★★★★½ New Yorkers help launch Sydney’s newest music venue.

You’d be surprised how exciting the secret life of an air conditioner can be.

Sitting in his New York apartment on a hot summer’s day, composer Andrew Norman noticed some curious sounds coming out of the air conditioner, which was most likely being pushed to the max on what was a particularly hot summer’s day.

So he decided to write a work about it, as you do. And the result, Music and Circle, was surprisingly imaginative, opening with a violin playing in the stratosphere, barely audible, and building as other instruments joined the conversation, leading to a full outburst of special sounds and contrapuntal lines and a general feeling of triumphant joy.

Perhaps whatever it was in that air conditioner – a monster perhaps? – had broken free at last.

This highly engaging work was just one of several presented at a new space for contemporary music in the heart of Sydney’s Darlinghurst on Friday night as part of a project co-curated by Elizabeth Jigalin and Lamorna Nightingale, and presented by Backstage.

Six Australian musicians and six New York-based musicians came together and presented top-quality contemporary classical music to a full house.

The space?

Thanks to the initiative of flautist Lamorna Nightingale, the concert took place in a cavernous room underneath an art gallery in Crown St, Creative Space 99. The space is cool, underground (from the Crown St frontage at least), and has just the right amount of inner-city chic and artistic flavour (modern art works hang from the white-washed brick walls and entry is via a laneway).

The New York musicians were a group called yMusic, in Australia as part of a tour with pop-pianist Ben Folds. They have several albums to their name and two of their musicians appear on Paul Simon’s new album, Stranger to Stranger.

The Australians are a group called The Music Box Project, an exploratory vehicle for up-and-coming Sydney composers.

The Aussies presented the first half of the concert, with six new works written to the brief of a single sustained sound. The result was six very different pieces, all of which used a range of interesting techniques, including amplification, disjointed rhythms and repeated sections à la Philip Glass and various experimental sounds.

The US musicians comprised the second half, performing a world premiere of Ecstatic Science by New York-based composer Missy Mazzoli. This was another highly dramatic and rhythmical work which was mesmerising in its intensity and development of various motives.

Listening to this world-class ensemble I was reminded of a saying an old friend of mine from New York used to say: In New York, if you snooze, you lose. These guys obviously haven’t napped in ages.