An eleventh hour blog post with our inimitable cellist Zoë Barry and her partner in life, music and Zalumma Agra; Jed Palmer. Zoë and Jed's composition The Nervous Atmosphere will be performed by TLSQ at our concert TODAY!! It is a stunning piece of music that the quartet feels honoured to perform.There are two things to do: Read our Q&A below with this talented, dynamic duo, Come to one of the performances today to hear their music. The Salon, Melbourne Recital Centre, shows at 4pm and 7pm. Book those tickets HERE.
When did you first meet and what were your first impressions of each other?
Zoë: We met sometime in the mid nineties in Adelaide. I was recording cello with a band Jed was producing.
Jed: I think we were curious about each other’s versions of being musical. I was self taught, DIY, learning on the job and Zoë was trained and knew exactly what she was doing. I felt it was my duty to corrupt her. Thankfully we have maintained that dynamic throughout our working relationship. I must corrupt Zoë’s process, as inefficiently as possible at all costs.
Zoë: My reality. It’s funny to hear Jed’s thoughts on this. I feel like I corrupt his process, and very inefficiently. When I first met Jed I remember being struck by the way he lived and breathed music, he was so completely driven to be consumed by music, he was hunting. He was musically so ambitious. I feel the same way now. And his drive to make music continues to inspire me now. We started playing in each others’ bands pretty immediately - Bergerac mainly - then moved into composing together for theatre and dance and short films. Many years later we became a couple, had to stop composing together for a few years, and then we starting collaborating together again on a film score a few years ago, and are now are back into it intermittently.
What is the most annoying thing about Zoe/Jed that makes you love him/her more?
Jed: Zoë is way too patient with me.
Zoë: Jed’s focus. It’s astounding.
Tell us more about Zalumma Agra
Zoë: Zalumma Agra is the slightly unpronounceable name of the post production studio we run together based in Kyneton - composition and sound design for film, tv, theatre, commissions, installations etc. The intention of the name “Zalumma Agra” was to place an umbrella over all our diverse musical projects. We were looking for a band name that could also be used for the post production/composition company. I love that nobody can pronounce it, or spell it, or knows what it is.
Do you get nervous before performing, if so, how do you combat that?
Jed: No, I get nervous during performing, after not being nervous at all for the first 20 or so minutes, then it hits me.
Zoë: These days when I perform on cello I find it a really surreal and sublime experience - making 4 strings vibrate, and changing the air waves around me. The wonder of this prevents nerves, I just feel so lucky to get to spend my time making vibrations in beautiful venues.
What was your collaborative process for this particular project?
Zoë: This piece was commissioned by The Zephyr Quartet and it premiered at The Adelaide Festival earlier this year. Ten composers from around the world were each asked to compose a short piece that would then be performed as one long piece – inspired by the Surrealists’ parlour game Exquisite Corpse (where you take turns drawing a body, without seeing what the other person has drawn). The surreal paintings often had exploding heads. I was struck by lightning a few times a while back, and the experience seemed to relate to these surrealists’s drawings. So I began the piece looking to write something surreal that conveyed the feeling of having your head smashed open to a more psychic realm, and the low level disturbia that follows as all of the adrenalin slowly seeps from your body. And I was listening for the spaces between the notes.
Jed: I wanted to hear a motorik sequence I had written played by a quartet and I thought it would be an interesting contrast with Zoë’s pitch modulating long notes. It is very difficult for us to be composing in the same room at the same time at the moment (we have a toddler). We end up writing in isolation and then bringing each other offerings.
Zoë: Which suited the nature of this project.
What are reading at the moment?
Zoë: Mainly reading Andrew Soloman’s Far From The Tree, rereading Maggie Nelson’s The Argonaut, oh boy it is amazing, I read it then immediately read it again, and now I'm on my third go.
Jed: I have just started reading Stone Arabia by Dana Spiotta.
What’s your favourite podcast?
Zoë: I can’t get enough of 2 Dope Queens, and Psychic Teachers. Jed doesn’t do podcasts.
If you were not a musician or performing artist, what would be your ideal occupation?
Jed: I don’t think I could function in any other field. Maybe I could be an astronaut?
When did you know that you wanted to be a musician?
J: There wasn’t a specific moment. I carried a guitar around the house for a long time before I knew how to play it.
Z: I never questioned it. In my primary school year book I wrote that when I grew up I wanted to “wander minstrelly”…Urgh… But it is kind of what I do.
What was your first instrument?
Z: I taught myself the glockenspiel when I was in reception, and performed “Little Donkey” at school assembly, which my parents were surprised to find out about.
What is the strangest music gig/job that you’ve done?
Z: I played mediaeval cello with a death metal band for a while, mainly so they could qualify for the uni battle of the bands comp.
J: I once recorded a song (for a band) that was called “The Caravan and Camping Show” and it wasn’t for a commercial.
Future projects: We are currently finishing some musical films for Melbourne Museum, part of a permanent exhibition in the new children’s gallery that is opening in December. We are off to Nashville in the new year, producing a record together for Frank Moylan. Zoë is appearing at Sydney Festival in January, playing late night solo cello sets in The House Of Mirrors, a beautiful, creepy mirror maze made by Christian Wagstaff and Keith Courtney. Jed is finishing off several album projects.