Melbourne, Melbourne Fringe 2015

Lost in the Looping Glass, Melbourne Fringe Festival 2015

1 Comment 23 September 2015

In a converted warehouse space on the western fringe of North Melbourne, Helen Bower sits on a carpet beside her electric violin. A string of fairy lights overhead bathe her in an ambient hue of blue light. A switch is flicked and she’s illuminated by an orange glow as she stands. She strokes a single string, slowly, and then another while the first string is still ringing out, and let’s them hang. Her violin is run through three different effects processors, the most prominent of which has a looping effect, allowing her to record and replay her sections on top of each other, building a rich tapestry of sounds with only a single instrument. Loop and delay effect pedals are a standard part of a rock guitarist’s rig, but it’s rare to see one employed in an experimental, classical context.

And that’s what this show is ultimately about: decontextualisation. Lost in the Looping Glass takes the notion of a solo violin recital and flips it on its head – rather than a recital hall or a concert space, Bower’s performance takes place in an intimate warehouse space, the kind more commonly suited to a DIY punk show. She separates her 45-minute performance into short sections – less like the movements of classical music and more like songs, four to five minutes in length. She plays her violin in such a way that it sounds nothing like a violin: in one section, her loops are reminiscent of a chorus of whalesong; in another, she plucks the strings with her fingers to build a percussive loop that sounds like the clanking of rocks. It’s a thrilling re-imagining of sonic capabilities of the violin that makes for an enrapturing performance.

After Bower’s final section the loops fade out, bar the oscillating of two notes – the same first two notes that opened the performance. She places her violin down beside her, sits down, the orange light is switched off, and the loop is closed.

Lost in the Looping Glass plays at Scratch Warehouse in North Melbourne from October 1-3. Tickets on sale now through the Fringe website.

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1 comment

  1. Dr Peter Lim says:

    Helen is a gem–she has perfect control of the violin
    and performs not only with virtuosity but also charm and warmth. Not a single note was wanting at this event which I attended twice. She has made a great impact on the fringe musical scene in Melbourne and I am delighted to have met her.

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