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The space between the jump cut (a double portrait)

Today Evan, age 7, sits down at my piano and commences a Mozart minuet, stopping mid phrase to tell me about a recent kayaking experience. I negotiate the transition from pedalling in F-major to paddling in the Pacific as best I can (he has no problem with it).

But aren’t things supposed to go more smoothly in performance?

John Wynne’s Upcountry is—part of the time—a musical portrait of Kenyan master musician William Ingosi Mwoshi, who plays, sings and speaks about his music, cites its roots and his. The environment of a Kenyan village colours his expression and makes his world. He, his locality, and the words and music he creates appear indivisible. A documentary ensues. Ingosi’s time.

John Wynne’s Upcountry is—part of the time—an abstract journey. It often takes a route inland—upcountry, in fact. Ingosi’s vocal inflections become material for Wynne’s cool, sinuous tones. Layered, whittled down to bare bones, or mixed into new strata; at times Wynne’s abstractions stretch out to measure space quite differently from Ingosi’s speech rhythms, or indeed the rhythms of his songs. Wynne’s time.

The sonic jump cuts are sometimes quite abrupt. But aren’t things supposed to go more smoothly in performance?

But documentary and abstraction are difficult to reconcile. And the more I listen, the more I like the way Wynne lets them disentangle, and even disagree.

You can be with Ingosi; you can be with Wynne. You can keep one person’s world in mind whilst listening to the other’s. There’s no disrespect intended (quite the opposite in fact). And it isn’t that difficult to accept both worlds (a child of 7 could do it). A portrait that really sings is, after all, as much about the painter as the person in the chair. And observing the distance between the two is part of the whole experience.

A brief conversation ensues. Evan concludes with a perfect cadence and a rather good trill. It all seems to work out quite well. No disrespect intended, and certainly no need to apologize at all.

Upcountry

Composer programme notes and bio

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