To celebrate and share the works of the late, great New Zealand composer Jack Body, the NZ Consulate-General in Chengdu and long-time friend, composer and pianist Gao Ping 高平 invited the NZTrio to perform at the Sichuan Conservatory of Music this month.
Kiwese attended a press conference (oooh) with Gao Ping and the lovely folk from NZTrio: Ashley Brown (cello), Justine Cormack (violin) and Sarah Watkins (piano), all dear friends and musical comrades of this celebrated Kiwi music maker.
With a YouTube search of the name ‘Jack Body,’ you will find a mixed bag of NZSQ performance recitals and club remixes of the house tune ‘Jack Your Body.’ A truly spectacular name, for a one of a kind, fun-loving and inspired man.
Te Aroha-born composer Jack Body will be remembered for many things. He was an educator, photographer, traveller, editor, facilitator and mobiliser of New Zealand’s musical dialogue with the outside world. Having lectured at the New Zealand School of Music for over thirty years, Jack introduced the Indonesian gamelan to New Zealand, wrote countless numbers of works, invited talent from around the world to perform, write and teach in New Zealand, and even released a photographic series of penises!
Jack attended school and university in Auckland but later called Wellington home, where lived with his life partner Yono Soekarno in Aro Valley. Despite his fascination with the music and cultures of the world, Jack was based in New Zealand his whole life and dedicated himself to bringing the world to NZ and vice versa.
We are forever grateful for his commitment. Rest in peace, Jack.
Hi NZTrio! This is not your first time in China, is it?
JUSTINE CORMACK: I forget how many times we’ve been here already! Jack established these music links with China. He is the reason we have been able to come so many times.
How did this trip come about ?
ASHLEY BROWN: It was a lovely invitation from Gao Ping and the NZ Consulate. We’ve been to Chengdu twice before to play at the Sichuan Conservatory. We love the food and the people. We are beginning to get further into the local music, too. Gao Ping is currently writing a piece for us, a piano trio with guzheng, which is a very important and exciting project – a way for China and New Zealand to join hands in a cultural way. Hopefully it will be performed on our next visit to Chengdu.
So the piano and guzheng will be brought together?
The piece will be for them and a guzheng, instruments from different directions coming together on the same stage. This program will also include other composers, including several from New Zealand.
Jack said he enjoyed coming to Sichuan, Yunnan and Guizhou to find Chinese inspiration. What do you think inspired him?
GAO: Mr. Body came to the Yunnan, Guizhou, Sichuan region really early on－ the first time was about thirty years ago. He travelled out to really remote villages to sample their music, including ethnic minority areas in Guizhou. He loved folk music – the music that derived from the original ecology. He collected a lot of material – this whole journey was recorded in a documentary called ‘Big Nose,’ which what Chinese people call foreigners.
Fieldwork, data collection, sound recording, all of this had an enormous impact on his later works. He was not only interested in folk music but customs as well, like the backstreet hubbub of hawkers and peddlers of Chengdu at the time. He recorded these voices and well as the chanting of workers, then later added them into his works.
What are the highlights of tomorrow’s performance?
SARAH WATKINS: One special piece in the program is for solo piano with voice recording called ‘The Street Where I Live’ – the voice is Jack describing the street he lived on in Wellington. It is nice to have that voice as part of this conference, even though he is no longer with us. The whole program is a lovely display of Jack’s interest in so many different styles of music.
SARAH: 我觉得一个有钢琴和人声的作品叫做《我所居住的街区》是很特别，作品里的人声是Body先生的本人他的声音。他在描述自己在惠灵顿住的一条街。Body先生已经去世了，但是我们还能够听他的声音 。明天节目表示杰克非常多元化的类型。
WATCH KIWESE TV:
NZTrio’s performance in Chengdu.
Featuring excerpts from Fire in the Belly and The Street Where I Live by Jack Body and Four Sketches by Gao Ping.
What kind of connection did Jack have with Chengdu and Sichuan?
GAO: The first time Mr. Body came to Sichuan was in 1986. Although I didn’t see him back then, he forged some great connections with several musicians here at the Conservatory of Music. Later when I moved to the U.S. to study, I invited him to a performance of his works. When I eventually moved to New Zealand, I had a lot do with him. To be honest, we have always been pushing this NZ and China music connection, he came to Sichuan in 2009 with some other Kiwi composers. He is a New Zealand composer who really cares about Chinese music.
His real ideology was based around a musical worldliness. Not a worldliness where everyone is the same, quite the opposite, he hoped that every place could protect what was unique about them, while also being able to mingle with everyone else. This is what he was about. Whether in his own works, events or festivals, he was always promoting this ideology.
KIWESE: You mentioned that the NZ environment influenced you to compose Bright Light Cloud Shadows (2007). To what extent does your environment influence you work?
GAO: Certainly an artist’s environment has a very deep influence on his art, but it is not always clear. When you write you are emerged in the process, but the air, the light, everything, is what you are in – it does something to you, but it is impossible to separate what that is. That particular piece Bright Light Cloud Shadows was written in Christchurch, that is my NZ piece, although the title comes from the painter Bada Shanren. If I was to write such a piece now it would be very different, because I live in Beijing where there is no light and no clouds…
KIWESE: In addition to having such a close working relationship with Jack, what was he like as a person? Any personal anecdotes you’d like to share?
JUSTINE: He had a really wonderful sense of humour, as well being generous and loving, he really took care of people. There always seems to be a sense of humour in Jack’s music, my lasting memory of him is that wry chuckle. The first piece we will play at the concert is called Pain In The Arse, where have to scream out things like ‘pain in the BUTT BUTT BUTT!’ He would be chuckling at us!
ASHLEY: My memories are sincerity. What he taught us is that collaboration shouldn’t be superficial, where two groups simply share a stage, but to find ways for cultures to intermingle. Eating the food, meeting the people and actually existing together, having an understanding of each other. Having a laugh, telling jokes and a glass of wine with the people you are going to be performing with is really important. Jack certainly showed us how to share a few wines!
SARAH: Certainly one of our first memories with Jack was when we were travelling in Indonesia and our van broke down. So we had to pass a few hours in the middle of nowhere. Jack wasn’t prepared to just sit and wait in the van for a few hours, he wandered off and came back a while later saying ‘come, come!’ He had walked down a dusty road and found some houses at the end, where he met some families who invited us back for a cup of tea. That sense of exploration is what I will remember about him.
JUSTINE: 他真的很幽默，深情款款的一个人，很关心大家。他的音乐也有一种幽默，我永远不会忘记他的讽刺意味的笑。我们在演奏中第一首要演的作品叫做《腚疼》，我们要喊很奇怪的东西比如：“疼！腚！腚！腚！” 我以为他会对我们笑死了。我们一起有很多美好时光。
You recently ran a Douglas Lilburn tertiary composition competition. Even here at this event we can see a lot of NZ university promotion, and you will have seen the increase in Chinese students in Auckland. Is there much of a Chinese base in the performance or composition departments?
JUSTINE: Definitely in performance, composition not so many. It seems to me that music is valued by Asian people in New Zealand, that really comes through in their commitment and energy to learning about music. Great discipline, which is often lacking in others (laughs).
SARAH: We encountered some Chinese students over the years, I’m thinking Jeff Lin, and there were a few in the competition.
GAO: Concerts like this are important in increasing China’s awareness of NZ music. I think NZ is known for its milk here, a little wine, but I try to tell them there are great artists and composers!
SARAH: 我们在这几年认识一些中国学生，比如Jeff Lin，还有一些在我们的作曲比赛。
Any stand out young NZ composers in your eyes at the moment?
JUSTINE: There are so many. Isaac Shatford – he’s a first year composition student. We’ve even brought along some of his music. In the Lilburn competition he wrote a piece for piano trio, which Lilburn himself never wrote.
SARAH: Salina Fisher, she’s a fantastic composer, violinist and a pianist!
ALL: Claire Cowan, whose work we played at the dinner reception. She also belongs to the Blackbird Ensemble.
Claire Cowan，我们昨天演过她的作品。她是Blackbird Ensemble的成员。
Good stuff, thanks guys!
Many thanks to the NZ Consulate-General in Chengdu for inviting Kiwese to this event!
In memory of Jack Body (1944 – 2015)