Tuesday, 16 May 2017


Rik Rue was born in Sydney in 1950, and at the age of 15 began constructing his own soundscapes from found and outdoor environmental sounds. He utilised anything at his disposal, from clanking garbage bin lids to breaking glass, editing sections of tape into compositions. Since early childhood, music and sound had been a springboard for his imagination, part of a private world into which he could escape from a life disrupted by domestic violence and the ethnic and social frictions within an underprivileged neighbourhood. Environmental sounds, his primary musical influences, have always provided him with "abstract and subconscious pleasures and an inner understanding of the physical environment", and manipulating them seemed to allow an imaginative reconstruction of, and some control over, the world that produced them. He was encouraged in his early sound collages and soundscapes - which were recorded on a rudimentary quarter-inch reel to reel machine - by Sydney painter Carl Plate and by tape enthusiasts, including Fred Myer.

Rue, who is self-taught in composition, had always listened to and collected a wide range of world music. As a teenager his interest developed through listening to black popular and ethnic music and jazz and blues styles. Later, travel to India and the Himalayas in 1969 and 1970, then again in 1973 and 1974, exposed him to a wide range of traditional and classical Indian music, and it was in India that he also first realised that the total environment was part of the music - that music and environment were inter-dependent and inseparable. In India, too, he began documenting and collecting recorded soundscapes. After a stay in London from 1970 to 1973, while studying part-time at the Slade School, Camden Art Centre and Royal College of Art, he became interested in non-idiomatic improvisation, which persuaded him to learn and play percussion and saxophone. He was influenced in his playing style by jazz improvisers such as Charlie Parker and John Coltrane, then by the London Free Jazz Network , which led to a further interest in European forms of jazz and to classical and contemporary music. He also gained expertise working as a technical assistant for bands and in art school productions.

Back in Sydney, from 1976 to 1979, his interest in improvisation and jazz surfaced in an organisational way when he helped present concerts of experimental and improvised music in the Paris Theatre in Darlinghurst and small galleries such as Central Street in Sydney. At this time he also played with a number of prominent Sydney improvisers, including Jon Rose, Louis Burdett and Serge Ermoll. These activities culminated in a solo saxophone concert at the Art/Empire/Industry Gallery in Sydney in 1982. In this year Rue also achieved an important musical breakthrough. By using the tape recorder, he realised he could combine his love of environmental sounds, and of world music, with his interest in improvisation and his desire to document and re-arrange sounds. Thus, the tape recorder became his `instrument'. He began presenting `live mixed' tape works in performance with improvisers such as Jim Denley and with the improvising group The Relative Band in the 1980s. For many of these `live mixed' performances he used a Tascam Portastudio and two other tape machines connected to a six-channel mixer, which presented a broad range of musical options. The use of pitch control - which was built into the machine - together with panning and sound altering equipment, provided further flexibility. The entire setup was devised to be used as an improvising instrument.

Since the early 1980s, Rue has continued to work with live tape mixing in performances, particularly when playing with Mind/Body/Split , a group of Sydney-based improvising musicians including Jim Denley (flute and saxophone), Sherre De Lys (voice and texts), Jamie Fielding (synthesiser and percussion), Kimo Venonen (electronic samplings and manipulations) and occasional distinguished guests, such as Amanda Stewart (voice), Chris Abrahams (piano) and Graham Leake (percussions and samplings). Mind/Body/Split have appeared at a wide range of venues, including the Art Gallery of NSW and Sydney's Sculpture Centre and Performance Space. At various times Rue had released a number of works on compilation discs produced by Fringe Benefit records but later, when he felt the need to personalise his output, created his own independent cassette label, Pedestrian Tapes in 1983. Originally intended as a short-term project and means of presenting the off- beat and unusual, it survived its origins and now releases music and sound works from a variety of Sydney composers.



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