Exit Ceremonies: Forceful aural onslaught from Australian Art Orchestra and Ensemble Offspring

Pipe down: Melbourne Town Hall organ transforms for Australian Art Orchestra concert
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Australian Art Orchestra and Ensemble Offspring
Melbourne Town Hall, February 6

In their own ways, all three works on this remarkable program demonstrated uncompromising assertiveness. The composers – Australians Austin Buckett​ and Simon James Phillips, and American Alvin Lucier​ –  made clear statements and maximal use of the resources available; if the sonic fabric that they created sent some patrons bustling from the hall, a few not quietly, too bad.   

Admittedly, you would be hard-pressed to maintain that this very long night held you engrossed from start to finish, but the sheer persistence of these composers was remarkable, even admirable.

Providing patrons with earplugs was considerate but unnecessary; the Town Hall organ's low tibia notes generated hefty vibrations but the expected aural onslaught proved forceful, not painful.   

Buckett's Aisles opened with a curt chord spat out over 160 times, the work ending with an abridged variant of the same flourish. In between, Ensemble Offspring director Claire Edwardes and Joe Talia provided solid percussion contributions, AAO head Peter Knight delivered rapid-fire trumpet sequences and the organ powered over everything. For Phillips' Flaw, the constructional approach proved more fluent, disjunct electronic blips leading towards an inexorable, massive crescendo before receding to silence.

Lucier's Swings, here given its world premiere, also fell under the sound-colour category. Using a compressed range of notes, the composer employed an ensemble of trumpets, strings and four players manipulating six of the organ's pipes, distorting their pitch slightly throughout. In essence, the work is a slow-moving study in textural inter-weaving: clearly irritating for some, engrossing for many others.