Horizon brings the galaxy to Maroochydore

From Maroochydore to the beaches and the hinterland, Horizon Festival is set to take over the Sunshine Coast from 23 August – 1 September in a celebration of visual art, music, words and ideas, art, tech, film and much, much more.

In 2019 Horizon will take-over the emerging Maroochydore City Centre, transforming the space from construction site to the thriving creative hub of Horizon Festival 2019. Visitors will enjoy a 10-day program of free cutting-edge entertainment, plus ticketed performances, creative workshops, live music, pop-up galleries and delicious local eats.

The amazing festival program features work by well-known artists and performers including Jack Charles, Alice Skye, Jody Haines, Lincoln Austin, and Louise King. An exciting addition to the program is award-winning contemporary multimedia artist Michaela Gleave, who has collaborated with Amanda Cole and Warren Armstrong on ‘A Galaxy of Suns’, a spectacular choir performance like no other. We caught up with her to find out more about it.

Can you please tell us a bit about the piece ‘A Galaxy of Suns’?

A Galaxy of Suns is a 36-part choral performance that ‘sings’ the stars as they rise and set. The work treats the Earth as a giant, spinning music box, with stars triggering notes as they cross over the horizon. An app delivers microtonal sonic cues directly to the 36 singers, allowing the performance to occur in real-time. The rhythm of the work is driven entirely by the stars, with the notes informed by the ‘pitch’ of each individual star: slower burning cooler red stars correspond to the bass notes, and the faster burning hot blue stars correspond to the upper registers. Large-scale lighting tracks the progress of the choristers as they sing their way across the sky, illuminating their full-length silver capes. The voices blend into a morphing sonic cloud, giving the performance a meditative, almost zen-like feel. This will be the QLD premiere of the work and we’re very excited about adapting the performance for the stunning Glass House Mountains!

Your work keeps coming back to the sky. What is it about it that you find inspiring?

In my practice I’m interested in exploring the nature of reality and how it is that we piece together an understanding of the world around us. This begins with sensory perception and scales out through physical and social constructs, ending with cosmology and the depths of the universe. The sky is fascinating to me. We live in the space of the sky, yet our senses can’t properly grasp the things we see above us, It’s almost impossible to perceive the scale of a cloud, for example, let alone the distance to the stars. The sky is also the membrane between us and infinite time and space. It has held our fascination for the entirety of human existence, and represents the poetry and romance of the human condition. What better subject matter and site for making art!

How did the collaboration come about?

A few years ago I posted a picture of an artwork I had created in collaboration with the astronomer Michael Fitzgerald. The work was a dot matrix printer that printed the details of one star every minute as they rose over the horizon for the location of the audience. Dot matrix printers use beautiful fanfold paper, which flowed through the object and pooled on the floor behind the printer over the course of the exhibition. The composer Amanda Cole saw this image and sent me a message saying that if I got her the data she could turn it into sound. My brain exploded. Amanda and I started chatting, and the project quickly evolved into a self-generating music app that plays the stars for wherever you are on the surface of the planet. You can download this app for free via the App Store and Google Play. To launch the app I wanted to create some kind of event out of the project and our programmer, Warren Armstrong, jokingly suggested that the only way to avoid technical problems was to have someone standing on a step singing. Again my brain exploded. Instead of a single voice I immediately imagined a whole choir, and the rest is history.

What do you hope audiences will take away from the piece?

‘A Galaxy of Suns’ is not your average choral work: there’s no score, no words, no formal structure. The piece simply unfolds over the audience, enveloping listeners in a drone-like chorus of voices. I think of the work as being more of an installation than a concert performance, and so the visuals are carefully considered, with the lighting almost as important as the sound. Our aim with the work is to elicit a sense of awe and majesty at the beauty of the universe. Hopefully audiences will come away with a sense of this beauty, and new found appreciation for the night sky and our unique position in the cosmos.

Horizon Festival runs from 23 August to 1 September. View the full program and book your tickets now at horizonfestival.com.au.

IMAGE (c) Lucy Parakhina


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