About Topology, the artists, and the album:
Topology is now established as a leading ensemble in contemporary art music, acclaimed internationally by leading figures in the field (including Michael Nyman, Steve Reich, Ross Edwards, John Adams, Terry Riley and many others). They have also worked with a wide spectrum of artists from many genres.
In 2006 Topology recorded a live album with minimalist legend Terry Riley, following sessions at his Californian home in 2003. This follows a successful year of collaborative performances with singers Kate Miller-Heidke and Tyrone Noonan (george), pop group Full Fathom Five and new-jazz trio Misinterprotato.
Topology has presented major performances of leading composers, including a five-concert series of music by Steve Reich in 2004, and a marathon concert of John Adams’ music in 2005. They have commissioned new work from composers around Australia and internationally.
The quintet’s energetic, full-blooded sound belies their compact instrumentation. Since forming in 1996, Topology has built a solid audience, and regularly performs to full houses in Brisbane and around Australia. In 2003, they completed their first international tour, with successful concerts in Canada and creative work with composers Terry Riley and Paul Dresher. In 2007, they toured Indonesia for the first time and have established contacts for a collaboration and tour in 2008. They have been featured in many festivals, including Brisbane Festival, Queensland Music Festival, Sydney Spring (where they won the Best Ensemble award) and many others.
Topology was awarded the APRA/AMC Outstanding contribution by an organisaiton for its 2008 Brisbane Powerhouse series. As resident ensemble at the Brisbane Powerhouse since 2008, Topology continually develops new work.
About the Artists
Robert Davidson is currently a lecturer in Composition at the University of Queensland. Davidson studied composition with Terry Riley in California and New York, and completed a PhD in composition at the University of Queensland. He previously studied South Indian vocal music in Kerala, India. He was a bassist in the Australian Opera, Sydney Symphony, and Queensland Symphony orchestras before working as a freelance computer programmer. Davidson formed Topology with its four other principals in 1996 and has played at numerous festivals and venues around the world. Davidson’s compositions are regularly performed, recorded and broadcast around the world. All of Australia’s professional orchestras and many leading soloists and ensembles have commissioned and performed his works.
Robert is currently undertaking research into the deep links between language and music. He has composed many works around this theme, including voice portraits using recordings of figures including Ghandi, Churchill, Clinton, Whitlam, JFK, Amelia Earhardt and many others.
Christa Powell is a busy freelance musician. When she’s not playing with Topology, she plays a wide range of chamber music, her long-held passion (she won the 4MBS Chamber Music Prize for three years running - 1989-91). She also plays orchestral music with the Queensland Orchestra, and gigs with bands and teaches contemporary violin techniques at the Queensland University of Technology.
Christa studied at the Queensland Conservatorium with Carmel Kaine, obtaining her Master of Music in 1996, and in London with Emmanuael Herwitz of the Melos Ensemble. In London, she played with the Olyver Gypsy ensemble.
John Babbage studied saxophone at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music graduating with a Diploma in Jazz in 1987. During this period he specialized in arranging and composition under the direction of Mike Nock and Clive Moorhead. This lead to many commissions including The Queensland Theatre Company, Brisbane Convention Centre, the Gold Coast Cultural Centre and various television stations.
John has worked extensively around Australia with various groups including the Queensland Orchestra, Tony Hobbs Big Band Theory, the Nasty Saxophone Quartet with Dale Barlow, and Big City (with whom he released an album of his own music). He has been a member of Topology since 1996 and during this time has toured to the USA, Canada and Indonesia, working with many composers including Terry Riley, Michael Nyman, Tim Brady and Jeremy Peyton-Jones. Ensembles and artists include the Kransky Sisters, Kate Miller-Heidke, Southern Cross Soloists, Grant Collins, Loops and Misinterprotato.
John continues to work as a session musician and recording artist for ABC Radio.
Bernard Hoey studied viola at the Queensland Conservatorium (B.Mus 1987) and at Michigan State University (Master of Music 1993) with John Graham and Robert Dan. He studied in summer schools with Kim Kashkashian (Aldeborough), the Alban Berg Quartet and the Kronos Quartet. While in the US, he played with the Arlington Quartet, touring the US and UK.
He was a violist in the Queensland Philharmonic Orchestra from 1994-2000, and is now Associate Principal Violist of the Queensland Orchestra, playing solo parts in works such as the sixth Brandenburg Concerto. He has directed several concerts for the Queensland Philharmonic’s Off the Factory Floor chamber series.
Kylie Davidson (B.Mus., QLD Conservatorium, A. MUS. A.) is an experienced recording artist, accompanist, teacher, chamber ensemble performer and soloist, and has received acclaim internationally and locally as a pianist. Her time with William Corbett Jones in San Francisco has been a major influence on her understanding of piano performance style and ensemble work. Currently her main pianistic role is as ensemble pianist with the band Topology, which has toured interstate Australia, America and Asia playing post-minimalist and post-classical music. Her musical interests include 80's Australian pop, 30's European cabaret, house, techno and the likes of artists such as Bach, Chopin, Debussy, Ravel, Prokoviev, M. Nyman, P. Glass, T. Riley, Neil Finn and Bjork. Weirder gigs include performing as bait-gig backing artist for Savage Garden, and with Vulcana Women's circus, cabaret with Kransky sister Annie Lee, and hard-core minimalist 60's music/performance art.
ALBUM TRACK NOTES
[Part 2 of Difference Engine is the ‘single’ off the CD]
John Babbage, 2001
Near the northern pole of the moon there is a crater named after Charles Babbage. The inventor of the Difference Engine, Babbage (no relation I believe) abhorred street musicians, calculating that they wasted 25% of his working power. He advocated a law to ban these “nuisances”. The result was a regular gathering below his window featuring performances especially for him using damaged instruments.
He gathered data relentlessly, believing “the preservation of any fact might ultimately be useful.” He would stop to measure the heartbeat of a pig or affix a numerical value to the breath of a calf. Referred to as “the first computer”, the cumbersome Difference Engine was never built by Babbage, despite over £17,000 in grants over twenty years from 1822. Prime Minister Robert Peel advised Babbage to use his machine to calculate when it would start to be useful.
This composition is based on space between notes (distance, not time) and the “differences” that certain combinations produce.
Lynette Lancini, 2000
The naming of a piece is very important to me, and acts like an invocation for a poetic world in which the as yet unwritten music might live. Around the time of promising Topology a piece, I dreamt of a family of cavorting centaurs (mythical half-human half-equine creatures), so centaurs figured in my imagination from the inception of the work. Similarly, the titles of the four movements were chosen for their poetic resonance and could be likened to four facets of one imagined persona. Archetypical examples of this four-in-one structure include the ideal person of medieval physiological theory with an equal balance of choleric, phlegmatic, melancholy and sanguine humours, and Ezekiel's ancient vision of the divine tetramorph.
The motile Obsidian is a 'song-and-dance' number reminiscent of the tumultuous formation of the black volcanic glass of the same name. Jasper is like an idyllic memory intensifying in richness through elongating repetitions. Heliotrope is a short transitional movement consisting of two palindromes of systematically evolving pitch sets and time values cut with an unhinged dance. Sapphire can be perceived as a series of travelling vignettes.
John Babbage 2003
This Giant Aperiodic Crystal is the base sequence for the chromosome of bacteriophage ΦX174. It is the first complete genome ever mapped for any organism. About two thousand of these pages would be needed to show the base sequence of a single E. Coli cell, and about one million pages to show the base sequence of the DNA of a single human cell.
The music of ΦX174 is based on information from this DNA code - the DNA letters are mapped to pitches to create melodic and harmonic material.
“Both genes and music are made of linear and quantized information which represent unfathomable diversity and mystery. However, we are not confident about how to disentangle the intricate logic of life’s composition.” - Naobuo Munakata and Kenshi Hayashi, 1991
Robert Davidson 1997
featuring guest djembe artist Ron Colbers
Exterior is a single movement of the evening-long work Four Places in which four imaginary landscapes are invoked by different movements. The music resembles a place (rather than, say, a story) in that it is static and relatively unvaried, and it is explored rather than gradually unfolded (rather like the experience of visiting a place - everything is always there, but one’s attention shifts). The stimulus for Exterior was an imagined space of the exterior of a very large building. It features Bernard Hoey’s rhythm-focused viola playing and much improvisation from all performers.