Corinna’s Song to the Earth

‘Song to the Earth’ is a Bleach* Festival event like no other; one that invites you to stroll through a forest of musicians in an immersive, live orchestra event. Performed by acclaimed Australian string ensemble DeepBlue and master percussionist Dr Michael Askill alongside 50 local young musicians, ‘Song to the Earth’ promises a unique and euphoric musical experience under the night sky. Inspired by the patterns and cycles of nature and her own meditation practice, composer Dr Corrina Bonshek has crafted an intimate and original score that will form the basis of a transformative listening experience. We asked her a little more about the event.

We understand that you recently received funding through Council’s Generate Program. Why is it important that governments invest in projects like Song to the Earth?

For me every, artwork is a unique mirror of a place, time, and community (even if it is a broken mirror or shard!). Art brings us together and holds us through powerful shared experience. It has the power to open our hearts and mind. When it connects deeply to a community, it can fuel social change.

There is a perception elsewhere that the Gold Coast is all glitz and glamour with no soul. This simply isn’t the case.

So many Gold Coasters feel a deep connection with nature. This is such a biodiverse region with heritage listed rainforests, dry bush, and wetlands. Even the suburban areas are packed with birdlife and native plants.

I love listening the birds outside my window, or being surrounded by forest of cicadas in summer and even being woken by kookaburras before dawn. It’s a joy to channel the wonder and joy of those experiences into music, and share it with people from around the world when they visit our city for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (GC2018).

Climate change a hard reality that is complicated and frankly deeply disturbing. The act of listening to and caring about the nature in your backyard is a deeply affirming experience that can help sustain us while we grapple with this.

Your project involves young Gold Coast classical musicians. Why did you choose to involve young performers?

When I was 7 years old, an artist visited our school and ran a workshop where we each made storybook. Everyone else wrote a story, but I made an illustrated pop-up picture book. I awarded a special prize for my efforts.

It was a formative moment in two ways: someone creative (from outside of my family) recognised my unique creativity and encouraged me to follow it. And then they publically valued it.

Song to the Earth brings together young musicians aged 10 to 20-years with highly experienced music professionals/mentors: Michael Askill and DeepBlue Orchestra. Together these musicians are bring to life a brand new musical score, using their musical skills, the expressivity of their bodies in physical movement, and creativity with visual art materials. They are making their own costumes under the guidance of designer and workshop facilitator Tiffany Beckwith-Skinner. At the end of this process, an audience comes to appreciate and enjoy their hard work. This is a great experience for all involved.

On a personal note, it’s important to me that young musicians know that they can become a composer. I didn’t even know female composers existed until I was 17-years old. Even then I took several years to work up the courage to make composing my principle path.

I really hope that these young musicians recognise that composing is an option available to them right now, and that they can create works that connect to their own experiences and this community.

You’ve got an interesting artistic practice – focusing on composition with a penchant for nature and unusual sites for your installations. Can you tell me where this all comes from.

I first started working with nature sounds around 10 years ago, after I began meditating regularly. I found myself listening more deeply to the sounds around me, and feeling a deep sense of connection with them. Birdcall inspired melodies started popping up in my music. And then, I decided to incorporate nature sound recordings in a kind duet/collaboration between different species!

I’ve always been inspired by patterns, whether visual or in sound, and so I have made a number of installations with other artists or on my own. One of the most unusual examples of this is the music I composed the labyrinth at Centennial Park in Sydney, which is based on a 13th century pattern in stone for walking meditation based on sacred geometry. I was collaborating with a physical structure in a park designed to create an experience of transformation and release. This was a very interesting musical challenge. I need to think about how fast the listener might be moving along the labyrinth path and what else they might be experiencing in their own bodies during this meditative experience. Writing this music sensitized me to the power of slowly changing music where there is space to notice what is happening in your own body.

I think it also helped me imagine a walking audience. In Song to the Earth, the musicians stand in mandala type patterns and pass the musical sounds between them, making a living sound installation. The music sounds are different depending upon where you are standing, and who you are standing next too! I hope audiences will really embrace this and go on their own sound adventure through the forest of musicians.

Song to the Earth will be premiered on Saturday 7 April and Sunday 8 April at 5:30pm, 6:15pm and 7pm at Palm Beach Parklands as part of Bleach* Festival. Visit the Bleach* Festival website for more information.

Interview by Samantha Morris
Story by Natalie O’Driscoll

IMAGE (c) Artwork Agency

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