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Review: Cut Paste Play at Church Studios

Review by Charlotte Leamon


On the weekend of the 23rd and 24th of March, the music box project collaborated, played and explored new music at Church Street Studios. The members of the ensemble described it as, “a festival of music outside the usual order of things.” This festival is the ensembles first, and it marked an occasion of bringing together new and old friends from across Sydney, states and beyond. 13 concerts and 10 interludes featured an array of artists from many different areas of creative practices and music interests. This weekend was full of ecstatic new sound worlds. 


“To create a cohesive experience, we greatly enjoy the process of getting out the red string      and ‘connecting the dots’ together – weaving together the shared threads between themes, ideas, artists, listening experiences, styles and more that underpin the music we share.” – Elizabeth Jigalin


I joined as an audience member in the afternoon of the second day at 3:30pm as the music box project took the stage. The venue itself invited creativity with its instrumental lamps, French horn chandeliers and re-purposed instruments as art. The ensemble began with Naomi Johnson’s Polymetrix which used a chatterbox as a form of indeterminacy for the performers. The musicians went around with chatterboxes and the audience would choose their fate as they played the game. Landing on something as simple as ‘solo’ or a notated motif. Second to be performed was a world premiere by Pete Leung in conjunction with a scientist titled Titania. A microscopic picture of the photocatalyst was used as a graphic score in decibel, and to follow was the world premiere of Snip Stick Game which began with a list of instructions for the audience to read out. As the performers played the game they rolled dice (hence the game), landing on a series of musical snippets (hence the snip) which are all stuck onto a piece of paper (hence the stick). This chance music seemingly inspired from the New York School of Composers such as John Cage and Morton Feldman was projected onto the screen to watch. Notations were diverse and ranged from a notated melody to a single word such as “POP!”, or water mark rings on stave lines. We watched and listened as the musicians performed this work. At interlude I was part of a conversation between Isabella Rahme and trumpet player Joseph Lisk in which they were discussing how Elizabeth Jigalin smashed an avocado in the piece. In this discussion Isabella said, “Oh, was she not meant to do that?” And Lisk responded, “She wasn’t not meant to do that, but we just didn’t know she was going to do it.” A simple conversation discussing the meaning of the music box project and their performances of indeterminacy. There is no right or wrong, there just is. 


Next on the music box project was the performance of, “waiting for someone to do the thing you need them to do” and “Embroidery Machine”. The first included a number of quirky and fun sound objects obtained by the performers. An electric razor, a toy trumpet, videos of random sounds, a whisk and more were used. The instructions to be, “if nobody is making a sound, after a mutually acceptable duration one (or more) players may choose to make one of their sustained sounds.” My personal favourite was their piece “Embroidery Machine”. The rhythmic lull of the sewing machine as the performers harmonised and rhythmically blended was surprisingly very musical. 


At interlude I witnessed Isabella’s sound installation in the foyer of Church Studios. A common theme of the creative artists of this festival was the appreciation for site specific objects in their works. In this case Isabella sampled the flute, clarinet, cello, organ and more instruments as seen in the foyer space. She collated these along with highly edited and digitalised samples of her saying everyone audience member’s name which created a unique soundscape. The interludes dispersed throughout the performances were used to break up the standardised sitting concert. 


At 5pm the duo Clocked Out featuring Erik Griswold and Vanessa Tomlinson performed six pieces. With Vanessa on percussion and Erik on piano, electronics, toy piano and more a variety of sound worlds were created. Beginning with an evocative soundscape blending open rhythmic gestures with synthesised material and ending with warped grooves on a prepared piano with polyrhythmic drumbeats. 


Last but not least was the performance of STICKY music. Audience members from the weekend had the chance to notate anything on a sticky note which ranged from contour lines to notes and text. 


Overall, this festival was a place for evocative creativity. The music box project effectively turned the unordinary into a safe space of exploration for friends and artists in the music community. A weekend of indeterminacy, chance, spectral soundscapes and more left the audience open to new opportunities of listening. 

Image Supplied


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