Exit ceremonies

Austin Buckett and Claire Edwardes     Image: Traianos-Pakioufakis


Exit Ceremonies, Australian Art Orchestra and Ensemble Offspring, Austin Buckett (Aus), Simon James Phillips (Germany), Saturday, 6 February 2015, 7.30pm, Melbourne Town Hall, $35 Full / $20 Concession


Sydney had first go at the Australian Art Orchestra‘s exploration of works by Austin Buckett and Simon James Phillips, but Melbourne goes one better on Saturday with the addition of the world premiere of a new work, Swing Bridge, by 85-year-old US titan of experimental music, Alvin Lucier.


According to Lucier in an interview with ABC Radio National’s Andrew Ford, Austin Buckett on the organ will not control much at all during Swing Bridge, which utilises two notes that are slightly out of tune. The organist will sustain long tones and as he does so other players will move their hands slowly in front of the organ pipes, causing the pitches to descend and ascend. Six tones will form an aggregate of sound, and the beating sounds will slow down and speed up as the other players wave their hands before the pipes.

The AAO will join Ensemble Offspring to present Exit Ceremonies. Apart from Lucier’s work, the two young composer-pianists will offer “immersive and bespoke compositions that exploit the extraordinary array of sonic effects that can be achieved only with large pipe organs”.

Exit Ceremonies will utilise reel-to-reel tape machines, turntables, electronics, percussion, vocals, trumpet and strings along with the Melbourne Town Hall Grand Organ — one of world’s largest organs that uses 90,000 cubic feet of air every minute.


Composer, trumpeter, sound artist and Australian Art Orchestra artistic director Peter Knight says it’s important to constantly stretch genres and break down barriers separating disciplines, forms and cultures.


Exit Ceremonies creates new rituals for the organ and explores the meeting points of classical, jazz and experimental music. It also aims to be accessible and to draw the audience into a totally immersive sensual experience — an experience that can only be created using this giant instrument,” Knight said.


Recently being appointed AAO director and chair, Brian Ritchie said the orchestra “explores a panoply of sonic textures and formal approaches as part of their mission to conquer musical terra incognita and this original new work and international collaboration is testament to this vision”.
Alvin Lucier’s commission for Australian Art Orchestra, Swing Bridge, is written for two violins, cello, double bass, trumpet in C and female vocals, with three more players manipulating the sounds of the mouths of the organ pipes to bend pitch and set up audible beating.


Lucier’s works explore “the difference tones produced by combinations of notes played very closely together that generate sonically hallucinatory effects both conceptually fascinating and sensually engaging”.


Austin Buckett’s new work Aisles draws on a wide range of inspirations from minimalism to hip-hop, using various mediums to focus on the perception of sound repetition via slow evolution. The piece will set up looped conversations between the pipe organ, turntables, percussion and strings as Sonya Holowell‘s voice and Peter Knight’s trumpet float “like kites in the ether”.


Simon James Phillips, who trained as a classical pianist and works as an experimental improvising pianist and composer in Berlin,  is influenced by electronic music and is interested in replicating mechanical and repetitive sounds. His work Flaw uses “subtle timbral and structural development to build a complex composition” in “a mix of multi-layered impacts acoustic and electronic instruments”.
Australian Art Orchestra
Ensemble Offspring
Simon James
The line-up:
Austin Buckett organ
Simon James Phillips organ
Claire Edwardes percussion (Artistic Director Ensemble Offspring)
Peter Knight trumpet/electronics (Artistic Director AAO)
Sonya Holowell vocals
Martin Ng turntables
Joe Talia drums/revox B77 reel to reel tape
Erkki Veltheim violin
Anna McMichael violin
Mary Rapp cello
Sam Pankhurst bass.
Date Saturday, 6 February 2015
Time 7.30pm
Duration approximately 90 minutes with intervals
Location Melbourne Town Hall, 90-120 Swanston St, Melbourne
Tickets $35 Full / $20 Concession