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Review: JOEP BEVING at The Workshop, Adelaide Festival Centre

Review By Lisa Lanzi

Joep Beving played piano from an early age but wasn’t able to finish his tertiary music studies, instead obtaining a degree in public policy and public administration. He continued to play jazz and pop and describes his goal as once being to “hit as many notes per minute as physically possible” but that has since morphed into a more peaceful, introverted aesthetic. After inheriting a German piano when his grandmother passed in 2009, Beving found he was drawn to the piano and that the instrument elicited a very different, more calm musical response. In fact, he admitted that his partner encouraged him in the pursuit to curb his ‘grumpiness’. This new path has certainly been a successful one as after Solipsism, his initial self-published first album, he was signed to the popular Deutsche Grammophon label. For the 2020 Adelaide Festival we were treated to an intimate introduction to his music in The Workshop with a mix of old and new tracks and some humble but humorous banter.

This concert was the last in his Australian tour. A lone upright piano took centre stage and the tall, rangy, bearded figure of Beving played solo, although later stated that he would like to return and perform with a choir and other accompanying instruments. The piano had the top soundboard removed and was expertly amplified, though still retained a subtle sound that is a hallmark of the artist’s playing. Lighting was un-fussy and complemented the sound beautifully. After one piece and his unpretentious introduction, Beving instituted a sensible applause paradigm we would follow for the duration. Many of the pieces are quite short and would be grouped together so, if he was facing the piano the audience would remain quiet, if he shifted on his stool to face us, that was the signal for applause and connection.

As he played into his first set I found myself placing the quality of the music into the category of ‘filmic’ and thought that many choreographers would be drawn to it as well. Sometimes deceptively simple to the ear, the music has depth and layering. Though the dynamic range is not large, and only the last two works approached anything near Fortissimo, the delicacy imparts its own luscious moodiness. Some of Beving’s works have been released with very artsy videos too so I would not be surprised if film soundtrack composition is in his future.

Beving is obviously a deep thinker and willing to explore new concepts. He performed at the Burning Man Festival in 2018 as part of the art piece Franchise Freedom by acclaimed artist duo Studio Drift in front of his largest audience to date. As dusk fell over Black Rock City, 600 luminous drones rose into a hypnotic display of technological, algorithm-driven choreography mimicking a swarm of starlings and the connection between group and individual.

Many of Joep Beving’s compositions were in waltz time and some shifted from ¾ to common time and even into ‘free’ movements which had no identifiable rhythm but for the whim of the composer at the keys. The melodies are generally very harmonious and agreeable with the odd dissonant chord progression that will resolve back to a lilting sweetness. There was also use of electronic manipulation in two works so that it seemed like a celestial choir took on some of the held notes and chords as Beving played in harmony.

Beving spoke of the various inspirations for his work, one being his daughter Lotus. Sleeping Lotus is a work he started writing after peeking in at her sleeping form one night and when the concept of fatherhood descended strongly upon him in that moment. The piece is filled with his excitement, fear, hope and wonder at and for this small human and the life she might lead. Admitting his partner may have exhibited some jealousy, another composition was written for specially for her. The Light She Brings also has a secret meaning for Beving: that of the balance of the feminine and masculine and the relationship of that difference in our world, and additionally, the way those forces manifest in the individual. He feels that his musical trajectory has given him some balance in his own psyche allowing him to embrace the gentleness of the feminine without losing his sense of the masculine. For Steven was written for a dear friend after his tragic death when a car ploughed into a crowd. This friend had been the most positive influence for Beving and he wanted to honour that memory. It is also the song that launched Beving’s career as the mother and partner of Steven asked for a recording of it leading to his first album in 2015, followed by two more in the trilogy: Prehension in 2017 and Henosis in 2019.

Henosis means unity in Ancient Greek and in a more spiritual way, ‘one-ness’. For Joep Beving this last album embodies the cosmos and the idea of fundamental unity for humanity, the universe and our beliefs, whatever they may be, and that less emphasis on the individual might be a good thing for us all. This was a remarkable performance and this Beving obviously has many years ahead of him to further develop his ideas and sound.

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All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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