The Freestyle Orchestra: Questioning Norms in Classical Concert Performance through Ross Edwards’ Maninyas Violin Concerto
author(s): Chanda VanderHart
published in: Research Catalogue
The Freestyle Orchestra is a performance collective of classically trained musicians exploring and questioning the limits of how an orchestra can express music in performance. They strive to create an aesthetic Gesamtkunstwerk on stage, incorporating physical movement, aerial arts, staging, lighting, costuming, and fire manipulation in live music performance. Building on contentions regarding the inherent physicality of musical performance as well as precepts within Embodied Music Cognition Theory asserting that meaning-formation is corporeal, they themselves research, train and perform as interdisciplinary artists, constantly experimenting with novel ways to communicate the movement and gesture they experience when listening to music more immediately to their audiences.
The collective is convinced that this aspect of inherent physicality is something which has been sacrificed to the work-centric focus of classical music (and therefore neglected within conservatory training), and believe manifesting the movement they perceive within some music is a natural process which can itself generate meaning for both performer and audience. They envision the body as an instrument and strive to amplify musical gestures and meaning through physical movement, simultaneously enhancing and more deeply expressing their own understanding of musical compositions.
This exposition introduces a 2019 collaboration with Australian composer Ross Edwards which resulted in a choreographed performance in City Recital Hall in Sydney of the composer’s Maninyas violin concerto. It combines audio-visual footage, photos and texts contextualizing the research process, which included contemplation and re-enactment of Edwards’ own musical journey in creating his Sacred and Maninyas styles, a way out of a personal musical crisis. Edwards’ perspectives on the ecstatic and fundamental connections between nature, dance, ritual and music/sound fed the physical and stage treatment as well as the processuel, experimental research of the Freestyle collective as they constructed their own, interdisciplinary performance of the concerto.