A heartfelt and mesmerising story told in piano.
A stubborn dualism has persisted in classical music between its traditional roots and its contemporary expressions. Like the printed book, classical music hasn’t changed much in its basic form but unlike the book, there has not been anything like the experimentation or evolution of the art form’s substance. The telling of a story with classical music still gets pushed out into performative mediums like opera, film and live art and yet there is so much that can be said by the instruments themselves. That is, if the right composer comes along. Pianist Aksuna tells a story that spans a young life still being lived, complete with the growth, reflections, passions and shocks that change, but never end.
The development of age is the most impressive of many impressive themes in Aksuna’s performance in her debut album, Love Child. This is an album where shuffle should absolutely be switched off. It has an internal chronology wherein the music is able to evoke an evolving emotional palate. The music seems to possess a self-awareness and agency of its own becoming more complicated and nuanced with each track. That is not to say that the early tracks Cosmos, Fields of Gold and Space Between Us lack depth; rather, they brim with the ebullience of youth and portray an excitable and inquisitive mind drawn easily from one thing to the next. But towards the end of this first movement, an artful crack is struck in youthful naivete.
The second movement brings the angst and polemics associated with coming of age. It is clear that the youth this music speaks of was no mere raging entitled teen but someone who has grappled with real loss. That straining at the bounds of emotion persists in movement two but it reveals a sensitive individual struggling with magnitude of a reality to which they are rapidly awakening. And like with movement one, movement two finishes with a hint of the change to come, a brief moment of reflection and understanding.
The third movement grapples with the sense of finality that we begin to seek as we get older – a desire to demarcate specific parts of our lives and different versions of our selves with them. The sense of loss and pain lingers in movement three but it adds a renewed sense of hope and an appreciation of the fragility that is a natural part of living. This final movement builds beautiful tension between the desire to reach an ultimate point of perspective and the inability to achieve this. It leaves you with a familiar sense of ambiguity that is both comforting and disquieting.
Aksuna’s playing is breathtaking in its balance between allowing emotion to flow unfiltered and the deft control of a master storyteller. This performance included a written response from spoken word artist Kaesis, a bold collaboration that preserved and complemented both art forms. Yet the music is such that it almost works best without the words. Placed front and centre, it’s allowed to tell a story that words can only approximate. Love Child is a fascinating exploration of a life lived and still evolving.
4.5 stars ★★★★☆
Love Child by Aksuna
Spoken Word: Kaesis
Album launched at The Jazzlab, Melbourne, 13 April 2019.
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