What to look out for in 2016

With programs taking shape around Australia, here are some gigs to keep an eye out for in 2016.


Elision performing the world-line cycle of Richard Barrett at Storey Hall, RMIT. Vicki Jones Photography.

Australia’s prodigal new music ensemble Elision will be in the country to celebrate their 30th anniversary. An exhibition dedicated to the ensemble at the RMIT Art Gallery in Melbourne, September 9-22 October, will feature concerts, talks, and film. Throughout the year audiences can expect to hear Elision perform some of the most innovative and challenging contemporary music at the Metropolis New Music Festival, the Melbourne Recital Centre, ANAM, and beyond. The season features world premieres by Liza Lim, Ann Cleare, Brian Ferneyhough, Aaron Cassidy, Richard Barrett, Matthew Sergeant, Jeroen Speak, and Claus-Steffen Mahnkopf.

Chamber Made Opera

Permission to Speak. Photo by Daisy Noyes.

This year two new works emerge butterfly-like from their long development-coccoons in 2016.  If you missed the audacious opening of Chamber Made Opera’s 2016 season Another Other by Erkki Veltheim and collaborators, be sure to catch Permission to Speak later in the year. This interview-based work brings together performance auteur Tamara Saulwick with some of Melbourne’s favourite contemporary musicians including the composer Kate Neal (of recent Semaphore fame), the always-scintillating sound design of Jethro Woodward (Minotaur Trilogy and a million other things), and the choral harmonies of Gian Slater (Invenio) and friends.


Perth’s resident new music ensemble Decibel are poised to present a series of concerts based around the French electro-acoustic pioneer Eliane Radigue. They’ll be premiering a commission in the WAAPA Main Auditorium at 7:30pm on 23 March, then teaming up with the clarinetist and composer Carol Robinson as part of Radigue’s OCCAM OCEAN series.

Forest Collective

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Evan Lawson conducting during the Forest Collective Launch at the Abbotsford Convent. Photo by Matthew Lorenzon

Forest Collective recently launched their season with performances by featured artists at the Abbotsford Convent. It’s just as well they started early, as they have nine epic programs to get through. The launch gave audience members a taste of what is to come, including medieval polyphony-meets-Benjamin Britten, a concert by Forest’s guest ensemble the Allotropy String Quartet, and Kate Bright singing Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire. Of the nine concerts I’m particularly excited about three later in the year: Forest will team up with the University of Melbourne’s New Music Studio to perform Grisey’s final work, Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil on 17 September. Pierrot Lunaire follows at St. Stephen’s Church in Richmond from 17–19 November. The final concert of the season at the Abbotsford Convent features rarely-heard works written during the time of the Nazi regime, including music by Strauss, Orff, Eisler, Weill, Schreker, Goldschmidt, Ullman, Dutilleux, and Messiaen. From censorship to libertinage, Forest’s multimedia Metropolis concert “Sensuality in the City” will feature sculptures by Melbourne-based artist Jake Preval and the Australian premiere of Philip Venebles’ “F*** Forever.”

Ensemble Offspring

Ensemble Offspring are promising a collaborative 2016 season, beginning with Exit Ceremonies, a first time collaboration with the Australian Art Orchestra involving new works for pipe organ. Adelaide residents can enjoy Ensemble Offspring’s collaboration with the early music ensemble Ironwood in the Adelaide Hills. The ensemble will also visit the Four Winds Festival and the Peninsula Music Festival to perform Philip Glass’s epic Music with Changing Parts with fLing Physical Theatre. Ensemble Offspring continue to support young artists through their Hatched Academy, which will culminate in a weekend long mini-festival entitled Kontiki Racket.


The Bendigo International Festival of Exploratory Music is characteristically tight-lipped about their 2016 program, which will be announced in May. All we know is that it will be the biggest BIFEM yet, with over 90 musicians engaged for the September weekend.

Metropolis New Music Festival

I know you can’t wait until September to immerse yourself in new music, so thankfully the Metropolis New Music Festival will fill the Melbourne Recital Centre with its quality and catholic program of contemporary music in May. This year’s theme is “Music of the City,” embracing Byzantine-contemporary mashups, algorithmic sonification of Melbourne’s skyline, turntabling–meets-experimental jazz, and hazy landscape-rock. The festival’s Salon series will feature Australia’s most exciting contemporary music ensembles including Plexus, Syzygy Ensemble, Forest Collective, Press Play, and a not-to-be-missed concert by Elision in their thirtieth year. The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra concerts provide a rare opportunity to hear contemporary music writ large and will feature my personal highlight: pieces by emerging composers from the Cybec 21st Century Australian Composer Program. A new series of concerts in the foyer will open the festival to the city and there will also be a ton of Messiaen dotted throughout the program, which is always nice.

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