Desert Voices II

Desert Voices II

Jason Armstrong

Jason Armstrong

Jason has been playing the piano for over 25 years, having studied at the University of the Witwatersrand with Michael Strauss and Regina Bodnya. He started composing electronic music after graduating. He has always had a fascination with the performing arts world, and this has led him to collaborate on many projects involving dance, theatre, public performance and fine arts.

During 1991 and 1992, Jason taught music in Soweto. His first work with theatre was with Steven Berkoff's play Say a prayer for me, which was produced at the 1990 Grahamstown National Arts Festival. During 1991, he wrote the music for the Market Theatre production of Bertolt Brecht's Caucasian Chalk Circle, directed by Gerrit Schoonhoven. This work was produced on the main festival program in Grahamstown. He also worked with choreographer Jeannette Ginslov on a number of dance works, including VIVID, directed by Andrew Buckland.

During 1993, Jason played in the band Somewhere Else, with Gito Baloi, Gaston Goliath and George Sunday. This was the start of his association with Gito, which continued with the Desert Voices series of projects. Also during this year, he wrote the music for a short film, The War Ballerina, directed by Melinda Ferguson, and composed songs and piano accompaniment for Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.

Work on commercial theatre projects followed this, including industrial theatre works. Jason worked with Janice Honeyman at the Johannesburg Civic Theatre during 1994. During this year, he entered two electro-acoustic works in the Bourges Competition in France. A further work, entitled Non, was entered in the same competition during 1996.

The Performing Arts Council of the Transvaal (PACT) commissioned original music for their production of Shakespeare's Macbeth during 1995. Jason performed live in the play, directed by Craig Friemond.

1996 saw Jason involved in a project with Mark Odonovan, a sculptor. They were sponsored by the Foundation for the Creative Arts, and worked on a musical sculpture together. They had first worked together during 1995 on a project called NUET (Newtown Urban Eco Tour) for the Market Theatre in Johannesburg. This project was co-ordinated by a group called KLAP, and Jason was to work with different members of this group on various performance art projects over the next few years. In particular, he worked with Francois Venter, Vincent Meyburgh and Louw Venter in a street theatre group called Jungle Performance.

Jungle started out as a small project, but during 1996 it toured all over South Africa with a succession of street shows. Later in the year, two other performers, Catherine Henegan and Phillippa de Villiers joined to create a show, One Country, One Picnic, that toured extensively. Jungle utilised a mixture of clowning, drumming, electronic music played on portable equipment, juggling, fire and theatrics. Jason composed electronic music especially for performance by Jungle, including the 3 Worship Songs.

Also during 1996, Jason composed and performed in a solo show called Global Kraal. This show was a mask and music show, using masks made by Marius Meyer, and featuring Jason's electronic compositions. Jason took this show to the Grahamstown Festival in 1996.

The Desert Voices project began in 1996 with a grant from the Foundation for the Creative Arts. Jason and Gito Baloi worked on a six song selection, totalling thirty minutes of music. They then produced and distributed their product.

The project continued in 2000, when the National Arts Council gave another grant to complete more music. Jason and Gito produced a full length album, totalling forty minutes.

Jason started working with open-source software development during 1997, and currently consults and developes software in Copenhagen, Denmark.