The 2009 Adelaide Fringe Festival featured a nautical Pyrophone beached at Semaphore and a related percussive pedal-copter called Sprocket. Both were grungy creations of junkyard wonder. Their rugged industrial feel was not just a visual impression. The Sprocket was used in a performance by a skilled quintet. It was then host to crowds of children who experimented with the sounds it made, or sat high on one of the two pedal seats over the rear wheels. It was wonderful to see that something which made such diverse and funky music was also kidsafe and robust.
The four wheeled Sprocket had a drum kit in the centre, rows of whittled pistons across the front, hand hewn xylophone on the left, and an array of car rims tuned like kettle drums on the right. As it pedalled past, complete with iconic Hill's hoist rotor, we could see three octaves of 'extractors' attached to a pythonic intestine of pipes. These were used to play a melodic bassline, not unlike a string bass.
The crowd sat around on the lawns and sand of the foreshore, sun setting behind us in the west. The crowd was eclectic with a broad mix of ages. A three year old Japanese lad in a blue striped top danced happily, oblivious to the smiling crowd. He looked like a tiny Where's Wally? and his happiness was infectious =).
A fire twirling team drew the crowd closer. Spinning flames in tandem, or individually, with great music that made me want to dance too. Why are there no fire twirlers at the Olympic Games?
The sky darkened and everyone settled in for the Pyrophone. It was built like a tall ship; a schooner. Sail-like arrays of pipes stood against masts. Car rim kettle drums filled the prow. A percussive array of pipes hung over the port side. Drum kit and industrial timpany sat astern. Closer to the audience a smaller instrument made of hanging tubular bells started the performance. The pipes were suspended over a pool of water on stretchy cables. They were struck and the note bent through a watery glissando.
The Pyrophone was exhilarating and the heat from the flames made faces glow. I thought this event was a wonderful gift and a powerful event for the Semaphore beach to host. Local businesses would have done well that weekend; the old Carousel was open and children were riding or chattering over fish and chips. I expect it will be a long remembered event.
Unfortunately some local residents did not appreciate the performance and complained to the local council. I am pretty stunned by this. The event was not overly loud ran three performances from 8 to 10pm over a long weekend. It is hard to imagine how something as really charming as this could offend. Jenni went the night after we did and some vandals had damaged the Sprocket so it was not able to be used.
If there is a Pyrophone in town for future events perhaps it could come and visit us in Mount Barker. We love our steam train and have just had The Power of the Past festival showcasing old stationary engines and tractors. Or hopefully those disgruntled folks of Semaphore will wake up to themselves and show their appreciation for this remarkable event. Either way, if Something Wicked This Way Comes we will be there with bells on. =)