Media release: Adam Simmons + Wang Zheng-Ting in world premiere of The Kites of Tianjin

REVIEWS

Adam Simmons: The Kites of Tianjin
★★★★★ Raphael Solarsh, Arts Hub
“… a fitting finale to the inimitable brilliance of The Usefulness of Art concert series by Adam Simmons.”
“The Usefulness of Art has been a ground-breaking and magnificent musical journey. Simmons and his collaborators have plotted a singularly innovative and evocative trail that has taken audience to the far-flung corners of the world with Simmons’ exquisite sonic journals. Each concert has offered not just music inspired by place but deeply personal narratives seamlessly intertwined.”
“… Adam Simmons is producing some of the most incredible jazz in Australia or anywhere else.”

Adam Simmons, The Kites of Tianjin
★★★★½ Des Cowley, Australian Books and Arts Review
“The extended applause that greeted the performance’s end seemed like a recognition of the monumentality of Adam Simmons’ Usefulness of Art series. Inspired by a direct quote from Rodin, ‘I call useful all that gives happiness’, his cycle of large-scale compositions has raised fundamental questions about the role of art in our society, and the ways in which art might bring us together. For this occasion, the performances by Wang Zheng-Ting and members of the Adam Simmons Creative Music Ensemble were flawless. For those of us fortunate enough to have attended the series, there was a sense that, for composer and audience alike, we had reached the end of a long and fascinating journey. And, like any journey, we had arrived changed from when we set out.”

Kites Soar on Breath of Life
★★★★½ Jessica Nicholas, The Age & Sydney Morning Herald
“…Simmons has used [The Usefulness of Art series] to explore the value of music and art in shaping identity and fostering a sense of community.”
“… the exceptional artistry of sheng player Wang Zheng Ting […] the sheng flutters and dances with the delicacy of butterfly wings, though it can also pulse with rhythmic vitality.”
“…Simmons uses his instruments and… his entire 15-piece Creative Music Ensemble… to draw parallels between music and nature, art and pleasure.”
“The Kites of Tianjin is all about wind and its relationship to breath – and breath to life – and as the piece comes to an end, the musicians put down their instruments and simply breathe. Simmons looks out at us, issuing a gentle invitation to breathe with them. It’s a simple but deeply moving gesture, signifying the inclusiveness and desire to share that makes Simmons’ work so meaningful.”

Wind as Breath, Breath as Life
—Roger Mitchell, Ausjazz.net
“Breathtakingly beautiful…the ending also draws the audience in to share and engage with the ensemble, but in a totally different way. We gradually become aware that the music is becoming breath-like and, in an utterly magic experience, realise as the music fades that all that remains is the breathing. Like gentle waves washing on a sea shore the breathing takes us to an utterly restful and peaceful place. Instead of our breath being taken, we are filled with and enlivened by our own breathing. Don’t miss the chance to hear this concert.”


MEDIA RELEASE

Acclaimed Melbourne composer, Adam Simmons, will perform the world premiere of his latest new musical work, The Kites of Tianjin, at fortyfivedownstairs from Thursday 26 to Sunday 29 July.
Inspired by Simmons’ experiences in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin, famous for its Wei Kites, The Kites of Tianjin will feature Wang Zheng-Ting on Sheng (Chinese mouth organ) as featured soloist with the Adam Simmons Creative Music Ensemble.
The Kites of Tianjin will be the fifth and final concert in Simmons’ acclaimed The Usefulness of Art series. Comprising five unique and original concerts over 2017-18, The Usefulness of Art originated from a quote by Auguste Rodin, and is the driving force behind Simmons’ formidable musical career.
Since meeting in 2007, Simmons and Ting have collaborated on a number of major concerts as a duo and with Simmons’s trio, Origami. The two were intrigued by the Wei Kites during a visit to Tianjin in 2017, where they attended a workshop run by Wei Guoqiu, a fourth-generation member of the famous kite-making family.
“There’s something irresistible about making your own kite… and about finding the way to ride the wind. It’s similar to playing with nature in other ways, such as creating sand tunnels at the beach or floating sticks down the river or stoking the hot coals to produce flames,” says Simmons.
“A kite is brought to life by the wind—and we in turn rely on breathing to give us life. This invisible force around us has such potential for creation and sustenance. My personal revelation a few years back is that really what I have been learning via my musical instruments is fundamentally about how to breathe—and that to breathe is to live. In this way, the kite in the wind becomes a metaphor for living.”
The Kites of Tianjin—which musically and visually explores breath and the fundamental nature of being human—is the culmination of the preceding Usefulness of Art concerts. Together, the concerts have used Simmons’ original art music to ponder such weighty concepts as the creation of form, art through music, qualities that art engenders in humanity, reasons to create art, how art connects communities and helps develop understanding of one’s place in the world, exploring personal identity, and connecting to place.
The first four concerts have elicited rapturous praise from critics and audiences alike, including The Age’s Jessica Nicholas: “… another marvellously assured step in Simmons’ own journey as musician and composer, and a potent demonstration of the usefulness – no, the necessity – of art as an expression of our collective humanity,” and “(The Calling was) arresting both musically and visually, reflecting the sense of empathy and shared experience that gives this work such a strong emotional resonance.”
Two 5-star reviews by Raphael Solarsh of Arts Hub effused: “… (a) sonic freefall into a raw and emotive tour de force… another masterpiece by Simmons and his collaborators,” and “Simmons’ music is rich and evocative with the cinematic string arrangement given a grittier and more tactile edge by saxophony that spanned subtle breath all the way to unrestrained wail.”

This concert is supported by the City of Melbourne Arts Grants Program.


THE KITES OF TIANJIN—BIOS

Adam Simmons
A virtuoso player of saxophones, clarinets, flute and shakuhachi (Japanese flute), Adam Simmons stretches the boundaries of modern composition and infuses a sense of wonder and playfulness into musical art forms better known for their gravitas. His performances are not so much ‘concerts’ as staged auditory spectacles—drawing audiences in to share in the uniquely communal power and euphoria of his music and art. He has a rare and uncanny ability to elicit the very best from the highly accomplished musicians he works with, as well as evoking spine-tingling emotion and rapturous applause from audiences.
His concerts are joyous, inspired cross-genre collaborations with virtuoso musicians and theatrical artists. Previous concerts have involved not only his eclectic Creative Music Ensemble (in which his father, Paul Simmons, plays saxophone) but also artists of the calibre of Michael Kieran Harvey, the Arcko Symphonic Ensemble, and Diokno Pasilan.
Adam is the lead Co-Artistic Director of Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues. He was also selected for the 2017 intake for Australia Council’s Arts Leader Program.

Wang Zheng-Ting
Wang Zheng-Ting is a world-renowned musician (Sheng, Chinese mouth organ), musical director, lecturer, author and ethnomusicologist. He graduated from Shanghai Music Conservatory and completed an MA in Ethnomusicology at Monash University and a PhD in Ethnomusicology at the University of Melbourne, and is an honorary research fellow at Monash University.
He co-ordinated the Chinese Instrumental Music course at the University of Melbourne, was a Melbourne Festival Ambassador in 2014 and 2015, and has been invited as a visiting scholar to the City University of New York, guest professor at Xiamen University, and Research Fellow at the Sichuan Conservatory of Music. He is director of the Australian Chinese Music Ensemble.
As a lecturer and solo performer on the Sheng (Chinese mouth organ), he has performed recitals across the world including the US (New York Lincoln Center, University of California), and in Zurich, Germany, Thailand, Tokyo, Holland, China and Italy. His book, Chinese Music in Australia: Victoria, 1850s to mid-1990s was published in 1997.

The Adam Simmons Creative Ensemble (ASCME)
The ASCME first performed in 2004 at the Sydney Opera House for the Freedman Awards, resulting in a Special Award from the Freedman Foundation being awarded to Simmons for his work. Since then the group has performed at Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival, Festival Of Slow Music and Wentworth Arts Festival, as well as being recorded by ABC FM at the Half Bent Music Festival. ASCME combines the outstanding talents of musicians from diverse backgrounds, performing cross-genre music that connects, engages and resonates powerfully with audiences. The ensemble has also performed in three of The Usefulness of Art concerts so far, and for the Kites of Tianjin will comprise:
Leader/woodwinds—Adam Simmons
Saxophones—Samuel Boon (Saskwatch), Cara Taber (Esstee Big Band), Gideon Brazil (Gotye, The Rockets), Paul Simmons (Adam’s father, from Ballarat; The Parrots inc. David Hobson, Kamahl, Dolphy’s Albatross)
Trumpets—Gemma Horbury (Orkeztra Glasso Bashalde, Tek Tek Ensemble), Gavin Cornish (Movin’ & Groovin’ Orchestra)
Trombones—James Wilkinson (Snuff Puppets), Bryn Hills (from Ballarat; The Boxing Tostados)
Bass—Howard Cairns (Origami, Way Out West)
Drums—Niko Schauble (Australian Art Orchestra, Tibetan Dixie)
Percussion—Nat Grant (The Amplified Elephants), Carmen Chan (Do You See What I Hear?)
Guitar—David Brown (bucketrider, Pateras/Baxter/Brown, Candlesnuffer)
Vocals—Pete Lawler (Weddings Parties Anything, RRR BBQ Orchestra)

THE KITES OF TIANJIN—COSTUMES
Fashion/costumier—Christine Crawshaw (Ballarat; BOLT Ensemble, Ballarat Heritage Festival)
Christine Crawshaw is a Ballarat-based freelance designer for events involving set dressing, display, costuming for events, weddings and theatre. With a background in visual arts (Victorian Collage of the Arts and Ballarat University College) Christine has worked with performers in live music and festivals for over 20 years, including BOLT Ensemble, Festival of Slow Music, Adam Simmons Creative Music Ensemble and Harvest Festival (Buninyong).

THE KITES OF TIANJIN—SET DESIGN
Set designer—Rachaeldaisy
Award-winning quilting artist Rachaeldaisy (Rachael Simmons, Springwood, NSW) has become synonymous with bold, colourful, highly detailed quilts. While honouring the age-old tradition of quilting, Rachaeldaisy constantly creates fresh ways and techniques to interpret conventional designs. Her use of 3D elements such as folded and gathered fabric techniques, yoyo puffs, prairie points, wool felt, appliqué denim and crochet doilies, as well as her mastery of colour and form, make for unique, exquisitely textural work. Rachaeldaisy’s quilts have been exhibited in national and international quilt shows and galleries. Rachaeldaisy is Adam Simmons’s sister.
https://www.instagram.com/bluemountaindaisy/

THE KITES OF TIANJIN—VISUALS
Visual designer—Jean Poole
Jean Poole is a Melbourne-based video artist, specialising in live projections, though extending to animation, music video direction and installation design. Jean has designed live visual sets for artists such as Gotye, Cumbia Cosmonauts and Cleverhorse. He has been commissioned to create and control projection mapped video environments for the MONA museum’s annual MOFO and Dark MOFO festivals.
His fascination with the possibilities of real-time video manipulation – has seen him projecting video onto 100-million-year-old dinosaur skeletons onto car wrecks in the Australian desert, onto Turkey’s Cappadocia cliffs, and onto masked wrestlers on rooftops in Mexico. This passion for shaping atmospheres with video, has also found him controlling multi-screened and projection mapped video for theatre, and accompanying musicians at the Sydney Opera House, ACMI, the OK Video festival in Jakarta, Indonesia, the LPM festival in Rome, Italy, and at Australian festivals such as Big Day Out, Meredith Music Festival, Electrofringe, Stereosonic, Golden Plains, Good Vibrations, Melbourne International Jazz festival and Falls Festival.

THE KITES OF TIANJIN—Other points of interest
Tianjin
With a population of more than 15 million, the northern coastal city of Tianjin is the fourth largest city in China. In 1980, Melbourne and Tianjin formed a sister city relationship—the first such relationship between an Australian and a Chinese city. In 1998, the Melbourne Office opened in Tianjin to facilitate trade, investment and exchanges between the two cities. The City of Melbourne remains the only Australian local government to have an established business office in China. Melbourne’s sister city relationship with Tianjin fosters understanding and goodwill between the two cities and recognises contributions made by the Chinese community to Melbourne’s business, culture and community life.

Wei Kites
Spring and autumn kite-making emerged as a traditional Chinese folk craft around 770 BC. In ancient China, kites were known as ‘paper eagles’ and used to measure distances and send signals, as well as for fun and recreation. Selecting the materials (silk, bamboo, and paper), designing, making and mastering the flying of these beautiful kites is a painstaking process.
The city of Tianjin is especially renowned for its kite craftsmen; the most famous of whom was Wei Yuantai, born in 1872. Nicknamed Kite Wei for his mastery of the craft, he made extraordinary kites for more than 70 years. Kite Wei created around 200 silk kites with many new designs, such as flat hard-winged, soft-winged, three-dimensional and foldaway kites, which have a flexible bamboo framework secured with glue instead of thread, and reinforced by a copper ring at every joint. Kite Wei passed on his craft to his family members, and today his great-great grandson Wei Guoqiu continues his kite-making tradition.


Previous concerts in The Usefulness of Art concert series:
Concert #4: The Calling (Adam Simmons with Afro-Lankan Drumming System)
Concert #3: Travelling Tales (Adam Simmons with Arcko Ensemble)
Concert #2: Meditation on The Usefulness of Art is music for our times (The Usefulness of Art, Adam Simmons Creative Music Ensemble)
Concert #1: Unique concert series to explore The Usefulness of Art (Concerto for Piano & Toy Band, Adam Simmons Creative Music Ensemble with Michael Kieran Harvey)

Media release: Adam Simmons + Afro Lankan Drumming System in world premiere of The Calling

REVIEWS

Adam Simmons: The Calling
—★★★★ Jessica Nicholas, The Age & Sydney Morning Herald
“… a deep philosophical – even existential – exploration of Simmons’ own identity and sense of belonging… the most personal of all the works he has produced for his Usefulness of Art series.”
“The most impactful – and poignant – passage arose when Simmons and Iyengar performed a semi-improvised duet. Standing behind Simmons, the dancer extended his hands gently around the saxophonist’s hips, allowing him to lean forward at a sharp angle as streams of sonorous beauty emerged from his soprano horn. It was arresting both musically and visually, reflecting the sense of empathy and shared experience that gives this work such a strong emotional resonance.”

Adam Simmons: The Calling
—★★★★★ Raphael Solarsh, Arts Hub
“A lush and cinematic appeal to euphoria and melancholia of outer exploration, The Calling takes a more introspective turn, but does so with an unexpected fire and force… (a) sonic freefall into a raw and emotive tour de force.”
“Another masterpiece by Simmons and his collaborators, and further fires the imagination as to how this concert series will conclude. At home perhaps or onward on the journey?”

Adam Simmons: The Calling
—★★★★+half Des Cowley, Australian Books and Arts Review
“In an age when the funding of the arts is always an open question, Simmons’s project is a rallying cry for the importance of art in our lives.”
“In a world rife with displacement, it (The Calling) questions where we truly belong, and argues for art as an integral means of bringing us together.”
“As with previous concerts in the series, Adam Simmons demonstrated jazz’s capacity to continually extend its horizons, drawing sustenance from an array of musical influences: world, classical, experimental. In looking for a parallel – and while acknowledging that the music is of an entirely different order – I was reminded of Duke Ellington’s masterpiece The Far East Suite, composed with Billy Strayhorn and inspired by their travels on tour through Mumbai, Calcutta, Colombo, Lahore, Tehran, Isfahan, and other locales in the early 1960s. Like Ellington, Simmons has chosen to recast his stories and journeys as an extended musical suite. On this occasion, the melding of the Afrolankan Drumming System with the Adam Simmons Creative Music Ensemble was an astounding success. The performance, heightened by strong visual and theatrical elements, again evidenced Simmons’s far-reaching ambition for The Usefulness of Art program.

Adam Simmons and Vikram Iyengar in The Calling
Roger Mitchell, Ausjazz.net
“The strongest image, for me, was that of Simmons supported wholly by Iyengar, symbolising his finding of a connection.”
“It is impossible, and unnecessary, to compare The Calling with other concerts in The Usefulness of Art series. But this work of art well and truly passed the test of taking us somewhere, of prompting exploration.”


Acclaimed Melbourne composer, Adam Simmons, will perform the world premiere of his new work, The Calling, at fortyfive downstairs from May 3—6, 2018.
Featuring the Adam Simmons Creative Music Ensemble together with the Afro Lankan Drumming System (Ray Pereira and Kanchana Karunaratna), The Calling concerts promise to be a thrilling treat for lovers of contemporary jazz, classical, avant garde and experimental music.
Inspired by sounds and experiences from Simmons’ first-time visit to Sri Lanka in 2016, this will be the most intensely personal of his works to date. While the main reason for his trip was to attend a drumming workshop led by Ray Pereira, he also spent time travelling through his mother’s homeland. An epiphany he experienced while visiting a Sri Lankan temple was a pivotal moment in his sense of belonging and understanding: “I felt like after growing up in Australia and my previous travels through Europe that it filled in the other half of who I am, where I’m from, and my identity as an Australian artist. I’ve never really expressed the Sri Lankan side of my heritage; until that trip I hadn’t felt the connection or the right to express it in a conscious way. But now I feel I can make some sense of it, and The Calling is really a reflection on my identity and heritage.”
The Calling will be the fourth in his acclaimed The Usefulness of Art concert series. Comprising five unique and original concerts over 2017-18, The Usefulness of Art is inspired by a Rodin quote, and is the driving force behind Simmons’ formidable musical career.
His first three concerts in the series have elicited rapturous praise from critics and audiences alike, including The Age’s Jessica Nicholas: “… another marvellously assured step in Simmons’ own journey as musician and composer, and a potent demonstration of the usefulness – no, the necessity – of art as an expression of our collective humanity.”
A 5-star review by Raphael Solarsh of Arts Hub effused: “Simmons’ music is rich and evocative with the cinematic string arrangement given a grittier and more tactile edge by saxophony that spanned subtle breath all the way to unrestrained wail.”
Classical Reviewer Clive O’Connell wrote, “At a time when really adventurous musical events are rare, this night was a breath of fresh air, leaving you elated with its accomplishment,” and Des Cowley, Australian Book Review, described the second concert as, “… a triumph in every way”.

A virtuoso player of saxophones, clarinets, flute and shakuhachi (Japanese flute), Simmons stretches the boundaries of modern composition and infuses a sense of wonder and playfulness into musical art forms better known for their gravitas. His performances are not so much ‘concerts’ as staged auditory spectacles—drawing audiences in to share in the uniquely communal power and euphoria of his music and art. He has a rare and uncanny ability to elicit the very best from the highly accomplished musicians he works with, as well as evoking spine-tingling emotion and rapturous applause from audiences.

His concerts are joyous, inspired cross-genre collaborations with virtuoso musicians and theatrical artists. Previous concerts have involved not only his eclectic Creative Music Ensemble (in which his father, Paul Simmons, plays saxophone) but also artists of the calibre of Michael Kieran Harvey, the Arcko Ensemble, and Diokno Pasilan.
For The Calling, the Adam Simmons Creative Music Ensemble and the Afro Lankan Drumming System will be joined by Vikram Iyengar (choreographer), Jean Poole (visuals), Sally Blackwood (dramaturgy) and Christine Crawshaw (costumes) for an astounding theatrical and musical experience.

This project is supported by the City of Melbourne Arts Grants Program.


THE CALLING (by Adam Simmons)
Featuring: The Adam Simmons Creative Ensemble + The Afro Lankan Drumming System
With: Choreography by Vikram Iyengar, visuals Jean Poole, dramaturgy Sally Blackwood and costumes Christine Crawshaw
Dates: Thursday 3rd May to Sunday 6th May, 7.30pm each night except Sunday matinee at 3pm. Concert duration: 90 minutes.
Venue: fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne 3000
Ticket prices: Full $35, concession $30, Early Bird discount $30, children (under 12) free
Ticketing URL: http://www.fortyfivedownstairs.com/wp2016/event/the-calling/
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Previous concerts in The Usefulness of Art concert series:
Concert #3: Travelling Tales (Adam Simmons with Arcko Ensemble)
Concert #2: Meditation on The Usefulness of Art is music for our times (The Usefulness of Art)
Concert #1: Unique concert series to explore The Usefulness of Art (Concerto for Piano & Toy Band)

Media campaign: Meditation on “The Usefulness of Art” is music for our times

Acclaimed Melbourne jazz composer and musician Adam Simmons returns to fortyfivedownstairs for four nights in August, with a rare opportunity to experience his The Usefulness of Art suite performed by a world-class 20-piece ensemble.
The concerts will be the first time The Usefulness of Art has been performed by the Adam Simmons Creative Music Ensemble alongside an art installation by Filipino sculptor Diokno Pasilan and featuring costumes by Christine Crawshaw.
While The Usefulness of Art suite—with its sublime meditations on the qualities of acceptance, empathy, generosity, compassion and faith—is already known to fans of Simmons’ avant-garde trio, Origami, it has only once before been performed live by a larger ensemble, during its creative development process.
Expanding the work for the much larger ensemble builds on its contemplative nature and elevates it to an immersive and ecstatic listening experience through the musicians’ connection with audiences—something that drives Simmons’ approach to performance. Earlier this year Joseph Earp of Beat magazine wrote that “… 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.”
This will be the second of Simmons’ planned five-concert series throughout 2017-18 under the umbrella of The Usefulness of Art, a concept inspired by Auguste Rodin’s quote—“I call useful all that gives us happiness… art shows man his raison d’être.”
Says Simmons, “I strongly believe art is what helps us connect. In these times, 100 years or so since Rodin made similar observations, I believe this is what we need more of, and these performances are a result of coming to share Rodin’s perspective.”
He composed The Usefulness of Art in 2012, at a time when arts funding in Australia was being savaged across the board—in schools, TAFEs, universities and the public and private sectors—and public debate was characterised by a lack of empathy. His musical meditations on the unquantifiable qualities that art evokes make for powerful listening, and an experience that is more compelling and relevant than ever to audiences.
Musicians for this concert include Simmons on bass clarinet and leading the ensemble; on saxophones, Samuel Boon, Cara Taber, Gideon Brazil and Paul Simmons; trumpets, Gemma Horbury and Gavin Cornish; and trombones James Wilkinson and Bryn Hills. The redoubtable Howard Cairns—also a member of Origami—will play double bass, alongside Miranda Hill. On drums will be Niko Schauble and Hugh Harvey, and percussion Nat Grant, Carmen Chan, Leah Scholes and Diokno Pasilan. David Brown will play guitar, and Pete Lawler (Weddings, Parties, Anything), space drums.
The first in The Usefulness of Art series, in March 2017, was Simmons’ remarkable Concerto for Piano and Toy Band featuring Michael Kieran Harvey. These concerts elicited rapturous praise from critics and audiences alike, including from The Age Classical Reviewer, Clive O’Connell, who wrote, “At a time when really adventurous musical events are rare, this night was a breath of fresh air, leaving you elated with its accomplishment.”
Ian Parsons, The Sound Barrier, PBS 106.7FM, wrote: “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.”
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. He 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, and is renowned for his inclusive and collaborative performances.
He was recently named as a co-artistic director for the 2017 Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues, and has just returned from major jazz festivals in Germany and the Netherlands, where he helped facilitate exciting new performance and networking opportunities for Australian musicians.
The Usefulness of Art concerts across 2017-18 will be recorded live, for release digitally and as a box set of CDs.
This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body. This project is supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria.

TUoA concert 2 banner

REVIEWS

A Window On Our Raison D’Etre
—Roger Mitchell, Ausjazz.net
“With any offering inspired by Adam Simmons there is going to be more than merely music… this concert invited the audience to become deeply immersed in the work of creativity and, ultimately, to join in a shared experience.
“That unity and sense of community is what has lingered in my mind so long after this second concert in a series of five that will stretch into 2018. The sense of fun and joy was still evident among the ensemble members, although the set and costumes conveyed a darker mood. As collective voices joined Pete Lawler’s distinctive and arresting solo vocals at the culmination of this concert, drawing the audience into their harmonic spell, I felt that we were indeed united and there was much power and benefit in that.”

The Usefulness of Art (fortyfivedownstairs)
—Des Cowley, Australian Book Review—4.5 stars
“This performance was a triumph in every way. While the approach drew upon the pioneering work of Anthony Braxton’s Creative Music Orchestra, the resulting music – with titles such as ‘Empathy’, Compassion’, ‘Faith’ – evoked the spiritual music of John Coltrane, in particular his masterpiece A Love Supreme (1964). Like Coltrane’s work, this was music at the service of the human spirit. Adam Simmons has stated that the genesis of the suite derived, in part, from his reading of Auguste Rodin’s views on the usefulness of artists. At a time when funding support for art and artists is diminishing, The Usefulness of Art attempts to put forth an alternative scenario. If the composition asks the question of whether art plays a critical role in our culture, our personal lives, these musicians and this performance responded with a resounding affirmation.”

The Usefulness of Art
—Shane Murphy, Daily Review
“The beauty of Adam Simmons’ work is that it respects this (… that this sort of jazz is conscious art and deserves active listening)… (it) aims to draw its listeners in and rewards you for that participation. Simmons’ circular breathing and overblowing in the introduction was especially inspiring. Sounding like a cross between clarinet and didgeridoo, it set the tone for what was to come…a solid hour of music played with verve and passion, capped with a singalong to close. If the usefulness of art is to make one happy, then Simmons went a long way to doing so…”

Adam Simmons: The Usefulness of Art
—David Collins, Australian Arts Review
The Usefulness of Art starts with a whisper from Adam’s bass clarinet… indeed, this whisper sparks, surging into something monstrous and beautiful. The musicians took it in turns to lead through this lovely piece of auditory spectacle.”

SELECTION OF ONLINE ARTICLES


Adam Simmons—100 word bio

Adam Simmons redefines the term ‘multi-instrumentalist’, stretching the boundaries of modern composition and infusing a sense of childlike wonder and playfulness into musical art forms better known for their gravitas.
An award-winning and world-renowned musician, he has a 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.
He was recently named co-artistic director for the 2017 Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival and participated in major European jazz festivals, where he helped facilitate new performance opportunities for Australian musicians.

Media campaign: Unique concert series to explore “The Usefulness of Art”—Adam Simmons

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.
#TheUsefulnessofArt, #fortyfivedownstairs

Thank you to all the journalists, presenters and media outlets who are publishing and broadcasting Adam’s story! Here’s a selection…

Reviews

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.”

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