Song to the Earth at Flowstate

From May 16-19 2018, Song to the Earth had a four-night season at Flowstate, a new open-air pavilion at Southbank, Brisbane Australia.

We were delighted with the season.

Flowstate kindly interviewed me for printed program and here are my responses below:

Flowstate presents Song to the Earth

Artist Statement

Often my music is inspired by patterns in nature. When I relax in nature, I feel transported and often fragments of music pop into my head. The sight of a solitary bird catching the thermals might inspire a slow, spiraling melody. Birds calling across the treetops can become a trio of birdcall inspired melodies for violin, as they do in Song to the Earth.

In nature, there are often many things happening simultaneously – raindrops falling on leaves, crickets calling, a catbird crying from afar. In my music, I like to play with varying, overlaying, hiding and revealing patterns. For me, this ebb and flow, unity and diversity, hints at a deeper wholeness in the fabric of life.

About the artist/company

Corrina Bonshek, DeepBlue, and Michael Askill share a passion for engaging the next generation of young performers in boundary-crossing new music. Composer & Artistic Director Corrina Bonshek has a long history of collaboration across art forms, sometimes in unusual places such as a historical female orphan school or a stone labyrinth. Her music is regularly performed in Australia and Asia and has been described as ‘connecting to the essence of South-East Asian music – timelessness’ (Ung 2015). String orchestra DeepBlue embrace technology, lighting, and choreography in their performances and mentor young classical musicians via their YoungBlue program. Master percussionist Michael Askill is an icon of Australian music, known and admired for his enduring contribution as a performer, composer, music director and educator, as well as his original blending of Asian and Western sounds. Together with a broader team of collaborating artists, they have created an immersive, music experience that is profound, deeply moving and propelled by ecological concerns.

What is your work about?

Corrina says Song to the Earth is a love-song to the planet, sung by instruments alongside recorded nature sounds. This work is about connecting to nature sounds around us, starting with our backyard. South-East QLD is incredibly bio-diverse with many species of birds in our varied ecosystems. Listen closely to Song to the Earth and you may hear a Wonga Pigeon, Butcher Birds, Kurrawongs, Lorrikeets, King Parrot, Cicadas, Curlews, a Catbird, alongside other nature sounds.

What inspired you to create this work?

The idea for this work came to me after two compelling nature experiences: watching the patterns made by a flock of birds as they swirled above my head; and, being surrounded by cicadas singing from the tree trunks at Curtis Falls rainforest walk in Mount Tambourine. These experiences were so mesmeric that I wanted to see if I could make a musical experience that also this an immersive, spatial, hypnotic quality.

What was your process creating this work?

First came the music accompanied by some performer positions and birdcall recordings. Then came the light installation (Mimi Dennett), and wearable light structures (Tiffany Beckwith-Skinner). Then DeepBlue devised movement formations and choreographer Meredith Elton contributed several movement sequences. Along the way, there were many meetings and creative conversations, especially with DeepBlue and Michael Askill whose ideas and practical suggestions helped shape the music that underpins this work.

How many people were involved in the creation of the work?

Our creative team included 10 people working across music, sound, light, costumes, and movement. This included Wes Bluff who made the lighting design for the large installation, and Anna Whitaker who crafted the sound design (which is made entirely of recorded nature sounds. Our guest conductor Adrian Head also played a special role in interpreting the musical score for the young musicians and equipping them with new skills in performing new music.

What would you like audiences to think about in reference to the subject matter?

Song to the Earth is an invitation to go on an adventure in sound and space. You can stand right next to the musicians and hear the music up-close, or listen to the music from the edge, from the middle. From each part of the performance space, the sound will appear different, and the music feeds.

I hope Song to the Earth heightens your awareness of sound in space and encourages you to listen and explore your own backyard. Listening to nature sounds is a lovely way to become attuned to your neighbourhood eco-system and feel deeply connected to the diversity of life around you.

What is it like to develop work for Flowstate, South Bank – an open-air pavilion with an all-ages audience?

It is a delight to make a work for open-air performance space and for an all-ages audience. Who knows what birds may join the performance and sing along with our recorded birds or musicians!

In the first half, younger audience members will likely enjoy dancing along the string musicians as they process across the space. After the interval, the music is slower paced, and when not exploring, audience members may choose to relax, sit or lie down and let the sound of the gongs wash over them.

Song to the Earth was produced by Bleach* Festival and co-commissioned By Bleach* Festival, City Of Gold Coast And The Queensland Government Through The Regional Arts Development Fund And The Office Of The Commonwealth Games And Arts Queensland.

DeepBlue is proudly sponsored by Queensland University of Technology, Creative Industries, their education partner.