Adam Simmons: The Usefulness of Art

Adam Simmons and his 14 musicians emerged like a Stygian ensemble – clad in magnificent black costumes that combined Morticia Adams’ wardrobe with the Jim Henson Workshop.

Chairs and clouds were hung above them, while projected on the rear wall was a loop of the tide rolling up on the shore again and again. Between these two states – a frozen moment and a moment stretched out forever – the suite moved in unexpected-yet-organic directions.

The Usefulness of Art starts with a whisper from Adam’s bass clarinet. Auguste Rodin (who the piece is partly influenced by), is quoted as saying, “The artist must create a spark before he can make a fire and before art is born, the artist must be ready to be consumed by the fire of his own creation.” Indeed, this whisper sparks, surging into something monstrous and beautiful.

The musicians took it in turns to lead through this lovely piece of auditory spectacle. A highlight was Miranda Hill, ferocious on double bass. The saxophonists – Cara Taber, Gideon Brazil, Sam Boon, and Paul Simmons – were excellent, whether plaintive and wistful, or desperate like David Bowie’s own urgent playing at the end of Neukölln.

Some frenzied duel-drumming by Niko Schauble and Hugh Harvey was reminiscent of the climax of Whiplash. Gemma Horbury’s trumpet was all sorts of Lynchian, Twin Peaks-esque goodness, while Nat Grant’s marimba brought elements of curiosity and darkness.

The Usefulness of Art
fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Performance: Friday 25 August 2017 – 7.30pm
Season: 24 – 27 August 2017

Image: Adam Simmons Creative Ensemble

Review: David Collins