In the shadows of the night when lullaby is meant for sleep, what thoughts sing us awake?
Composed by Natasha Moszenin with sparse lyrical contributions from Leo Taylor, Antonella Salvestro and Antonietta Morbillo, nightsongs is a meditative and introspective song cycle that explores the inner landscape of our thoughts, our memories, our emotions, and our sensations. Taking the thing we carry with us at all times – our mind – and relaying it into a musical context that follows the cognitive and functional patterns is always an insightful process; however, nightsongs falls trap to the many clichés and does not transcend to a new and unexplored level, becoming stagnant in its lack of message and talk of moonlight and memory.
Presented at MC Showroom and in concert style with gesture, expression, dynamic and some choreographed movements, nightsongs has more of a workshop setting and format than that of a final product. With much of the material having a unique blend of classical and jazz undertones in its composition, the music, in its erratic and unorthodox contours and progressions, ironically becomes repetitive and expected in its tropes of spontaneity. With many of the pieces sitting in a soothing and lulling place before a sudden dynamic jolt into a grand and thundering home stretch, most numbers blend together and are not memorable; aside from iconic pieces ‘Superlative City’, ‘Detox Queen’ and ‘Make Me Famous’, there is not a moment of release and relaxation from the anxious mindset, and these pieces, alas, become iconic for the fact that they stand out more predominantly in their entertainment value and comedic tones than the actual songs themselves (save ‘Detox Queen’ which is a platinum piece). One rule of vital structural etiquette in dismissed: to start the show on a high note so that the audience is engaged. Due to the meditative nature of most of the songs in the show, the first forty minutes are polite ballads that majoratively carry us nowhere, returning to shared lyrical motifs of scouring through old memories and the poetry of moonlight. This unfortunately creates more of an atmosphere of discomfort for the audience for too long a period.
Moszenin also wears the director’s hat with her minimalist approach. With herself by the piano and our three performers in a line facing our audience by their on-stand microphones, the concert form is established and maintained. With a barstool behind each performer, the set is simple yet effective; this convention of a blank canvas is consistent with the costumes, comprised of your typical neutral all-blacks. The performances themselves were not up to expectation. Although perfect in musicianship and accurate on entrances, harmonies and dynamics, the performers individually sounded incredibly tight and hindered. Lara Vocisano is a beautiful and confident-presenting presence, but squeezed out her top notes uncomfortably, often muffling her sound intrinsically and forcing an unusually false mimicry of an operatic soprano; her performance also translated as explicit, her choices very literal and lacking nuance when she communicated an idea to the audience. Claire Nicholls has a charming smile, and although it sometimes faltered with her vocal confidence in sporadic intervals, her charismatic energy shone through; contradicting her facial ferocity and her incredible narrative voice is her awkward poise, shifting from foot to foot and sometimes shifting into a frozen countenance. Jai Luke takes the spotlight as the centrepiece of the trio and a gliding contemporary baritone with a juicy upper range; Luke has many of the subtleties that the pieces themselves may lack, and although he stood awkwardly or hung limp in brief segments, his acting agility kept him engaging.
Sound and Lighting Operator Teri Steer does a fair job with the simple transitions and balance of levels. The lighting design is incredibly subtle, and arguably too subtle to have any effect on supporting the context of each number, fading between solid colour washes so slowly that you wouldn’t notice unless paid acute attention to both the previous and current lighting states. The sound design was evenly levelled, allowing the voices to blend in volume and never be obscured by the intricate piano movements.
nightsongs is a musical soundscape of late-night anxieties and numbnesses that we experience when existentialism seeps into our tired minds, hooking us into consciousness despite our craving for sound silence and sleep. Although still of an amateur palate, essential cuts and critical editing may be able to rescue some of the wonderful moments of this piece. Sacrifice is hard for a creative, but necessary for a creation.