Mutiny Music

Colbourne Avenue, September 8


Alex Hewetson, Simon Barker, Rick Robertson, Phil Slater, Matt McMahon and Aykho Akhrif mutiny from making any music for a while. Photo supplied.

Would-be authors attending creative writing classes are exhorted to write about what they know. Writing about what they hold dearest would be better advice, and the same for composers. Rick Robertson certainly did that when he created Mutiny Music, a programmatic depiction of the Bounty mutiny and its aftermath, right through to the mutineers’ move from Pitcairn to Norfolk Island. This carries particular poignancy for Robertson because he is descended from the mutineers’ leader, Fletcher Christian.

Performed by Robertson’s 20-year-old band Baecastuff, Mutiny Music was first reviewed here five years ago, since which time it has been recorded and further aired at festivals. Setting this concert apart was its essentially acoustic presentation, with only Alex Hewetson’s double bass, Matt McMahon’s keyboard and Robertson’s cunning use of looped Norfolk vocal samples being amplified. This leant it an immediacy and a sophistication in the interactive dynamics that could never be matched through a PA.

Combine this with the fact that the sextet is now much more fluent in executing the 90-minute suite’s many twists and turns, and the performance glowed with resonances. These were heightened by the big-screen slide-show of extraordinary prints and photographs relating to the material, and by Robertson’s occasional spoken contributions in the thick, distinctive patois of the mutineers’ descendants.

Robertson cleverly avoided making his programmatic representations too bald. The mutiny itself, for instance, is not in the least violent, but more like a dream or a slow-motion depiction of Captain Bligh being set adrift. Greater ferocity occurred in the subsequent vision of conflict on Tahiti (before the mutineers’ voyage to Pitcairn), realised by a dialogue between Simon Barker’s log-drums and Aykho Akhrif’s congas.

Thereafter a discourse developed between idioms; between billowing space and fraught density; between composition (including hymns penned by the mutineers) and improvisation. Stunning contributions variously came from Robertson’s tenor and soprano saxophones, Phil Slater’s trumpet, McMahon’s piano and keyboard, Hewetson’s bass, Barker’s drums and Akrif’s percussion. What was already exceptional has become phenomenal.