The Howling Girls is a memorable opera without words, sparely physically animated, pictorially and sonically immersive, a remarkable celebration of the voice and, with a utopian aura, a continuation of the feminist project to de-pathologise and give voice to the extremes of women’s experiences.
We hear her. We hear them all. Now, the voices are different. Now, they move beyond constraints and into creation. Now the sounds belong to the women who howl, and they are in control of it. A drum beats. The women chant, move forward, elevate Sheldon’s cry with percussion and movement and their own haunting voices. Maybe the women have forged a new way of speaking. Maybe they will never be silent again.
a remarkable tour-de-force – a 60-minute exploration of boundaries of vocal possibilities … A significant element in sustaining that atmosphere was the discreet finesse of Ricketson’s electronic sounds, directed by Symonds and balanced with refinement by sound designer Bob Scott. Eugyeene Teh’s black and white costumes were fantastic visions welling from the darkness with the logic of a dream.
The opening sequence of Sydney Chamber Opera’s The Howling Girls plunges the audience into a liminal world that evolves so slowly the slightest sonic or visual shift reverberates with unexpected power. But the dreamlike world of Ricketson and Jacobs’ opera, which has no libretto, is more a deeply felt response to ideas of trauma, powerlessness, grief and communication, than straight story-telling ... Ultimately it is the immersive mystery of the long opening sequence that lingers in the mind, like some vivid but half-remembered nightmare.
Visually and aurally the work is disturbing ... a bold experiment in how the human voice, singly and collectively, can be stretched almost to breaking point, while providing a vivid investigation of responses to trauma.
the emotional force of the piece is overwhelmingly sonic ... The Howling Girls coils around the listener like some impossibly ancient Siren song.
As a concept, The Howling Girls is experientially rewarding, highly visceral and sonically ingenious, captivating and intriguing in the way it has interpreted unimaginable trauma
As she [Jacobs] and Ricketson present a series of simple but richly evocative images and sounds, they’re inviting the audience to look inward. There are moments that are aurally and visually confronting and discomfiting, and others that are sublimely beautiful and meditative in their impact... Jacobs and Ricketson have carefully orchestrated just about everything, except for your emotional response...This is the pinnacle of their daring provocations and an essential work for anybody wanting to experience the cutting edge of the operatic art form.
The Day After Drowning for piano and live electronics was a beautifully wrought aquatic seascape … that gradually refracts and distorts, sparkling dissonances glistening around the edges as the music gradually disintegrates like light passing through deep water. … sepulchral beauty.
This tantalising piece of new music … arresting beauty … the intimacy and strangeness of these inexplicable rituals was, at times, spell-binding. [The Secret Noise]
It’s a wonderful connection and exchange that gives each individual something different … Challenge yourselves to explore something brilliantly different, The Secret Noise is defying genres and discovering magical creative gems for audiences of all ages to share and enjoy. [The Secret Noise]
Despite its close parallels of sound and light the piece worked well – the sub-bass tones also controlled by Ughetti matched the perception-jumbling strobe lights with dramatic impact. This was key: the intensity of the lights and sounds pushed the piece beyond any simple narrative of one begetting the other. [Rendition Clinic]
Not by Halves’, by Damien Ricketson, employed John Zorn styled gestures to set variation in duration into play, resulting in intriguing textures.
Damien Ricketson’s magnificent Fractured Again Suite ... draws inspiration from the physical properties and sound of of glass ... The rapid opening resembles an off-kilter clockwork automaton racing towards self-destruction. [Fractured Again Suite]
it’s thirteen-odd minutes of haunting, tormenting, fearsome, fearless semi-improvisation, as creepy as a midnight walk, alone, through a graveyard. [Trace Elements]
Damien Ricketson’s immersive exploration of secret music is a trail-blazing triumph … The Secret Noise is an eccentric, but sensitively constructed evening that is part installation, part dance theatre and part concert … Ensemble Offspring are pioneers and with this production they have left the first footprints in the sand of an exciting new territory for Australian performance.
This collaborative music/dance/theatre work communicates not only the sound of music but also the experience of musical process as reception, memory and fantasy. It’s a critical commentary on our understanding as concert-goers of interpersonal musical exchange. What if ‘classical music’ were individually tailored and responsive at all times? [The Secret Noise]
It was the sort of music Dickens’ Miss Haversham might have listened to in her wedding dress every night of her life ... a playful and original exploration of gesture, sounds and the ghosts of machines that produce them. [The Secret Noise]
For all the experimentalism, surreality and abstraction, it’s a throughly engaging, watchable and listenable happening, one that unfolds and unfurls at a gentle pace … Edgy isn’t always assimilable, but the virtuosity of Ensemble Offspring and its esteemed partners, their collective sense of genre-defying adventure, commitment and striving for excellence distinguishes this work as truly cutting-edge. It’s, at once, very now, with more than a hint of tomorrow.
... evoked thoughts of Mongolian nomads wandering vast plateaus. The conclusion to the piece had centaur vibraphone broken chords accompanying undachin tarhu bow scrapes, which were haunting and other-worldly. [Some Shade of Blue]
… magnificent gong-like instruments made of glass that sounded like all the bells of Venice heard through a deep mist. [Fractured Again]
... the work on the program I’d most like to hear again ... and again. [In God’s Esperanto]
Ricketson has a reputation for intelligent and inventive music-making and this work was no exception [No More Than Liquid]
The sound is floating, fractured and sometimes acerbically painful and dissonant, as though filaments of the sonic fabric were being pulled apart and blown to the winds. [A Line Has Two]
Exquisite, created a sense of erotic longing… full of delicious treats for the ears and eyes. [A Line Has Two]
The most sophisticated work on the program [Chinese Whisper]
… generated the sense that his music was going somewhere, offering prominence and daring.