Album Review: Rhythms of Change/Edwardes/Move Records

Album Rhythms of Change is a recent release by Australian percussionist Claire Edwardes on the Move label.

Edwardes has made a towering contribution to raising the profile of percussion music in ensemble and in solo. This album was driven by her additional recognition of the need to address the lack of representation of women in classical music and especially in solo percussion music.

Edwardes has commissioned seven Australasian women composers, both established and emerging, to write for the marimba, vibraphone and crotales, reflecting contemporary events in Australia and around the world.   

Maria Grenfell’s delightful trio of pieces for marimba solo, titled Stings and Wings (2021) depicts native animals and insects which Edwardes draws with infectious rhythms and syncopations. Ella Macens’ Falling Embers (2020) for vibraphone and crotales is an exquisite piece composed as a meditation in response to the devastating bushfires of 2020/21 and previously in 2002. In this piece, described by Macens as “tracing a glowing particle suspended above desolate land where all has been lost and destroyed” Macens and Edwardes together capture the paradox that is beauty amid the horror. Falling Embers is followed by another Macens composition, Verve, (2016). A marimba solo on which composer and performer collaborated. Grounded on a pedal point, the melody moves through different iterations, tempi and catchy rhythms.

In two vibraphone solos, Mirroring (2021) by Alice Chance and Slipstreams (2021) by Bree van Reyk, Edwardes demonstrates two very contrasting styles of music and execution. Mirroring is a meandering depiction of the disconnect that happens when personal communication becomes digital; Slipstreams is a metronomic and intensely personal piece by van Reyk, written specifically for emerging percussionists.

Peggy Polias’ Receptor is an angular response to the COVID-19 pandemic and pays homage to the frontline health workers and scientists as well those who lost their lives to the virus. Elena Kats-Chernin’s Violet’s Etude and Poppy’s Polka are two bewitching pieces dedicated to Edwardes’ two daughters and another result of the long and fruitful collaboration between composer and performer. Violet’s Etude for solo marimba is busy and bustling with energy; Poppy’s Polka for vibraphone solo is jaunty; both are engaging musical portraits of two girls filled with the wonder of youth.

Rhythms of Change closes with another trio of pieces by Anne Cawrse, Dance Vignettes (2021) for solo marimba. The three pieces Meditations and Hymns, Fancy and Flight, Scamper and Scoot, not only enrich the percussion repertoire, they are described as teaching pieces for practical and theoretical study – and they’re fun to listen to!

Edwardes’ playing is melody, harmony and rhythm section all rolled into one. The woody sound of the marimba is a fine contrast to the more bell like vibraphone. I am no expert on percussion but I very much enjoyed listening to this album and its messages, and I learnt a great deal.

Edwardes has aimed to raise the profile of Australian women composers as well as that of her specialty and to expand its repertoire at several levels. I do believe she has achieved this through her accomplished performance and some entertaining and socially relevant music.

Shamistha de Soysa for SoundsLikeSydney©







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