‘We are creating this new body of large-scale percussion literature’: Speak Percussion’s new show is astronomical

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‘We are creating this new body of large-scale percussion literature’: Speak Percussion’s new show is astronomical

Sonic Eclipse
words by jacob mccormack

23 years on from their inception, Speak Percussion have slowly been acquiring funds and resources to bring to life their most ambitious and experimental sonic worlds.

Their new show Sonic Eclipse, a collaboration with RISING and Melbourne Recital Centre, is no exception.

Comprised of four unique compositions, all created by Australian composers, the concert inspired by the intricacies of space and its planets will be played live on Thursday, June 15 at the Melbourne Recital Centre.

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

But what to expect? Eugene Ughetti, artistic director of Speak Percussion can assure audiences that any preconception or archetype will be dismantled, challenged and in a way reformed. 

“We’ve got a team of 12 professional percussionists that are doing a series of spatial works,” says Eugene. “Augmented on top of those players we have a team of about 70 wind, brass and percussion players joining us for this marching piece.

“The whole show happens inside the Melbourne Recital Centre, but it’s a takeover of the space. We are across four foyer spaces, as well as the Murdoch hall and other nooks and crannies across the whole Recital Centre. 

“When the audience arrive, they step into an active performance. Then they get to walk through a mobile music piece. There will be musicians staggered across the various foyer spaces, all playing in sync with each other. “

As the audience moves through the space, they will walk through the music, and it will take them into the hall.”

Despite the scale of Sonic Eclipse being a new actualisation for Speak Percussion, Eugene, throughout his involvement in the world of percussion, has maintained strong ties with a pursuit of experimentation.

“All of the seeds were laid for that to happen,” he says. “I was definitely interested in new and experimental music. As I moved into the profession my interest in multi-disciplinary work grew and the scale and ambition of what Speak Percussion did has been one long journey across those 21 years. All of the foundation was laid whilst I was at university, but a lot of the bigger more ambitious projects didn’t really come into fruition until later.”

And 21 years later, obstacles a plenty overcome, Sonic Eclipse will be a performance like no other. From an inter-disciplinary standpoint, there will an accompanying lighting display created by Bronwyn Pringle. 

“We have got Bronwyn Pringle as the lighting designer working on the show,” says Eugene. “She has some beautiful ideas in mind. Atmospheric is perhaps too soft a word, but I think she will be doing beautiful lighting sets to articulate the spatial nature of the work.”

The lighting will visually explicate the idea behind the multi-disciplinary performance. 

“The whole project is one big palindrome,” says Eugene. “So, the whole concert starts with this big exploded out sound world, and then gets stuck right into this very focused point and then explodes back out. So, it’s a big sound journey, almost starting in out-of-space, moving down to a single point and then blowing out again. There is a real sense of symmetry to the way those pieces interact.”

All of this will be performed by a selection of conventional, and obscure instruments.

“There are some really beautiful instruments,” says Eugene. “We have got a whole range of different tuned almglocker, which are a type of traditional cow bell. We are also using the lowest octave of the federation hand bells, which are pretty big instruments. We are also using tuned tai gongs, custom made aluminum tubes, which are suspended and tuned to very specific micro tones. There’s a whole range of gorgeous colours in that piece.”

For a musical organisation that are historically still young, Speak Percussion are trailblazing their way into leaving their rhythmic mark on history in spectacular fashion. For Eugene Ughetti though, he remains humbled by his experiences, opportunities and the close-knit percussion community in Melbourne/Naarm and Australia. 

“We have got a really close relationship with ANAM. Peter Neville, head of percussion at ANAM, has been really supportive and there is a really great community of percussionists around.”

Find out more at Melbourne Recital Centre. Tickets are being released at regular intervals, please check back if tickets are currently sold out.