The Table of Knowledge

Dangerous, compelling and wildly crafted sonic imaginations.

The contrabass solo ‘Table of Knowledge’, which gives this performance its title, refers to a section of the Medieval-inspired garden of the Cistercian Abbey of Royaumont visited by composer Liza Lim in 2010. Arrayed there were a number of psychotropic and poisonous plants including the typical ingredients of a hallucinogenic mixture known as witches’ flying ointment: datura, belladonna, henbane and cannabis. These plants are understood in various traditions in Europe and Asia as ‘pharmakon’ – both poison and remedy, where their potentially lethal toxic properties are employed for ritual and medicinal purposes!

The idea of dangerous, compelling and wildly crafted sonic imaginations continues throughout the concert programme – the potentials of the contrabass are especially explored and highlighted in unique ways. Richard Barrett’s ‘splinter’ is ferocious, unrelenting and demanding, by contrast Einar Torfi Einarsson’s graphic score is implosive and subterranean, and trios for percussion, harp and contrabass by Mary Bellamy and Dominik Karski present energised yet beguiling strange alternative folk musics.

The programme will feature high level contrabass performance from young virtuosi Kathryn Schulmeister and Rohan Dasika, joined by Marshall McGuire (harp) and Peter Neville (percussion).

Tickets – ELISION: The Melbourne Recital Centre 7:30 PM Saturday September 9

Ecological listening to more-than-human worlds

‘Humans are tuned for relationship. The eyes, the skin, the tongue, ears, and nostrils—all are gates where our body receives the nourishment of others. This landscape of shadowed voices, these feathered bodies and tumbling streams–these breathing shapes are our family.’ (David Abram)

On April 20th at the Melbourne Recital Centre we present the Australian premiere of Liza Lim’s Extinction Events & Dawn Chorus, a major work that has resonated decisively with ensembles and audiences all over the world. It contemplates the vast conglomerations of plastic trash moving in ocean currents that bind fish to land to humans in strange and toxic relationships. This is a work that echoes with relics of past musics and the call of the extinct Kauaʻi ʻōʻō bird yet also rests in hope: can we make new relationships within the webs of life?

Mary Bellamy’s Enveloped is a sonic cyborg, fusing together the ‘cello and contrabass recorder to make a new whole.

Aaron Cassidy reimagines the piano concerto drawing on the free ranging gestural worlds of jazz greats McCoy Tyner, Art Tatum, Thelonius Monk, and Cecil Taylor. The work has been especially written for solo pianist Alex Waite who brings iridescent brilliance to creating this world premiere.

The concert begins at 7:30PM, inside the amazing structure and design of the Elisabeth Murdoch concert hall, an architecture that wonderfully complements and enhances the artistic sentiments of the major Liza Lim work.

ELISION is deeply appreciative of support given to this event by the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation, CeReNeM through Huddersfield University UK, and Creative Victoria. 

ELISION live in Leeds

The ensemble is looking forward to our return to the University of Leeds and the opportunity to present really significant new pieces from composers Evan Johnson, ‘contemptus mundi’ for clarinet in C and piano, Einar Torfi Einarsson, ‘Other proportions: rough path by extinction (virgula ligatura)’ for saxophone and piano, and a new solo by Dominik Karski. All of these works are expressly written for the performing brilliance of Alex Waite, Carl Rosman and Joshua Hyde. The concert also has works from Golnaz Shariatzadeh, Ann Cleare, Bethan Morgan-Williams and ELISION’s long standing friend-Richard Barrett.

Vale Robin Kirkham

Robin is a core and fundamental member of the ELISION family. He passed away peacefully on Friday, January 13th, 2023.

ELISON celebrates his life and being. He was an essential part of the grounding of the ensemble and our practice. He guided and advised upon the intricate minutiae surrounding governance and all practicalities of ensemble existence. But much more than that, Robin was an extremely close friend and cherished companion, often joining with the musicians of the ensemble on our various tours to Germany, Belgium, Italy and the United Kingdom. At rehearsals and on the road he was always present, quietly available to be of service. Whether it was through dealing with the engineering mysteries of percussion instruments, wiring up a pedalboard, helping lug suitcases, instruments and equipment, or creating databases and contracts, Robin’s questing and wide-ranging intellect permeates throughout the entirety of our life and activity as an ensemble.

The image of Robin’s presence with a wry smile, witnessing a Melbourne concert alongside composer Aaron Cassidy, encapsulates much of our joined companionship.

In the months and years ahead we will be honouring our time together and the resonance of his being through music.

It was a privilege and a honour to have him in our lives

Robin Kirkham
Robin Kirkham and Aaron Cassidy enjoy an ELISION Melbourne concert in 2007

What Remains

In 2007, at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Art in Brisbane, the then home of ELISION, the ensemble gathered with two ferociously gifted improviser/composers, John Butcher and Timothy O’Dwyer, to realise a project for two spatialised and independent yet interactive ensembles. The work consisted of two independent but related compositions, Residue by John Butcher, and What Remains by Timothy O’Dwyer, which gave the project its overall title. The workshopping process enabled an extensive and heavily hybridised use of notational and improvised materials, each practice informing the other. The extensive documentation captures the fast paced and viscerally explosive moments of opening and closing sections, as well as more expansive soloing from both Timothy O’Dwyer and John Butcher. And Richard Haynes, Graeme Jennings, Tristram Williams and Benjamin Marks.

ELISION has had the pleasure of working with John Butcher on a number of occasions, in the United Kingdom and Australia. John was also part of our twentieth birthday celebrations in Sydney as a featured soloist in Timothy O’Dwyers Gravity and later on participated in ELISION’s The Braxton Project at HCMF 2009.

It is difficult to overstate the contribution and participation of Timothy O’Dwyer in the life of ELISION. He has participated brilliantly and enlivened many of the major projects, from Richard Barrett’s CONSTRUCTION to Liza Lim’s opera Yuè Lìng Jié (Moon Spirit Feasting). Tim has also worked with ELISION, performing the chamber music of Chaya Czernowin, Sam Hayden, Maurizio Pisati, Liza Lim, and John Rodgers. He has composed significant works for the ensemble. And with ELISION, toured Murri visual artist, Lilla Watson’s Sight and Sound of a Storm in Sky Country to New Zealand, Germany and the United Kingdom. Tim is one of the many amazing musicians who make up the ELISION ensemble.