Canberra Experimental Music Studio: live at SoundOut 2017

Fresh from our set at this year’s Electrofringe festival in Redfern, the EMS are happy to announce the release of a new live album – Canberra Experimental Music Studio: live at SoundOut 2017 – recorded by Kimmo Vennonen at this year’s SoundOut festival in February.

Many thanks, as always, to Richard Johnson for organising Canberra’s favourite festival of improvised music.

This new live record features Canberra EMS members Chloë J. Hobbs (percussion), Benjamin Drury (double bass) and Alexander Hunter (viola da gamba).

EMS album cover suggestion

‘Oblivion’ live soundtrack

The EMS are teaming up with ANU Climate Change Institute Visiting Fellow, film and glass artist Ngaio Fitzpatrick, for a live soundtrack at an upcoming CCI event.

Ngaio’s short film ‘Oblivion’ will be screened with our live soundtrack on 9 November at 5:45pm in the Law Lecture Theatre, ANU College of Law, 5 Fellows Road, ANU

Dispelling the Fog of War: Climate Change & International Security

(This event comprises a brief artistic and musical performance followed by a public lecture.)

Performance: Oblivion


Oblivion is a short video work by Ngaio Fitzpatrick, responding to the global threat of climate change and its effects on the fragile natural world that we, and countless other species, inhabit.

The work invites us to contemplate what a future world might look like and unfolds to comment on our inability to fully comprehend a looming environmental disaster. IT is shot in dramatic black and white and reveals the Unfolding drama of pressure building to a point of no-return.

Founded by ANU Climate Change Institute member, Dr Alexander Hunter (ANU School of Music), the Canberra Experimental Music Studio specialises in collaborative multimedia performances. The ensemble will be working from a loose score which affords each member a great deal of personal freedom to interpret and respond to the film’s striking imagery.

Lecture: Dispelling the Fog of War – Climate Change and International Security


Climate change will have ramifications well beyond crazy weather – it can affect national security amongst many other things. Temperature and precipitation changes will imperil food and water security, rising sea levels will impact on valuable infrastructure, transport and the coastal environment, and extreme weather events will create challenges for public health, national and regional economies, and military operability.

Dr. Elizabeth Chalecki, from the University of Nebraska Omaha, will discuss the connections between climate and national security that affect not only Australia but the rest of the world. As greenhouse gas concentrations increase, the climate will be shifted into a new state, and the environmental conditions we rely upon to guarantee our sovereignty and security will change. Dr. Chalecki will look at what sorts of threats will become apparent in a globally-warmed world, and what our best options are for dealing with scientific and political uncertainty.

Dr Albert Palazzo will address one of the oldest mechanisms humans have employed when faced by an existential need to adapt: war. He will discuss how climate change will encourage societies to choose war and what such wars may look like. Dr Palazzo will conclude that, as with all adaptation, climate change wars will require societies to prepare, plan and think through the myriad paths that may — or may not — lead to survival.

The presentations will be followed by audience Q&A, moderated by Professor Roger Bradbury, National Security College, ANU.

About the speakers

Dr Elizabeth L. Chalecki is an Assistant Professor of International Relations at the University of Nebraska – Omaha. Her expertise lies in the areas of climate change and security, global environmental politics, and the intersection of science & technology and International Relations. Dr. Chalecki has published over 20 books, articles, and book chapters on diverse topics such as climate change and Arctic security, environmental terrorism, climate change and international law, public perceptions of environmental issues, and water in outer space.

Dr Albert Palazzo is a Canberra based defence thinker. He has published widely on the military history of Australia and contemporary military issues. His publications include The Australian Army: A History of its Organisation and Forging Australian Land Power: A Primer. His current research interests are war and climate change.

A Lightness of Being soundtrack

Here is a link to the short film ‘A Lightness of Being‘, directed by Ngaio Fitzpatrick (ANU Climate Change Institute). The recorded soundtrack is a reworking of a live soundtrack presented at a Collected Resonances event last year.

The film, with its new soundtrack, will be screened at a Climate Change Institute event on 12 September, and will be followed by a couple of public talks about sea level rise and urban adaptation.

Andromeda is Coming album

The new Andromeda is Coming album is now available for download via the Collected Resonances bandcamp.

Andromeda is Coming (Charles Martin and Alexander Hunter) are a Canberra-based duo utilising viola da gamba, percussion and live electronics.

This debut album collects a series of free-improvised sections across two field recordings, each capturing Canberra’s intersection of urban and bush environments. The improvisations explore paired sound worlds of unconventional instruments where close microphone recordings reveal sonic details and idiosyncrasies of a unique collection instruments.

This work was recorded in July 2015 in the studios of the Australian National University School of Music. It was mixed over multiple sessions throughout 2016 and 2017.

The album art depicts the interaction and decay of subatomic particles in CERN’s earliest liquid hydrogen bubble chamber in 1960.

Charles Martin (vibraphone, crotales, cymbals, bells, iPad, electronics)
Alexander Hunter (viola da gamba, piano, tam tam, banjo, accordion, broken zither)


Andromeda is Coming… album launch

My old duo partner, Charles Martin, and I are launching our debut album as ‘Andromeda is Coming‘ this Saturday at Gorman House Arts Centre in Canberra.

Opening the concert will be a repeat performance of my student, Ben Drury‘s, work Water’s Edge (2017) for violin, bass viol, double bass and vibraphone.

Making Waves playlist

The ANU New Music Ensemble’s 2015 recording of my Percussion Ensemble (2010) was featured on this month’s ‘Making Waves’ playlist.

This playlist was curated by my Brisbane-based colleague, Mark Wolf, who wrote:

“Whether gripped by the unfolding drama of a new novel, or immersed in the onscreen action of an epic film, or even stimulated by listening to an engaging piece of music, have you ever enjoyed the experience of an effortless concentration so deep that you lose your sense of time?

“The works featured in this playlist all exhibit a paradoxical timeless quality. Each composition is connected with a temporal process, varying in nature from structured improvisation, ‘mobile moment form’ and slowly evolving spectrums of sound, all supporting temporal independence and ensemble freedom. Temporal manipulation is also observed through the exaggeration, expansion and fragmentation of musical time and events influenced by the natural world and architectural spatial design. These pieces are all in some way temporally ambiguous, successful in challenging the listeners’ perception of chronometric time.”

From the organisation’s ‘about’ page:

Making Waves is a monthly series of curated playlists streaming one hour of quality, new composed music.  Founded in 2015, Making Waves shines a spotlight on the music of Australian composers. Fresh playlists are released on the first day of each month and older playlists are made available all year round via our archives; perfect for those with just a few minutes to explore one track or for hours perusing a myriad of diverse sound-worlds.

The project hopes to offer wider exposure to emerging composers, their music and the talented performers who champion it. We also hope to provide an easy-to-access platform for listeners to sit back and enjoy a curated hour of exciting new music or explore our living composers more actively.  The playlist themes (and media through which they’re shared eg. Soundcloud, YouTube) will evolve each month depending on the content received directly from our talented composers. We acknowledge that Making Waves has the potential to expand in many directions and into many mediums, such as podcasts. We’re always thinking of the future, so if you have an idea or a wish for us,  please feel free to leave us your feedback via the Contact page.

At its core Making Waves is a curated listening space. In 2016 we’ve branched into producing our own content through a special project, Making Conversation, thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign. Making Conversation: Australian Composers Project will be a series of podcasts and vodcasts presenting the human side of living Australian composers, to be made available on popular audiovisual and social platforms in mid-2017.

If you are an Australian composer or a composer with ties to Australia (eg. you have studied here) who would like to have works featured in a playlist, you can find out more about Making Waves and send us your recording links via the Submit page. All submissions welcome!  Non-Australian composers are also welcome to apply and will be kept on file for any special edition playlists. For more information you might like to check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Listeners, we encourage you to explore current and past playlists and discover more about our featured composers. Follow us via email, WordPress, FacebookInstagram and/or Twitter.

Article in HerCanberra

Many thanks to my old student, Jacqui Douglas, for the feature article in HerCanberra.


However, as any young Canberra musician knows, fostering performance culture in a small city is far from easy. A lack of population density and interconnectedness, physically and culturally, renders the development of an arts culture frustratingly elusive. As a musician and a Canberra lover myself, I start taking notes anytime someone cracks that code. Someone like Alec Hunter.

Alec has worn many hats in Canberra. He’s been a mentor to the Experimental Music Studio, an improvisational group that performed more extensively in 2016 than any other student ensemble at the School of Music (SoM). He’s overseen student collaboration with local arts organisations through the artsACT-funded Community Outreach Program, like the student-curated Collected Resonances series at the Ainslie Arts Centre.

Perhaps most significantly, Alec has inspired pre-tertiary students through his leadership of the SoM Open School. Also funded through ArtsACT, the unique pre-tertiary program boasts a staggering 94% student approval rating. And that’s all on top of Alec’s own performance and compositional career.

I did some digging, expecting a complex formula for Alec’s success. Instead, I realised he was just extraordinarily committed to a very simple answer.

“Musicians don’t belong in boxes.”

Ask composer Ellen Falconer, former president of the SoM Music Students Association. She pointed to Alec’s commitment to inclusivity; his development of a “creative and inclusive space for anyone and everyone who wanted it…a collective of people that wanted to create and perform and experiment in a positive environment.” And that wasn’t just ‘musicians’; Alec fostered strategic collaboration with other creatives, connecting players to practitioners of computer science and video art; to the Climate Change Institute and the National Centre for Indigenous Studies; and to “world leaders in experimental music…as professionals rather than mere students.”

Ask jazz player Melissa Keller-Tuberg, who walked away from the Open School inspired to study at the tertiary level – along with over half her cohort.

Not cowed by the rigorous curriculum, Melissa found herself energised and equipped by the inclusive community in the program, and the opportunity to perform for love, not just academic outcomes. A key example: regular performance opportunities Alec coordinated at beloved local jazz institution Smith’s Alternative.

Alec’s vision for creative freedom is equipping our young players to do more than perform. They’re composers, curators, or innovators – or all of the above. And they’ll be a force to be reckoned with in 2050.

The Sixth Mass Extinction

This Friday is the premiere of my new collaboration with Ngaio Fitzpatrick (ANU Climate Change Institute) at the Fitters’ Workshop, Kingston, ACT.

We start at 8:30pm, and the event is free and open to the public. It will also be live-streamed via

Here is a sample of some of the audio for the show (the work is for three-channel tape, diffused through two far front speakers, two near front speakers, two rear speakers).

Thanks to Millie Watson for providing some of the piano samples, Charles Martin for the sound design, and Ben Drury and Craig Greening for tech support.

“Experience the world premiere of The Sixth Mass Extinction – A Dark Entertainment – a stunning glass performance and shattering experience.

Ngaio Fitzpatrick was a recipient of an ANU Vice Chancellors Artists Fellowship (VCCAFS) working in partnership with the ANU Climate Change Institute in 2016. With a background in environmentally sustainable architecture and building informing her arts practice, she is particularly interested in ways in which art can be used to communicate the science of climate change in a Post-Truth world. Her practice is multi-disciplinary and encompasses performance, architectural interventions, site specific installations, video, industrial glass and most recently includes collaborative experimental music interactions in real time.

In collaboration with composer Alexander Hunter and sound designer Charles Martin.”

8.30PM, 27 JANUARY 2017
10 Wentworth Avenue, Kingston, ACT

For more information visit
Watch on Facebook Live from


What is ‘accessible’ music anyway?

I was recently asked to write a short article for the ANU Reporter. Due to some disagreements on content, the article will not be published, but I thought I would post it here in case it is of any use.

What is ‘accessible’ music anyway?

During my current collaboration with artist Mike Parr at the NGA I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to pick his brain about form and content, aesthetics, politics, and most recently about ‘accessibility’ and how we as artists interact with the audience. While we’re both concerned with making our work accessible to the public, neither of us is interested in compromising content to suit unpredictable and diverse audience tastes.

If you’re not going to compromise content to answer the accessibility problem, it makes sense (to us anyway) to question the ways in which art is presented to the public.

In addition to the (sometimes extremely prohibitive) cost of tickets and the general cultural barriers put up around opera, ballet, and concert music in general, we in the industry have convinced most of the population that art music is terribly complicated, and if you don’t ‘get it’ you missed the point – and you just might be an uncultured idiot.

The course some of us follow is to try to convince listeners that there might not be anything to get – and if you do possess specialist knowledge, your experience is different, but no more comprehensive or valid than any one else’s. I’ve never heard anyone talk about ‘not getting’ Beyoncé’s music the same way they might talk about Schoenberg.

Those of us making art for the public (and often using their/our funds to do so) should probably ask ourselves: What’s the point of making art if you are going to consistently exclude such a huge part of society from engaging with it?

These are a couple of the ways I’ve found to start breaking down these barriers to the accessibility of art:

  1. Remove art from the contexts which hold the most historical baggage – Let’s find alternatives to Steinways in concert halls filled with wealthy, well-dressed people. Let’s take our performances out of the gallery and into a car park.
  2. Engage with the audience on some personal level. Talk before or after a work. Hand out some sort of explanatory notes – an invitation to enjoy interpretive freedom – an assurance that there is no right way to experience the work. If there is nothing to ‘get’, there is no way to feel like you haven’t got it.

With stories about cuts in arts funding coming through practically daily, maybe it’s time we stop relying on the old models of exclusion and start taking matters into our own hands.