This week’s article from the ‘Living Room conversations’ series features an with LRT collaborator Phillippa Murphy-Haste – member of the Microfiche ensemble.
Holly Connor and Phillippa Murphy-Haste from Microfiche are collaborating on LRT’s latest work in development – The Reckoning, which showcases Friday 16 December & Saturday 17 December, 2022.
The Reckoning uses the body as a site for exploring structural violence, to expose systems of violence. Microfiche’s compositions stretches the moral imagination to articulate themes of power abuse in institutional complaints processes, to be represented through sound and silence.
You are currently collaborating with Michelle and other artists for LRT’s work in development – The Reckoning. Is this your first-time collaborating through theatrical practice?
I’ve been involved in theatrical practice for many years through my work in musical theatre productions as well as devising incidental music for theatre. Several years ago I was involved in the Creative Development for Shakthi Shakthidharan’s play Counting and Cracking and now tours internationally.
As improvising musicians, how do you view composition and what do you see as its purpose? Do you make a distinction between composing and improvisation?
I view composition as a means to get everybody on the same page about your intentions as a composer, as much as that is possible. Improvising is composing in real-time and when you’re improvising with other musicians, you’re giving up a lot of that creative control you have if you’ve composed something very specifically in advance for everybody to read (in the case of written musics).
What I love about Microfiche is how we try and blur those lines between composition and improvisation. I like how people come up to me after performances and ask how much was composed and how much was improvised, because it’s very difficult, I think, for people to tell with our music. Even for us as performers, we are constantly changing elements of the composition to suit each performance, so one rendition of a composed work might sound very different on another occasion. I love the spontaneity of that. I love the risk, I love how it’s perilous. None of us know how a performance will turn out.
I think without risk, you can lose the excitement of a performance. Of course, this means that things could go terribly, but I think far worse would be if our performances became mediocre. I think it’s more difficult to encounter mediocrity when you’re metaphorically performing on the edge of potential disaster. I saw a great quote mentioned in Greg Sheehan’s book The Rhythm Diaries, where he references the book Creative Music Education by R. Murray Shafer, “teach on the edge of peril”, and I love that. I think the same thing about performance.
I recently saw Monica Trapaga perform on Muwinina country in Hobart with The Pocket Trio which includes Max Alduca, the bassist in Microfiche. She’d lost her voice but was still up there giving it her all. And there was something so special witnessing that vulnerability on stage, somebody performing on the edge of peril… probably a performance I will remember forever because we were on the edge of our seats, hoping for her and her voice to make it through each tune.
Of course, there are many layers to that situation, including the precarious financial situation of many performing artists, the pressure of time sensitivity in sometimes having only one chance to perform something and not wanting to “let anyone down”, but just in terms of the magnetism of that performance, she really managed to create something very beautiful in a high-risk performance situation. It’s not something you encounter every day.
Phillippa Murphy-Haste is a musician living on unceded Gai-mariagal land. She specialises in the performance of clarinets and her music-making collaborations traverse a broad array of styles and formats. Phillippa is interested in music as a connective and healing practice, as well as political act. She has performed with Ólafur Arnalds (Iceland), Joyce Moreno (Brazil), toured with Holly Throsby and Urthboy, and is a member of Microfiche and Sirens Big Band among other ensembles. Her playing is featured in the global top-selling video game Valheim, ABC’s award-winning Unravel True Crime Podcast ‘Snowball’, and many studio albums. She enjoys making music in unusual spaces; carparks, stormwater drains, decommissioned nuclear reactor halls…
Microfiche have recently released their 2nd full-length album, Everything and Other Infinities, to critical acclaim, receiving a 5-star review in Australian Jazz Journal Dingo, and given 4-stars by the Sydney Morning Herald. Find out more here.
Edited by Anastasia Mortimer