Inside an immersive sonic experience: Speak Percussion’s Sonic Eclipse.
More than 80 mobilised musicians, an ensemble of 12 leading percussionists and four new Australian compositions — this is Sonic Eclipse.
An immersive percussion event taking over Melbourne Recital Centre this month as part of RISING, Sonic Eclipse interweaves new works by art music luminaries Cathy Milliken, Erkki Veltheim, Damien Ricketson and Thomas Meadowcroft into a seamless exhalation of spatialised sound.
Led and performed by Speak Percussion in collaboration with Melbourne’s music community, the performance will bleed across three floors and into the magnificent acoustics of the Elisabeth Murdoch Hall in an exciting reframing of the marching band phenomenon. A standout example of innovative ways we can activate Melbourne's music venues, Sonic Eclipse encourages the audience to listen three-dimensionally and multi-sensorially: with their eyes, bodies and ears.
Ahead of the performance on Friday 15 June, Director Eugene Ughetti shares his exclusive insights on how the event is being brought to life.
What inspired the overall idea behind Sonic Eclipse? Has anything like this been performed before in Melbourne?
Sonic Eclipse is designed to be an immersive spatial experience articulated through live percussion. The goal was to engage with the gorgeous acoustics of Melbourne Recital Centre and to reveal some of the lesser known spaces such as the huge glass north wall, the corridors of the echo chambers and the carpeted foyers with low ceilings that surround the beautiful Elisabeth Murdock Hall. One of our biggest challenges has been to organise 80 musicians across multiple spaces whilst keeping them synchronised. In my professional career, I have rarely heard works that are this ambitious in coordinating performers across spaces as vast as this. Percussion has a rich history of engaging in spatial music however, this project provides a unique contribution to this legacy.
How have the different elements of Sonic Eclipse been pulled together to create a cohesive, immersive experience for the audience?
The common thread is spatialisation. Each work in the program engages with space and the movement of sound in its own unique way. I have curated the works and the performers deliberately into various locations within the venue in order to situate the sound for a rich listening experience. All four works in Sonic Eclipse have been composed by Australian composers, and they are united through their connection to Speak Percussion. Two of these works were co-commissioned by Speak Percussion and ANAM for a project that was sadly gobbled by COVID so we are excited to be bringing them to life now!
Can you describe the process of collaborating with members of Melbourne's music community for this event? How will their involvement contribute to the overall performance?
We have worked with a team of fabulous musicians sought from across the Melbourne music community. Ages range from 13 through to 75 and include various abilities from beginner to advanced. This group of community musicians is united by their commitment to making new and adventurous music. They have shown significant dedication to making this ambitious idea possible. One of our favourite things is seeing new connections made between people of different ages and backgrounds and knowing that every performer matters!
How do you hope the audience will engage with the multi-sensorial experience of Sonic Eclipse?
I hope people will enter into a deep listening state and feel supported to observe time slipping and expanding. It should provide an environment in which to listen with big ears to the complexity of sound around us and remind people that music needn’t an end-on, stereo listening experience and that sound always exists as a projection of geographical space.
Director | Eugene Ughetti
Assistant Director and Sounds Unheard Coordinator | Kaylie Melville
Composers | Thomas Meadowcroft (AUS/GER), Cathy Milliken (AUS/GER), Damien Ricketson (AUS), Erkki Veltheim (VIC)
Lighting Designer | Bronwyn Pringle
Sound Engineer | Jem Savage
Producer | Ashley Dyer