You should probably be aware that Richard Haynes on clarinet is neither the clarinet that my grandfather loved in big bands, nor is it the exquisitely untalented clarinet I played in high school. Haynes is a superbly skilled musician and certainly takes clarinet beyond the less-than-cool aura I imbued it with in year 7. The performance includes 4 pieces for solo clarinet (described as fetishes): Breath Control (David Young, 2008), interference (Richard Barrett, 1998 – 2000), the sadness of details (Chris Dench, 2002 – 2003) and Press Release (David Lang, 1991).
We enter the Loft at Chapel Off Chapel, to a space with no seats, only (very comfortable) cushions, and no clear stage area. Haynes opens the night in a school uniform costume for Breath Control. The piece orbits around a single note, distorted and transformed through performative skill (and extended ad infinitum through the wonder of circular breathing). Haynes uses keys and a 64 gallon drum to filter and texture the sound. In interference, Haynes appears as a silhouette on corrugated plastic, naked and bearing a headdress, and singing in a piercing falsettos, stomping on a kick drum and grumbling texturally with a contrabass clarinet. interference feels like a piece played backwards, heavy contrabass clarinet punctuated with Haynes’ strangely incanted notes. In Chris Dench’s the sadness of details, Haynes appears to the audience on a table, clothed in plastic wrap, and adroitly winnows through the piece, showcasing the beautiful tonal extremes of the clarinet – plaintive and piercing upper registers, and wooded and mellow lower registers. The final item, Press Release, has Haynes sitting on a ladder – in workman attire – and puffing hard through a highly percussive and staccato bass clarinet solo.
Fetish is probably a very accurate word to describes the pieces, in relation to the performer and the audience, as the pieces were sometimes very arcane and difficult to access for audience that aren’t highly musically literate or lovers of clarinet. It feels truly like fetishism – exploring the allure of these pieces, regardless of how much others may love or hate them. Breath Control as an opening piece is the perfect example of this – the subtlety of clarinet transforming and orbiting around a single note is not easily appreciated. interference runs along similar lines, particularly with the not often heard contrabass clarinet, and ear-splitting kick drum. Although Hayne’s skill is clear from the outset, for a non-clarinet performer, it’s not until the free-form but melodic the sadness of detail, that Hayne’s adroit playing really connects. Hayne’s complex pieces are augmented by Margaret Cameron’s strong dramaturgical influence. Far from being a simple performance of musical pieces, with audience sitting neatly in rows facing a musician sitting neatly on stage, the space is used fully, and audience are collected in a central gaggle. Between pieces, Hayne’s voice describes what ‘it’s like…’ evoking a broad series of experientiality. I enjoyed the performance, however was acutely aware of having worked to mentally keep pace with the music. Fans of edgy contemporary music, with a good splash of abstract performative elements, will appreciate both Haynes’ bold choices and his exceptional skill with clarinets.
Listen My Secret Fetish – Four fetishes for solo clarinet. Part of the Midsumma Festival 2008. The Loft, Chapel Off Chapel. Clarinets: Richard Haynes. Dramaturgy: Margaret Cameron. Sound Design: Michael Hewes. Costume Assistant: Aviva Endean.
Originally published on Arts Hub.