Kiah Gossner is a modern-day Mozart.
His multi-artform performance piece, Contact, at The Adelaide Festival Centre, is a showcase of virtuosity that would standalone as a work of contemporary classical music without the extra layers of projected video and poetry.
However, in its current manifestation, Contact is a dense offering of audio, visual and structural elements to “explore the contrary forces of human emotions, journeying into a culture of domestic violence that is cyclical, shameful and ignored.”
To experience the show is to experience sensory overload, albeit in an intriguing and edifying manner. From the epic-length poetry by Don Symes awaiting audience members on their seats, to the fractured myriad of screens across the front of the stage and draped around the back, the 10-member ensemble produces a rich, evocative, filmic hour of music that is fully engaging and immersive.
Gossner’s composition is emotionally lythe; at once light, ethereal, and haunting, and then erupting into thunderous and rhythmic exclamation to the heavens. And back again. It meanders and sprints and climbs and cowers as it supports and interprets the flickering progression of the lines of poetry being drip-typed on the projections playing across the array of screens. Interestingly, the fragments of poetry, when noticed, married beautifully with the music, giving rise to spontaneous interpretations that were different from insights gained when reading the poem in full.
The artistry of the musicians competed for attention with the frenetic and fidgety unfurling of poetry on the screens, so much so that for this audience member the projections were ignored for large parts of the performance, so intoxicating and endearing was the music.
While all performers held our attention at times, Mat Morison on synth, Adam Page on sax and flute, and Kyrie Anderson on drums were mesmerising to watch and listen to.
In an interview in episode 296 of The Adelaide Show, Kiah was asked how difficult his music would be for people to access and enjoy if they are only used to pop, rock, and soft classical. He said there’d be some parts that will demand extra work by the audience but this did not seem to be the case. The filmic aspect of the music worked subconsciously to draw us in, as soundtracks do in film. In fact, the most abstract and least penetrable element of the show was the interweaving of lines of poetry. The deliberately jumpy rendering of text at times lent an air of distraction, requiring audience members to employ an extraordinary dedication to the task at the risk of diminishing full enjoyment of the music.
But be that as it may, I believe this work is worthy of promoting to a wider audience of people who appreciate thoughtful and evocative music, in the key of experimental curiosity.
Contact has many more audiences to woo in what is expected to be a long life for this production, and a long and rewarding journey ahead for Kiah Gossner.