins and guitarist/drummer Mikkel Peterson performing on the other two nights), in association with the Project Arts Centre, involved a conventional music format transferred to a private space. On its own terms, it was successful and enjoyable. It may also be a sign of things to come.
Published on 1 November 2006
Barra Ó Séaghdha is a writer on cultural politics, literature and music and was previously co-editor of Graph cultural review