Bubbles, rubber chickens, bursting balloons and toys aren’t usually associated with classical music or jazz concerts. But then again, Adam Simmons is not your usual modern composer and musician.
An award-winning and world-renowned musician, Simmons redefines the term ‘multi-instrumentalist’, stretches the boundaries of modern composition, and infuses a sense of childlike wonder and playfulness into musical art forms better known for their gravitas.
The elements of gentle whimsy woven throughout his music have become as much a trademark as his collaborations with other virtuoso players, his theatrically-inspired performances, and his endearing habit of wearing red socks without shoes on stage.
This year, in his most ambitious musical performance project to date, Simmons brings a series of concerts to fortyfivedownstairs under the umbrella of “The Usefulness of Art”—a notion inspired by a Rodin quote, and the driving force behind his formidable musical career.
The first of the concerts is his Concerto for Piano and Toy Band, to be performed by the Adam Simmons Creative Music Ensemble with l’enfant terrible of modern classical piano, Michael Kieran Harvey. In its Melbourne premiere, the one-hour concerto will be performed from Thursday 2nd to Sunday 5th March, offering music and arts lovers a rare opportunity to experience the power and delight of this extraordinary work.
Through the classical form of the concerto, Concerto for Piano and Toy Band juxtaposes traditional instruments (piano, saxophone, trumpets, trombone, double bass and drums) with toys, in a joyful exploration of connections between the different worlds of solo/ ensemble, classical/jazz, and serious/humorous.
Simmons has a deserved reputation as one of Australia’s most prolific and eclectic musical artists, appearing on festival stages and recordings with some of the world’s finest classical and jazz musicians. Michael Kieran Harvey is an internationally-recognised, classically-trained pianist. Together, these two good friends and self-described iconoclasts are champions of contemporary Australian composition, fierce defenders of the arts, and serious musicians who fuse original jazz, classical and avant garde music in a boisterous, passionate and joyous theatrical experience for audiences.
Concerto for Piano and Toy Band is the first in Simmons’ “The Usefulness of Art” concert series, presenting a creative body of work over five major performance projects throughout 2017—18. From his early VCA student days, Simmons’ music has been inspired by influential French sculptor Auguste Rodin’s quote: “As for me, I call useful anything that gives us happiness.”
Simmons believes that, “At a time when fear governs politics rather than vision and principles, at a time when we cannot offer our hand to those in need, at a time when support for music education is diminishing but studies show that music increases our empathy towards others and that it also has positive effects on the development of neural pathways, how can we not be encouraging more artistic experience and participation? This is the time when art is most useful!”.
“The Usefulness of Art” concerts will be recorded live, for intended release digitally and as a box set of CDs.
Thank you to all the journalists, presenters and media outlets who are publishing and broadcasting Adam’s story! Here’s a selection…
- The Usefulness of Art—Joanne Kee, Jazz Australia
- Music To Make You Happy—Adam Simmons on the Usefulness of Art—Radio 3PBS Sound Barrier with Ian Parsons, Sunday 26 February 2017
- Insight: The Usefulness of Art—Adam Simmons for Resonate magazine
- In Conversation: Adam Simmons—Megan Steller and Adam Simmons, Rehearsal magazine
- It’s more than just child’s play for Adam Simmons—Joseph Earp, Beat magazine
- Adam Simmons and Michael Kieran Harvey in new concert series—Ed Gardiner, Northcote Leader online
- Adam Simmons: Rubber Chickens Are Just Another Sound Source—Angus McPherson, Limelight magazine
Music to make you happy: Adam Simmons and the Usefulness of Art on The Sound Barrier!
—Ian Parsons, The Sound Barrier, PBS 106.7FM
“Aside from his phenomenal talent, Adam is driven by three things: his unwavering belief in the vitalness of the arts for who we are as human beings; his indefatigable curiosity for exploring new things; and his passionate commitment to music as a means for bringing people together and building community… what Adam’s music does is gently but powerfully force everyone to think outside their own comfort zones and to find the new spaces that emerge when, as Adam describes it, opposite sides of the same coin are shared.”
It’s more than just child’s play for Adam Simmons
—Joseph Earp, Beat magazine
“Simmons doesn’t see the highbrow and the lowbrow as being at all separate, and he has equal regards for both, finding himself obsessed with both the intellectual and the basic. He is neither a toffy and exclusive classical composer, nor is he some flash-in-the-pan peddler of jokes: his subversive pieces lie somewhere in between those two extremes… for Simmons, art has a uniquely communal power. His pieces, though obscure, are never difficult, and his performances are always guided by the goal of audience unity. They might include a range of novelty items, but his compositions are stridently moving, and never seek to undermine the intelligence of the audience.”
Confucius Say, Give Musicians Liberty
—Roger Mitchell, ausjazz.net
“I loved this work. One of the performers, alto saxophonist Cara Taber, described this as ‘beautiful, thought-provoking, and strong original music by Adam Simmons’ and that fits… As is always the case with Simmons’ art, we are encouraged to enjoy as well as to reflect on what we are seeing and hearing, what the performers are bringing to us beyond their facility with a range of instruments.”
All This And Harvey Too
—Clive O’Connell, The Age Classical Reviewer & blogger
“At a time when really adventurous musical events are rare, this night was a breath of fresh air, leaving you elated with its accomplishment.”