Myele Manzanza makes sound. Terrific sound. He plays drums. He plays the floor like it too were an instrument. Every surface, by this extension, has the possibility of being an instrument. And Manzanza also tap, tap, taps sound on Elle Evangelista, beginning with her shoulders. Standing face-to-face, he transmits sound to Evangelista. You can hear sound, yes. But you can also feel it as vibrations within the body.
And so begins KAGE’s new collaborative work, Out of Earshot, presented in the Chunky Move studios. Quietly. Intimately. With a question. How do we experience sound? Premiering as part of Melbourne International Jazz Festival, sound is not something we hear only with our ears. Sound is felt.
We take it is a given that when we hear sound, we are not just using our ears. All our senses are engaged. Sound is experience. From the hot tingle of goose bumps on the forearms, the lump that materialises in the throat, the heart that feels as though it were out-of-body soaring. Our feet tap as rhythm takes hold. A smile broadens as a crescendo is reached. Some, they may even ‘see’ the music as it flies through the air like some superb bird of synaesthesia. To me, sound has the effect of unifying those in the room, making us all instruments, like Manzanza playing Evangelista’s torso. We hear sound and the brain fires off happy notes throughout the body. Sound is, to this end, pleasure.
Head down, an old man shuffles with the assistance of a wheeled walking frame past the ghostly blue façade of a building. Unbeknownst to him, his dog is tangled in his own lead and is being dragged on his back through the grey streets. In the background, a traditional jazz band plays.
A man in his lounge room practices his sousaphone. A half drunk glass of beer on the table beside him. Unbeknownst to him, his playing is driving his wife to despair. She enters the room through the doorway behind him, raises her hands to her head and screams. Moments later, somewhere off camera, she slams a door causing a picture frame to fall into the fish tank below. The man keeps playing.
This pair of black-humoured vignettes of ‘ordinary people doing ordinary things’1 are from Roy Andersson’s 2007 film, You, the Living, but equally, they could be from Alice Dixon, Caroline Meaden and William McBride’s recent performance, This is What’s Happening, winner of this year’s Melbourne Fringe Festival’s Best Dance.