I caught the second AFUM (Adelaide Festival of Unpopular Music) show on a warm sunny afternoon at the Gallery Delacatessen. David Kotlowy is a widely respected musician who specialises in playing ruined pianos and ruminating on concepts of transformation and decay. A strong Japanese aesthetic informs his approach to performance as well, and this was evident this afternoon’s set which comprised of four pieces. The first piece was an adaptation of a traditional work for solo shakuhachi, Kotlowy’s technique was very formal (kneeling on the stage/long silences) and the Deli space provided an adequate acoustic response for the subtle gestures and details of the piece. As the first piece drew to a close, Steven Kotlowy joined on bowed metallophone, drawing tones over in unison and response to David’s long shakuhachi tones. This process segued into the second piece as Steven joined on a second mettallophone in a controlled, albeit improvisatory manner – again, playing in unison and response, often sending highly sustained and resonant tones arcing across the performance space. As Steven continued to play, David slowly moved over to a prepared electric guitar with its signal routed through two loop stations, using an Ebow to resonate the doctored intonation of the guitar. Continuous metallic tones layered over each other as dancer Ade Suharto started to elegantly move near the entrance of the space, seemingly tracing and mapping her restrained movements against the psuedo-circuitry graphic details that adorn the walls of the Deli space. Eventually Ade slipped out of vision, and David began ‘playing’ the ruined piano to the right of the stage. The piano looked absolutely ravaged and on the point of near collapse as David plucked strings, creaked the fragile frame and pounded the lower register of the keyboard – often eliciting dissonant, rusty tone clusters which resonated the body of the piano. The performance drew to a close as David’s animated actions became fewer and more restrained, a recording of solo shakuhachi played faintly over speakers and the last of the strings rang out.
In his introduction David spoke about the concept of the performance revolving around ideas associated with transformation and cloud formations – ever changing, in a state of flux, shifting form and states. The overall performance definitely had this feeling of transformation, as each of the piece transitioned as a natural development of the previous one, gradual becoming more structually, harmonically and visually complex. I thought it was a wonderful encapsulation of these ideas, and an equally enjoyable way to spend a relaxed Sunday afternoon.