A musical and visual trip on the wire Reply

by Siqi Yuan

Briana Cowlishaw band members Nic Cecire (drums) and Gavin Ahearn (piano): beautiful, visual, improvised jazz

Briana Cowlishaw band members Nic Cecire (drums) and Gavin Ahearn (piano): beautiful, visual, improvised jazz

It is no surprise that a gorgeous voice should belong to such an elegant woman. The singer Briana Cowlishaw sat down in the middle of the stage, sang a song  with few lyrics, and lost herself in the jazz.

Brianna’s performance was a part of The Wires Project, a co-operative work between four musicians, a videographer and a photographer, the purpose being to develop a connection between Asia and Australia. The overarching theme of the project was to explore the complex interaction between Australian and Asian world-views and perspectives.

The Wires Project was a part of the Sydney Fridge Festival at Glebe Cafe Church Space in September.

The videos and images used in The Wires Project showed the sky, birds, and buildings through the power wires. Simply, the concept intended to represent the way Asians communicate with people. And the reasoning? That people in Asia sometimes see themselves as not being pretty, not needed, and so have a problem of communicating with people. This project aimed to encourage and help, to examine the conflict between beauty and chaos as well as reflect on humanity.

“The wires are used as a symbol for the way the different cultures interact, how the Asian culture and Australian culture communicate, what similarities and differences there are in our cultures,” Briana said.

The project allowed Briana and her band to work with Asian artists. They have been working with the Singaporean photographer Chia Ming Chien for two years. He had a photographic exhibition, The Wires, about millions of electrical wires in Asia. The videographer incorporated the photographs from Ming ‘s exhibition and Briana’s music into the videos.

As well, the project looked at the relationship between music and visual art. Two years ago, pianist Gavin Ahearn got the idea of working with video, stills camera and musicians. The band sought to unravel and discuss how visual art, like photographs or video, combine with sounds. The Wires Project also sought to unravel this interaction through an exposition of the conflicts and congruities inherent when visual art and music were combined.

Briana and her band considered this project as an important part of a learning experience. They plan on going to Asia in November for the third time to learn how the Asian culture works with musicians, as well as connecting with Asian musicians, and inviting a Malaysian musician to join the band.

Briana and the band posted the photographs of Ming’s exhibition on a screen. During the performing, the audience could not only enjoy the beautiful jazz, but also the images that represented musical themes. The result was a beautiful, visual, improvised jazz show.

As Briana said, they did not plan anything before the show, and they did not know what they were going to show the audience. It was all “made up”. Sometimes they even asked the audience what they wanted to hear.

All the songs had few lyrics; instead, they creatively mocked electronic sounds, such as Aeolian bells, and grating of paper.

“The electronic sounds are very simple, but beautiful. With this program and technology, you have the ability to ‘play’ with the sounds, as well as express the emotions and music stories,” Briana said.

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