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Archive Highlights

 Da Contents H2

November 12 2014
Obituary & Archive: Margaret Cameron

The other side of Nightfall: Margaret Cameron & Ian Scott
Virginia Baxter

July 2 2014
Speak Percussion

November 20 2013
Jon Rose

November 20 2012
branch nebula

July 3 2012
liquid architecture (updated)

March 20 2012
clocked out - archive highlight

November 8 2011
the NOW now

May 10 2011
art & disability: new geographies of the body

November 6 2009
dance on screen

October 26 2009

September 21 2009
australian indigenous film

August 21 2009
keith armstrong, media artist

July 17 2009
liquid architecture

June 29 2009
rosie dennis: the truth hurts


the NOW now

Clayton Thomas, the NOW now Festival Clayton Thomas, the NOW now Festival
photo Tom Banigan
The spontaneous moments of the NOW now festival have been well documented in the print and virtual pages of RealTime. Reading through the almost annual reviews of this unique music festival (missing only the 2002 and 2004 manifestations), there is a tangible sense of growth and development in the event which reflects the evolution of the experimental music community itself, not just in Sydney but with national resonances.

As noted by Shannon O’Neill in his review of the 2006 festival the phrase ‘the now now’ is from renowned UK guitarist Derek Bailey, a personal hero of festival founders Clayton Thomas and Clare Cooper. In an interview at the end of 2002 Thomas talks of the festival’s development from the fortnightly series (awkwardly titled If you like improvised music we like you) into a large scale event. He also talks of the partnership with Melbourne's regular improv event Make It Up Club to present a range of national and regional tours. It was clear from the start that these two young artists were passionate and ambitious about integrating “non-idiomatic improvisation," to quote O’Neill, into the musical landscape of Australia.

Natasha Anderson & Amanda Stewart Natasha Anderson & Amanda Stewart
photo Clare Cooper
Two factors have been key to the event’s longevity: inclusiveness—an emphasis on developing a community—and flexibility. This has meant that the festival has been able to undergo changes and keep re-inventing itself. After outgrowing the artist-run galleries of Space 3 and Lan Franchi’s in Redfern, the curators took a very bold step in 2005, especially considering the lack of funding, by presenting the festival in the realtivelly mainstream rock venue of @Newtown. This leap of faith paid off as the accessibility of the venue dispelled any notion of clique-iness, attracting a much wider audience with over 300 people attending each night of this and the following festival. In an opinion piece in 2005 Caleb Kelly discussed this development and the shifting musical territory stating, “What provided the most excitement for the future of the scene was the willingness of this audience to try something new—four nights of Australian experimental music with no ‘big names,' simply the promotion and celebration of Australian improvised musics. The Now now has taken over from What is Music? as the focus of the experimental music year in Sydney, from the point of view of both musicians and audience.”

Zeit Kunst  6 Zeit Kunst 6
photo Sam James
Another shift occurred in 2008 when Thomas and Cooper relocated to Berlin, handing over the event to the community they had nurtured. A small collective of artists have successfully run the festival and the regular series (renamed The NOW now series) ever since. Feeling like the event might have reached its peak in the city, the collective opted for a tree-change, moving it to Wentworth Falls for 2008, 2009 and 2010. While this altered the scale of the event, it opened it out to other presentation modes, with a more site-specific focus including concerts in caves, sound walks and an annual curiosity from Jon Rose such as his interactive kite flying and musical netball concert. It also continued to attract the dedicated city audience along with the local community with Shannon O’Neill commenting of the 2008 event: “Alongside the familiar faces were hippies, parents with children and the elderly. The local community was curious and keen.”

The festival returned to the city in 2011 making use of the new batch of artist-run spaces and 2012 looks to continue this model. The NOW now is perhaps most impressive because, amongst all the format, venue and co-ordinator changes, what has remained constant is the passion for improvised music defined in its broadest sense. Experiencing the NOW now for the first time in 2003 I wrote: “Improvising is a valiant and foolish attempt to capture each moment, feel each slice of time as it passes over and through you. To do it right you have to surrender completely to the whims and vengeance of the temporal.” The festival is still around and successful because, it has responded like a kind of organism, in a similar way.

Jim Denley, the NOW now 2003 Jim Denley, the NOW now 2003
photo Joe Glaysher
Of course it’s not easy and Clayton Thomas summarises this in his 2002 interview: “I think improvised music and improvising in general—the freedom to bring to your ideas and expression and 100% of your energy to something—is really important. People are looking for that challenge: music as a model for life. It’s liberated and difficult and disciplined.” The NOW Now has definitely provided an inspiring model of freedom and rigor for the last 10 years, and we look forward to its future mutations.

The 2012 NOW now festival program will be launched Dec 14, 2011 at the Red Rattler. See for the schedule of regular events.

Gail Priest

a spectrum of spontaneity
kate carr: now now festival 2013
RealTime issue #112 Dec-Jan 2012 pg. web

borders down, camaraderie on
romy caen: 2012 now now festival
RealTime issue #108 April-May 2012 pg. 37


delicacies, brutalities & inbetween
tony osborne: the now now festival 2011
RealTime issue #102 April-May 2011 pg. 38

part 2: sydney scenes & sounds
gail priest: the now now; sound series
RealTime issue #104 Aug-Sept 2011 pg. 48


vigorous exercise & a well-balanced diet
gail priest: the now now festival 2010
RealTime issue #96 April-May 2010 pg. 39


the improvising animal
gail priest: the now now festiva
RealTime issue #89 Feb-March 2009 pg. 39l

riding the impro wave
gail priest: fred rodrigues, S.I.M.S, the now now series
RealTime issue #94 Dec-Jan 2009 pg. 48


relocation and reinvention
shannon o’neill takes to the hills for now now
RealTime issue #84 April-May 2008 pg. 41


subtle assaults
tony osborne at the now now festival
RealTime issue #78 April-May 2007 pg. 42


Impro: ethical, musical and now
Shannon O’Neill at the NOW now
RealTime issue #72 April-May 2006 pg. 30


What NOW for experimental music?
RealTime issue #66 April-May 2005 pg. 48

the NOW now: present and accounted for
Gail Priest
RealTime issue #65 Feb-March 2005 pg. 42


The NOW now: time slices
Gail Priest
RealTime issue #53 Feb-March 2003 pg. 45


MAKE IT NOW: the impro revolution
RealTime talks to Clayton Thomas
RealTime issue #52 Dec-Jan 2002 pg. 39

RealTime issue #105 Oct-Nov 2011 pg. web

© Gail Priest; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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