Adelaide Festival Review: Music for Other Worlds

FIFTY+SA Arts Reviewer Dave Bradley reflects on Adelaide Festival's Music for Other Worlds performed at Adelaide Town Hall.

WORDS: Dave Bradley, Arts Reviewer

Adelaide-based photographer Alex Frayne’s Festival event finally happened last night, after a failed and frustrating attempt to get it off the ground in 2021 (damn COVID – again!!!).

A collaboration between him and maestro Paul Grabowsky, this began with a pleasing introduction from another Adelaide icon, Greg Mackie, and a ‘Welcome To Country’ from Rosemary Wanganeen, before Paul took to the stage and, without a word, began to improvise upon the piano, as Alex’s images appeared on three huge screens.

Anyone familiar with Alex’s work (look for his book Landscapes Of South Australia) knew, to a point, what to expect: shots of a misty Botanic Park led Paul in melancholic and wintry directions, while several pics of a country road inspired an almost jaunty, ‘Road Trip’-type melody. But Paul didn’t just tickle the ivories, particularly when, in the third section, he plucked the piano’s strings directly (a most striking effect) and, later, thumped the thing in time.

Alex’s images were also used in inventive ways, with certain photos shifting in colour and sharpness, and others altering seasonally, from summery landscapes to brooding chilliness. There were even a few that started puzzlingly, meaning that you couldn’t quite tell what you were looking at (is that a leg?), before the image moved with Paul’s playing and, finally, revealed a child swinging happily in a tyre in the garden of a stately house.

Frayne himself advised me beforehand to watch out for film references, and there were a few that were obvious, from a certain David Lynch-iness, here and there, to a quick glimpse of roadkill that recalled several Aussie horror movies that shall remain nameless.

Indeed, the dark and even disturbing atmosphere that permeates some of Alex’s best work was almost completely absent, and the mood was generally sweet, upbeat and very Australian indeed, especially the final triptych of beach photos: a figure frolicking in the sun-dappled shallows; a kid playing in wet sand; and a bikinied woman (warily?) staring out to sea.

This was the final section and, afterwards, Alex joined Paul onstage for much applause and, fittingly, neither said anything or speechified at all.

Because really, in the end, it was all about the music and the pictures. Words were irrelevant.

(Music For Other Worlds was a one-night-only event, sorry)

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