Archive for the ‘Musicircus’ Tag


The Age published a very glowing review of Hunger (read it here).

The Theatre Notes blog also published a review – here.

Two quite different points of view. The Theatre Notes review has been commented on further by a reader – making for an interesting dialogue. Blogs are particularly interesting avenues for reviews and commentary because they offer readers the possibility of responding to the views expressed with their own.

Feeling quite knackered today. Musicircus on Friday night went well – but I think the role of creating and leading a new project so soon after Hunger did my head in. I spent the weekend feeling weepy and tired and overwhelmed. I’m still fragile today.

On Wednesday I drive 3.5 hours to Albury (surely it doesn’t take that long??) where I spend the rest of the week working with AYO’s Sartory String Quartet and local children on a creative project. Hopefully my brain will be back in gear tomorrow.

Musicircus planning

This Friday (two days after the Hunger season finishes) the MSO ArtPlay Ensemble will perform a new piece in the Melbourne Festival’s Musicircus. We will meet at 3pm at ArtPlay, and perform that evening, not long after the event begins at sunset. (Performances will continue throughout the night – until sunrise!)

I have a group of 30:

  • 12 who are currently members of the Main Ensemble (with whom I last worked in September)
  • 8 who are members of the Graduate Ensemble (with whom I worked on the Note To Self puppet project)
  • 2 siblings who play instruments
  • 8 family members who are not bringing an instrument
  • 1 professional violinist who will be assisting me (Mel, who works with me at the Language School).

Things I would like to happen during the performance:

  • Something tonal and memorable that everyone takes part in (singing if no instrument)
  • A section based on the ‘Walking, standing, sitting’ score that I used in September and with the AYO people, using set pitches.
  • Something that involves chance or random processes on the day, that might involve the newspapers or mobile phones I have asked participants to bring with them.
  • I might use the idea of unpacking and packing up of instruments ( also used in September, that worked beautifully).

Ideas for the mobile phones, newspapers, and notebooks and pen:

  • I could ask each of the adults to set their alarms to ring at key intervals; each time one rings, the next section of music starts.
  • The newspapers could be read aloud, starting very quietly, then getting louder. This could happen with the whole ensemble, away from instruments. Perhaps the rule could be that they must be newspapers from that day.
  • Notebooks being written in could be a cue for a solo during  the ‘Walking, Standing’ score.
  • We could have a chorus of mobile phone rings.
  • Members of the ensemble could call each other, and have a conversation. “I can’t talk now – I’m just in the middle of something.”
  • The newspapers being read, or held in different ways, could be what the musicians respond to in the “Walking, standing” score – for example, turning a page means a change of pitch. Standing up to read is a different pitch or musical gesture, as is folding the newspaper and tapping it into your hand.

I’ll add to this during the week. I don’t expect I’ll finalise the plan until Thursday or maybe even Friday morning. A main concern will be the use of time on the day – I don’t want to exhaust the group, but I do want us to create something that could last for 15 minutes. When we perform in the space there won’t be any other groups close by us, which is good – we’ll have a lot of sound-space to work within.

Seeing with our ears

Today I worked with the MSO ArtPlay Ensemble, the coolest bunch of 8-13 year olds in Melbourne, in my opinion. We are doing a two-day project exploring ideas of John Cage, as part of our preparation towards the bigger Musicircus project in October.

I decided to approach this project in a very open, experimental way. Literally experimental – I planned a series of open-ended musical and theatrical experiments and today we went through them one by one, noting the ones that were most effective for the group. Here are a couple of the things we did:

  • Creating theatre and music out of the everyday – entering the space one by one with instrument in case, unpacking it, warming up, putting it away, changing places, unpacking it, warming up, etc. Some interesting montages of sound, movement, and incidental noise.
  • Composing in the space. Two groups of children, group A is in the performance space, allowed to walk, stand still, or sit on the floor. Group B is around the edges of the space, with instruments, and tracking a certain person in group A. When their person walks, they play pulses on A, timing it to the person’s stride. When they sit on the floor they play E. They are silent when the person stands still. We tried some variations of this idea, but this was the basic idea.
  • Composing melodies using chance processes. You can see descriptions of our process here.

We also had a lengthy discussion on questions like : What is music? What is composing? How do you know when a performance is taking place? How do you know when it begins/is finished?

I was impressed by their responses. Comments included observations about intention:

“Even just the sound of feet walking down the street can be a composition – if I think about it, it’s composing.”

We listened with eyes closed to the sounds of the world, and I asked them to listen the first time, simply noticing all the detail, and the second time as if it was a recording of a composition. They agreed that they listened in a different way the second time; one girl said,

“When I listen as if it is a composition I’m interpreting it.”

And lastly, just a lovely musical turn of phrase:

“I see better with my ears.”

I came home today and pieced together a structure collating the results of all our experiments into one performance. We start rehearsing again at 10am, and perform at 3pm.

Days like today remind me of how much I love what I do, and give me a very satisfying sense that I am doing exactly the work I should be doing. My work sometimes feels overwhelming and draining, but mostly that is because of all the peripheral stuff – logistics, coordination, budgets, communication, tricky personalities etc. (Same things that come up in any job). The actual music work is in fact really inspiring, challenging, and a lot of fun. I make an effort to remind myself of this when I get frustrated with having so many different jobs and so many different projects in my head.