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Archive Highlights

 Da Contents H2

November 12 2014
Obituary & Archive: Margaret Cameron

The other side of Nightfall: Margaret Cameron & Ian Scott
Virginia Baxter

July 2 2014
Speak Percussion

November 20 2013
Jon Rose

November 20 2012
branch nebula

July 3 2012
liquid architecture (updated)

March 20 2012
clocked out - archive highlight

November 8 2011
the NOW now

May 10 2011
art & disability: new geographies of the body

November 6 2009
dance on screen

October 26 2009

September 21 2009
australian indigenous film

August 21 2009
keith armstrong, media artist

July 17 2009
liquid architecture

June 29 2009
rosie dennis: the truth hurts


Speak Percussion

Mickrophonie I, Transducer, Speak Percussion, THNMF2013 Mickrophonie I, Transducer, Speak Percussion, THNMF2013
photo Brad Serls
Audiences for New Music cannot be taken for granted in Australia; you have to make them. The success of Speak Percussion can perhaps be explained by their ability to connect with their music, audiences, collaborators and with composers of different generations. Combining physical spectacle with challenging music, they have proven that, if presented with conviction, new audiences can be drawn to the thorniest of concert programs.

The ensemble has appeared in RealTime magazine for some 12 years, often in innovative collaborations with other musicians, visual artists and scientists. As founding member and artistic director Eugene Ughetti explains to Gail Priest in a video interview for RealTime that the group functions today as a collective, facilitating percussion events rather than a band of regular members (though there is evidently a core group of performers including Ughetti, Matthias Schack-Arnott and Leah Scholes). A 2008 collaboration with sound designer Myles Mumford and installation artist Elaine Miles saw the ensemble crawling among 1400 handmade glass objects in the atrium of the National Gallery of Victoria (RT83). In 2011 Speak collaborated with engineers to develop a program addressing the difficulties cochlear implant wearers experience in distinguishing different pitches and timbres (RT102).

From Keith Gallasch’s first review of “four about-to-graduate VCA musicians” in 2002 (RT49) to City Jungle (a recent collaboration with Terminal Sound System now firmly in Speak’s touring repertoire, see Partial Durations), artistic director Eugene Ughetti has often sought to bring the club to the concert hall. While Ughetti made a virtue of his years dancing to drum ’n’ bass and jungle, other current contemporary composers such as Anthony Pateras, Robin Fox and Cat Hope introduced an aesthetic derived from noise music into their works. In terms of physical movement, a greater opposition could not be imagined. Whereas drum ‘n’ bass inspires the most frenetic movement imaginable, noise music is known for the minimal physicality of its motionless laptop artists and shoe-gazing guitarists.

Speak Percussion, Flesh and Ghost, THNMF 2011 Speak Percussion, Flesh and Ghost, THNMF 2011
photo © Brad Serls
The combination of Speak’s physical intensity with these other composers’ captivatingly dark aesthetic has proven a winning combination in works such as Transducer (see Totally Huge New Music Festival 2013 online), a collaboration with Fox based on the physical manipulation of dozens of microphones and Anthony Pateras’ large ensemble work Flesh and Ghost at MONA FOMA in 2011 (RT102, also THNMF2011). Speak’s MONA FOMA gig was a case in point for Speak Percussion’s propensity for audience engagement. The immense program featured some four hours of large-scale works requiring multiple batteries spread around the warehouse at Prince’s Wharf. Amid the incredible din, the audience ate tempura with wasabi aioli while lounging on beanbags.

As well as championing the works of their contemporaries, Speak are constantly commissioning new works by younger composers, including James Rushford’s Whorl Would Equal Reaches, which recently had its premiere at the Tectonics contemporary music festival in Adelaide (RT120), and Macrograph, a solo percussion work by Alexander Garsden (RT119).

Speak are also dedicated to playing some of the most challenging works of, broadly speaking, complexist composers including Chris Dench, Richard Barrett and, to an extent, Liza Lim. Since the flight of the ELISION Ensemble to the greener pastures of Europe in 2009, there has been a dearth, despite the efforts of some younger ensembles, of performances of this music. Speak’s upcoming performance with Richard Barrett is therefore a welcome contribution to Australian musical life. At RMIT’s SIAL sound studios Speak Percussion will be joined by Barrett himself on electronics to present a concert entirely dedicated to the composer’s works.
Matthew Lorenzon

Coming up: Richard Barrett Percussion Portrait, The Spatial Information Architecture Laboratory, RMIT, 26 July;

Transducer, Arts Centre Melbourne, Sidney Myer Music Bowl, 1-2 Aug;

Leah Scholes, Eugene Ughetti, Transducer, Speak Percussion, THNMF2013 Leah Scholes, Eugene Ughetti, Transducer, Speak Percussion, THNMF2013
photo Brad Serls


New music, making the earth move
Chris Reid: Tectonics
RealTime issue #120 April-May 2014 p21

Radical percussions
Matthew Lorenzon: Eugene Ughetti, Australian Percussion Solos
RealTime issue #119 Feb-March 2014 p48

New sound worlds from combined forces
Lynette Lancini: Topology and Speak Percussion, Common Ground
RealTime issue #118 Dec-Jan 2013 p43

THNMF2013: A choreography of oscillation
Matthew Lorenzon: Speak Percussion, Robin Fox, Transducer
Totally Huge New Music festival 2013 online feature

THNMF2013: Explorers of an alien planet
John Barton: Speak Percussion, Robin Fox, Transducer, THNMF
Totally Huge New Music festival 2013 online feature

A casual musical multiculturalism
Henry Andersen, MaerzMusic, Berlin
RealTime issue #115 June-July 2013 p43

THNMF2011: Eugene Ughetti, RealTime video interview
Artistic Director, Speak Percussion, Ensemble In Residence, THNMF
Totally Huge New Music festival 2011 online feature

THNMF2011: Expanding time, space and sounds
Henry Andersen: Speak Percussion, Le Noir De L’etoile, THNMF
RealTime issue #106 Dec-Jan 2011 p37

THNMF2011: Percussion maximal
Sam Gillies: Speak Percussion, Flesh And Ghost, THNMF
RealTime issue #106 Dec-Jan 2011 p38

New music: challenge as fun
Matthew Lorenzon, MONA FOMA, Hobart
RealTime issue #102 April-May 2011 p5

Another acoustic reality
Simon Charles: Interior Design: music for the bionic ear
RealTime issue #102 April-May 2011 p39

Percussive acts of necessity
Zsuzsanna Soboslay: Australian Percussion Gathering, 2010
RealTime issue #99 Oct-Nov 2010 p47

Music by design
Simon Charles: Speak Percussion & Fritz Hauser
RealTime issue #94 Dec-Jan 2009 p50

Playing with glass
Chris Reid sees & hears anew at the Glass Percussion Project
RealTime issue #83 Feb-March 2008 p48

Dialects of music & image
Keith Gallasch on Argot
RealTime issue #49 June-July 2002 p5

© Matthew Lorenzon; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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