Come Together

2 May 2012 | 6:45 am | Matt O'Neill

Encompassing everything from avant-garde percussion to post-classical jazz, Topology and Clocked Out are two of Brisbane’s most respected musical ensembles. Matt O’Neill catches up with Clocked Out pianist/composer Erik Griswold to discuss new collaborative album From Small Things Grow.

It's no exaggeration to describe Topology's members as some of the most gifted instrumental players and composers in Brisbane. Similarly, it isn't overstating matters to describe Clocked Out as one of Brisbane's most innovative musical outfits. The prospect of their collaborating for a full-length album is, therefore, more than a little exciting.

“I'm feeling good, yeah,” Clocked Out co-founder Erik Griswold says of the forthcoming From Small Things Grow. “It's a compilation of all our collaborative work going back to 2007. I'm really proud of all of that material so it's been great to get it recorded and polished up. I'll be really glad to have it out there for people.”

It's an ideal collaborative relationship in many ways. One of the few unifying facets of Topology's oeuvre – which spans everything from classical to electronics – is their fascination with rhythm. Yet, their unique line-up arguably lacks a defined rhythm section. Clocked Out's combination of prepared piano and experimental percussion rounds out Topology's sound exquisitely (and vice versa).

“We've worked together on a lot of really great projects over the years,” Griswold reflects of the partnership. “We first worked together back when we collaborated with Terry Riley for the Pulsate festival. We played with him on stage back in 2007 – which was surreal – so our relationship really goes back over five years.

“The obvious thing about the collaboration is that it gives me a chance to expand my thinking instrumentally,” the composer enthuses. “It's one thing sitting and thinking of writing a string quartet in the abstract but, when you know the players personally and you know their work, you can really create something a lot more personal and specific with them.”

The expanded line-up encompasses violin, viola, piano, upright bass, reeds, organic percussion instruments (Clocked Out's Vanessa Tomlinson will use anything from toys to tools as percussion) and Griswold's unique prepared piano (a piano physically tweaked to produce unique sounds). Fittingly, the resulting material runs the gamut from minimalist classical to MC Hammer.

“There's a limit in any city to the number of people that are going to be involved in or excited by experimental music such as ours,” Griswold says pragmatically of the ensemble's music. “But I never create a work with the assumption that it will only be enjoyed by 40 or 50 or however many people. When I create a work, I do so in the hope that anyone will be able to approach it.”

“Anybody with an open mind, anyway,” the composer laughs. “Whenever we have had an opportunity to connect with a larger audience at events like Queensland Music Festival, we've always had very positive experiences. It's not so much that people can't get the work we and Topology do. It's simply a case of getting them to the work. I honestly believe that.”