Embracing the flow state: Luke Howard offers a one-off audio and visual spectacle at Melbourne Recital Centre

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Embracing the flow state: Luke Howard offers a one-off audio and visual spectacle at Melbourne Recital Centre

luke howard
words by luke carlino

Luke Howard and RESPONSVE bring their Dark Mofo-trained talents to Elisabeth Murdoch Hall this month.

Luke Howard is Melbourne’s answer to experimental classical performers like Nils Frahm, Ólafur Arnalds, and the like. He is a graduate in jazz performance from the Victorian College of the Arts, responsible for various solo, duo and trio albums, and even received an ARIA nomination for his 2019 film score The Sand That Ate The Sea.

His impressive catalogue of work continues later this month with a special one-off performance at Melbourne Recital Centre in collaboration with digital artist RESPONSVE (Simon Burgin).

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The duo are not strangers, previously melding their skills to create live audio-visual experiences at Dark Mofo and Melbourne Music Week. Howard’s neo-classical, minimalist compositions combine with Burgin’s mind-bending digital art so well, in fact, that they were finalists in the Victorian Premier’s Design Awards.

The audio focus for the upcoming show will be reinterpretations of Howard’s latest album, All of Us, and we caught up with him to find out more about what people can expect and how he found himself preparing for the Elisabeth Murdoch Hall stage.

“While there is some kind of preparation, Simon is responding live to what I’m playing, so it’s more interactive than just presenting a video clip, and it means I have a bit more freedom to not have to play to a grid,” explains Howard.

The duo first collaborated in 2019 to perform at Dark Mofo and have been honing their new show over the past year with various warm-up performances and residencies, including a show in Dublin this past July.

“Ideally, I would love the whole show to be improvised, but you really have to do a ton of shows to get to that point. Plus, we are a little restricted by electronics, but I like to have a few moments in the show where I can stretch out. Plus, you gotta play the hits as well, right?”

Howard’s latest solo record, the Australian Music Prize-nominated All of Us, perfectly sums up his unique way of mixing classical instrumentation mixed with ambient and electronic textures. While the entirety of his catalogue will be on display at the upcoming MRC show, the new record will be the focus.

“You can add this to the long list of lockdown albums,” chuckles Howard, “I’m working with Simon right now to make sure it all sounds cohesive; there’s a lot of knobs; I’m playing the piano, but also using my feet for bass notes and triggering things in Ableton. There’s a muscle memory to regain to get back into the flow state. Particularly when you are doing a one-off show as opposed to a tour.”

Having both played and recorded in the Elisabeth Murdoch Hall previously, Howard explains how the space is perfect for his particular type of performance. “One of the special things about the room is that we have the ability to make projections that fill the back wall or other visual stuff that isn’t always easy to find (in other venues).”


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Howard notes that instrumental music, in particular, can benefit from the added visual components from both the audience and performers’ perspectives.

“The extra stimuli can really help get you in the zone. I can’t always enjoy watching the visuals as I would like because of the way I’m facing, plus I often close my eyes when I play, but for the audience, the visuals can be quite useful to anchor you or let you drift off with a bit of a guide.” 

After the upcoming performance, Howard has arranged some music for the Indigenous artist Ngumliya, which will be performed in Sydney and at the Queenscliff Music Festival, before buckling down to write commissions and a possible new album if inspiration strikes.

“I’ve been doing this for a while now; if I feel inspired, I quickly record a voice memo on my phone and find that is enough to get me going when it is time to write, but part of it is just turning up and doing the work.”

See Luke Howard X RESPONSVE on Thursday, October 19th, 7.30pm at Melbourne Recital Centre’s Elisabeth Murdoch Hall. Tickets are available now.