From mezzo soprano to the carwash: SIGNAL 2021 Sound Commissions

From mezzo soprano to the carwash: SIGNAL 2021 Sound Commissions

Image credit: Eman Ezekiel

SIGNAL launch their 2021 sound commissions showcase today, featuring four upcoming Melbourne sound artists.

The City of Melbourne program provides a creative studio with professional mentoring for screen and sound artists between 14 and 25-years-old each year, and their 2021 program – despite the difficulties of digital mentorship – is an eclectic range.

The performances vary dramatically, from powerful operatic vocals to dreamy layered soundscapes, a nostalgic, dissolving game theme and 11 minutes of ASMR-esque carwash storytelling.

What you need to know

  • SIGNAL has revealed their 2021 sound commissions
  • The City of Melbourne SIGNAL program offers a creative studio for young people
  • Four young Melbourne sound artists have released their work

Keep up with the latest music news, festivals, interviews and reviews here.

From a large range of applicants each year, SIGNAL commissions a select few to experience the 12 week program, where the young artists received technical and creative support through weekly online development workshops. 

Commissioned artists in 2021 met weekly with lead artist Marco Cher-Gibard. Each young artist also received one-on-one support from established artists and industry professionals. This year’s sound artists were supported by Lisa Rae Bartolomei, Nina Buchanan, Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey, Martin Kay and Allison Walker.

“The Signal Sound Commission has pushed me to create something very experimental in a safe and supported space,” commission artist, Tash Atkins said.

“My mentor, Allison, was really supportive in listening to all my wild ideas and helped me shape them into something exciting. From being involved in this commission I’ve learnt that sound art is incredibly valuable. I’m excited to keep exploring this practice and see where it takes me.”

2021 SIGNAL Sound Commission Artists

Tash Atkins

Tash Atkins is a Melbourne based mezzo-soprano, sound designer, composer and creative who is passionate about accessible classical music. 

Their aim is to challenge the elitism of opera and create exciting live performances and compositions that unite audiences with a love of experimental classical music. Tash is passionate about confronting conservatism within the form and is working towards creating a space for different identities to exist within a medium that has erased them. 

As a proud bisexual and disability advocate, they are interested in exploring their identity in their work.

For Juliet

‘For Juliet’ uses text from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to create a queer retelling of the classic love story. The composition combines Algorave (music created using code) and classical singing techniques to create an atmospheric love song. This is a new experimental composition practice for Tash, celebrating their training as a classical singer and combining it with electronic music-making techniques.

This work was originally devised to use the rhythms of the industrial space around the Signal building next to Flinders Street Station; the noise of the train line, quickening footsteps in rush hour, the construction of the city. Musical storytelling is used to create an experimental soundscape for exploring how rhythm and modernity can impact how we perceive music. By creating music for urban public spaces, we break down the barriers to accessing art. 

Furthermore, it dismantles the classist barriers to art. This piece tells a modern love story, now in a public digital space, and creates a musical conversation between historical classical music, code and the rhythms of your listening environment.

‘For Juliet’ challenges the listener to examine what they think of classical music and create a point of entry for new interest and accessibility within the medium.

Tyler Bain

Tyler Bain is a Naarm-based filmmaker and sound designer focused on telling stories that are equal parts silly and serious, primarily through the manipulation of archival footage and field recordings. 

His screen and sound works have been exhibited across Australia and internationally, including at New York’s Stony Brook Film Festival and Sydney Film Festival. He does basically whatever.

Deluxe Wash

Primarily recorded at Fitzroy’s Expresso Car Wash, ‘Deluxe Wash’ is an attempt to explore the seemingly mundane. It is structured around an automatic car wash cycle and the subsequent emotional and nostalgic response that the cycle elicits. 

Through narration and the manipulation of field recordings and samples, the car wash is utilised as a vessel through which I investigate my relationship with sound, as well as my personal experience living with obsessive compulsive disorder – in particular my daily compulsive hand washing. Additionally, the piece attempts to subvert the traditionally dour world of sound art with a slightly comedic approach. An ode to the transportive effects of listening, ‘Deluxe Wash’ is best experienced in the dark.

Anne Hsuyin

Anne Hsuyin is a composer, sound artist and vocalist currently based in Melbourne. Born and raised in culturally diverse Malaysia, she is fascinated by the various shades of sound that exist in different communities and is exploring the intersections between tradition, modernity, identity, and the diaspora. Her love for the weird and wonderful in the inner mind and in the outside world informs much of her music. She is currently completing a Bachelor of Music (Honours) in Composition at the University of Melbourne.

Battle Theme! On and on and on…

‘Battle Theme! On and on and on…’ depicts the ongoing raging war against COVID-19 as a level to be cleared in the game of life. Yet, as the fight continues in Melbourne, people grow weary; where order and system collapse, dissent and chaos take hold. This work draws a parallel between the surreal games of the 90s and the bizarre experience of living in lockdown. 

It portrays the sounds of the virus and of society’s response to it, set against a repeating battle theme that distorts more and more as the work continues. Underneath the disturbingly cheery game music are opinions, protests, and hospital alarms, which tell the story of a nightmarish year as case numbers rise, people die, and riots break out.


Lepidoptera is a project created by two female-identifying producers; Kiera Varrese and Jess Healy. The Melbourne/Naarm duo blend ambient, cinematic scores with a subtle nod to R&B and Pop. ‘Lepidoptera’ creates music that evokes reflection and warmth, allowing listeners to slow down, find comfort in the present moment and form long lasting memories to atmospheric beats.

Kiera Varrese is an electronic producer and DJ from Geelong/Djilang. Outside of the project, Kiera is studying Music Industry at RMIT. She also hosts a Music Podcast Miscellaneous Fuzz and runs a DJ residency at Small TIme Group – Echo Collective, showcasing emerging female and gender-diverse DJ’s.

Jessica Healy is an electronic artist & film scorer hailing from Western Australia, but currently located in Frankston/Bunurong. Specialising in atmospheric soundscapes, her style and influences are broad, bringing something new to the table with every project. Jess has been classically trained for 12 years and made her way into the scene by scoring films and also creating a podcast ‘Fresh Produce.’


‘In/Out’ by Lepidoptera is a collaboration between Kiera Varrese and Jess Healy. This song encapsulates and explores our mind and processes. 

Life can be tough, some tend to suppress their emotions and pour every inch of being into work, rather than allowing themselves to be introspective; to explore who they are and how to take care of their mind, body and spirit. ‘In/Out’ represents the feeling of being overwhelmed. It follows the path our neurons take in our brain whenever we have a stressful thought or become overloaded. 

Though the song is two minutes and ten seconds long it symbolises only a split second in time, represented by an inhale at the beginning and an exhale to round it off. This piece had to be created over a string of zoom calls due to COVID restrictions. 

Although this was a challenging circumstance for the artists, they were excited to find their individual ideas flowed into the others seamlessly, resulting in a song they are incredibly proud of that will resonate with many listeners.

Experience their new works online here.