Common Ground: Topology & Speak Percussion


Common Ground: Topology & Speak Percussion

Topology & Speak Percussion

Brisbane Powerhouse 

Saturday 9 November 2013


Reviewed by Meredith McLean


Common Ground sees two of Australia’s most adventurous music groups get together over the Cuban missile crisis and throw a bunch of genres into the blender.


Topology and Speak Percussion show off their distinctive sets of originals before coming together to create lush and powerful orchestrations.




Common Ground is a peculiar hybrid of two well travelled but different musical ensembles. It’s like welding a microwave to a mannequin and tying a bowtie around its neck with barbwire and pink string, then making it dance. They are very different, very eye catching and at times bizarre or wonderful.


Experimental percussion has been around since the early 70s. The idea of challenging the rules and breaking the confines of contemporary sound isn’t unheard of – pun intended. There are many groups in Australia besides Speak Percussion such as Syngery Percussion, and a huge following and collective of composers overseas such as in Germany and London for example.


But if the audience’s reaction is any kind of measurement of popular opinion I’m afraid to say mainstream Brisbane punters aren’t ready for Speak Percussion just yet.


During intermission many families headed straight for their cars in the parking lot, not to be seen again. When the performance ran over time by an hour those remaining in the auditorium got up and left. I called it quits at two and a half hours myself. Those who remained were either avant garde fanatics or they’d fallen asleep*
*I had to wake up a man to get past when I got up to leave, and noticed another gentleman asleep in the lower rows as I finally made my way out.


The talent is there, the magnitude and the volume and the lighting – it’s all there. But so is the ludicrousness, and Brisbane wasn’t ready for it.


What looked promising in the first song, as an idea of creating music with non-musical devices such as water glasses and tins filled with marbles, was simply seven minutes of choreographed noise. Wine glasses, and boxes and recording devices set up made me wonder what sort of whimsical tune they might present. But it was disappointing to say the least.


There is a silver lining to this show though. Topology, on the other hand, are intrinsic and mesmerising. They take chamber music and create contemporary music that makes you lean on the edge of your seat. If the focus was geared more towards Topology as the main act with Speak Percussion only accompanying them I think more of the audience would have remained.


As I said, this show presents some talented drummers, percussionists, violinists, and pianists – the works. But the music misses the mark, and sometimes it misses the rhythm all together. Last night’s audience just weren’t prepared for such a different cacophony.




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