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31 July 2007

Hear the World Differently – Ensemble Offspring

Ensemble Offspring Image: Ensemble Offspring  

When I was a composition student of the polemic Dutch composer Louis Andriessen, he once advised me: ‘if the world isn’t ready for your music, don’t change your music, change the world that listens to it’. Ensemble Offspring is, in part, a response to this challenge. Andriessen linked musical renewal to the empowered independent-minded musician defining the music of their day. This aesthetic has proven to be a collecting point for the musicians that have come together as Ensemble Offspring.

Ensemble Offspring is a disparate bunch. Some performers, such as Claire Edwardes and Roland Peelman, have successful international careers as interpreters of new music; others – such as Bree van Reyk and Veronique Serret – maintain successful crossover careers in both popular and classical music; others are drawn from the ranks of the Sydney Symphony and Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra.

What ties this diverse group of people together is their willingness to try new forms of musical expression. Whether it be the performance of the most challenging chamber music ever notated, the complete freedom of improvisation, the rigid discipline of early Minimalism, or the presentation of unconventional and interdisciplinary performance practices, Ensemble Offspring’s musicians are constantly asked to step away from the familiar and towards the unknown. As such, Ensemble Offspring’s repertoire is speculative and eclectic, defined not by style, but by spirit: the spirit of innovation.

Ensemble Offspring typically combines iconic musical ideas of the 20th century with the music of here and now. And Steve Reich, Morton Feldman and John Cage – who represent three such icons of 20th century American music – are at the centre of our upcoming projects.

On 4 and 11 August, Ensemble Offspring is joining forces with other Sydney ensembles Halcyon and Synergy Percussion to present Steve Reich’s monumental Tehillim. Usually the fare of major festivals, the performance of Tehillim is an example of what is possible when three like-minded organisations pool their collective resources to create an event that exceeds the collective sum of their parts. In addition to the striking rhythms of Tehillim, other highlights include the Australian premiere of György Ligeti’s Sippal, dobbal, nádihegedüvel, a fantastical song cycle for mezzo-soprano and percussion; the microtonal ‘otherworld’ of Claude Vivier’s Bouchara, an exultation of love in an imaginary language; and the world premiere of a new work by myself, No More than Liquid, a strange take on the tradition of ‘water music’.

Also in August, Ensemble Offspring will present a concert in collaboration with Eastside Arts that features the music of Morton Feldman (25 August). Inspired by the visual arts and responsible for soft delicate works cast over large time-frames, Crippled Symmetry refers to the patterns of ancient Middle-Eastern rugs, repetitious but imperfect and distorted.

In Cage Uncaged (15 Sept), Ensemble Offspring teams up with another of Australia’s leading presenters of new music, The Song Company to feature the ever-provocative John Cage. This mini-festival of three interconnected programs explores the music, words and ideas of Cage alongside contemporary Australian responses in works from Colin Bright, Matthew Shlomowitz, Michael Smetanin and David Young.

Ensemble Offspring remains committed to a living musical tradition favouring the unconventional over the predictable, the challenging over the complacent. We hope to provide audiences with a different perspective on the classical music tradition and offer an alternative to the cacophonous monophony of mainstream culture.

Related Articles

The details of Ensemble Offspring’s forthcoming projects will be published in resonate’s August and September Australian Music Calendar.

Further Links

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Damien Ricketson is a composer and the Artistic Director of Ensemble Offspring.


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