Billed as a “global expedition of inventive, sculptural and sizzling sounds”, Ensemble Offspring’s Kontiki Racket will take over Sydney’s Nest Creative Space in the second weekend of November, for a vibrant mini-festival of new music. “Everyone knows those famous Contiki world tours – well this is like a musical world tour of sound,” Ensemble Offspring’s Artistic Director Claire Edwardes told Limelight. “Similarly crazy and fun, with lots of music, new experiences and even a new environment in which to experience it all.”

The festival – which includes three concerts and two industry discussions – will feature the premiere of five new works and the return of Ensemble Offspring’s international-composer-in-residence at the Hatched Academy: Juan Felipe Waller, whose 2014 Ensemble Offspring commission, Detone Retune, will be restaged during the event.

Ensemble Offspring, photo © Heidrun Lohr

For Edwardes, the highlight will be the sheer number of world premieres. “I can’t wait to hear every single one of them,” she said. “There is something so special about performing a piece for the very first time, which you have worked on directly with the composer, sculpting, honing and developing over a period of time. And the fact that the audience is also hearing these works for the first time is the other side of this very special process – they listen with fresh ears and watch with fresh eyes and invariably their experience is something completely new and unique.”

Several of the new works that will be performed are by composers from Ensemble Offspring’s Hatched Academy – the ensemble’s intensive educational programme designed to provide practical experience to the next generation of Australian performers and composers – Julia Reidy and James Bradbury. “Both of our Hatched composers this year are deeply interested in improvisation, electronics and extended techniques,” said Edwardes, “so I anticipate their works will really delve into the unknown and present audiences with sound worlds they have perhaps never heard before.”

Their works will be performed alongside Australian composers Lachlan Skipworth, Holly Harrison and Alex Pozniak as well as more venerable works by Boulez and Xenakis. “Boulez and Xenakis are recently deceased towering compositional figures whose music and output have influenced the majority of young composers today,” said Edwardes. 2016 Art Music Award finalist Tristan Coelho will also have his sextet, read write/error, restaged as part of the festival.

The events will all take place in the Nest Creative Space, a warehouse venue in Sydney’s Alexandria. “Nest Creative Space is a working artist workshop space,” explained Edwardes, “the artists have their studio areas around the outside and the middle area is expansive and open so that’s where we will hold the performances. It is a very flexible warehouse space and has a huge amount of character. There are nooks for having a drink with a friend and socialising between shows and we will have a mixture of chairs and cushions for the audience so people can lounge around and get comfortable in an extremely un-stuffy environment. We feel like it will really suit the music we are presenting.”

In addition to concerts, Kontiki Racket will include two industry events: an industry panel titled An Australian Voice – featuring Edwardes, Waller, Zubin Kanga, Bec Dean and Peter Knight – and a one-on-one ‘speed dating’ session. “The industry events are a way for younger exponents of art music, as well as audiences, to engage with Ensemble Offspring and the scene on a more informal level,” explained Edwardes. “Last year as part of our 20th birthday celebrations, Future Retro, we held an interactive panel and it was a huge success. We wanted to build on the great feedback we got about that session, especially given the amount of internationally based artists we have at the festival and this time focus the discussion around the Australian voice in an international context.”

The purpose of the speed dating session is to foster connections. “The speed dating is a fun and efficient way for aspiring young artists and interested folk to meet peers from the music industry,” said Edwardes, “from whom they can get some tips about the best way in which to move forward in their careers – again in a casual setting. This year at APAM (Australian Performing Arts Market) Arts NSW actually hosted a speed dating session for the delegates and we had a huge amount of fun!”


Ensemble Offspring’s Kontiki Racket is at the Nest Creative Space, Sydney, November 12  and 13

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