In this unique concert, pianist Gabriella Smart takes the audience on a spoken and musical journey inspired by the narratives of selected pianos from colonial Australia. She invited Australian composers Elena Kats Chernin, Luke Harrald, David Harris, Jon Rose and James Rushford to write works inspired by the narratives of selected colonial pianos in Australia. The pianos still exist in various locations, and their cultural and historical narratives have served to inspire new works that give a unique glimpse into Australia’s colonial history through the eyes of famous artists and Afghan cameleers, telling stories of genocide and the harshness of remote locations.

The result is a living history, revivifying the colonial piano as a significant cultural object: an estimated 700,000 pianos existed in Australia in 1888, with a population of 3,000,000. The program includes a work by Cat Hope that comments on the oppression of colonialism written for piano, ebows and AM radios, and a personal narrative through song on love and loss of homeland, written for piano and electronics by Constantine Koukias. The extraordinary creativity of these composers has resulted in a living history of Australia.

The Intensity of Light

Epirus 8’
An Ancient Voice (Piano Version 2018)
By Constantine Koukias (AUS/NL)
Pre-Recorded Tape Engineer – Evert de Cock

Picnic at Broken Hill 5.30′
For piano and pre-recorded electronics
By Jon Rose (AUS/UK)

Damp Antiquary 6’
For solo piano
By James Rushford (AUS)

Piano Memories 4’
For solo piano
By Elena Kats Chernin (AUS/RUSS)

Station Chains 7’
For solo piano
By David Harris (AUS)

The Fourth Estate 8’
For grand piano, two ebows and AM radios
By Cat Hope (AUS)

The Intensity of Light 7.30′
For piano and pre-recorded electronics
By Luke Harrald (AUS)

Epirus – An Ancient Voice (Piano Version 2018)

By Constantine Koukias
Pre-Recorded Tape Engineer – Evert de Cock

Epirus is the rugged mountainous northwest region of ancient Greece. The end of the Balkan wars and World War I left the region divided between southern Albania and North Western Greece. The word Epirus itself derives from the Greek and means ‘terra firma’ as opposed to Corfu and the Ionian islands. Vasilliki Koukias, the mother of the composer, was born and raised in Epirus Greece and passed away in 2007   Two recordings of Vasiliki’s singing became the basis of this new work: a lament (mirolóyia) and a shepherd’s song (skaros). Recorded in Hobart, Tasmania in 2000 the recorded voice relays ancient roots from Epirus, transformed again in the composer’s new home in Amsterdam.

Picnic at Broken Hill (2015) – Jon Rose

For piano and recorded voice

On New Year’s Day 1915 at 10 am in Broken Hill, 1200 miners and families scrambled on board 40 open Iron ore carriages fitted with benches and set off to Silverton for what was supposed to be a picnic.

About 3 miles out of town, parallel with a graveyard, the picnic train was attacked by two former cameleers (“Afghans”) from the North East “Ghan town” of Broken Hill. Their names were Mullah Abdullah and Badsha Mahommed Gool. The two men, flying a home-made Turkish flag (neither of them were Turkish), used the horse-drawn ice-cream cart from which to launch their offensive. Australia was rife with pro-British war fever and anti Turkish and German sentiment; the two ex-cameleers clearly felt they were in the wrong place and on the wrong side, so they joined together to start their own war. Knowing how it would end they both wrote suicide letters.

This composition is a musical transcription of those suicide letters.

I have used a pitch to MIDI program to convert the original Urdu suicide letters into notation, then re-worked the material to make it playable on piano – keeping the rhythms, pitches, and delivery of the Urdu as much as possible in tact. The left hand performs Badsha Mahommed Gool’s text, and the right hand in the piano score performs the words of Mullah Abdullah. Mahommed Gool’s suicide letter is more a proclamation of intent, and Mullah Abdullah’s letter (as you might expect) is more in the expression of a prayer.

Damp Antiquart (2016) – James Rushford

For solo piano

Damp Antiquary is inspired by the idea of the instrument as somehow ‘haunted’, where past musical memories manifest on the instrument of their own accord. The colonial song Bygone Days tune is re-harmonized according to harmonic overtones and sub-tones, like the resonances around the pitches of the tune are emerging like ‘ghosts’. The ‘above/below’ image is also referencing the up/down movement of the camel and its hump.

The piece is permeated with the feeling of nostalgia, and the ‘depressive state’ Quignard speaks of is not really emotionally ‘depressive’, but I take it to mean an image of a mental ‘pushing down’ (like that of a key on a piano), into a consciousness of the past, of the before. There should be a trance-like, hypnotic effect from the music, as if it is ‘conjuring’ something out of the piano’s memory.

Piano Memories (2016) – Elena Kats Chernin

Silent Piano
evokes the sadness and melancholy of the now muted Telegraph Station piano, and its own memories of past times. A piano’s life is lived through its beauty of sound and the people it inspires through its music making. The Telegraph Station piano now lives silently behind a locked glass door, and the people who played it no longer exist. It is deemed too old and fragile to be played any longer, so it remains deserted forever, in a place full of ghosts.

Station Chains (2016) – David Harris

For solo colonial or grand piano

Station Chains explores the sonorities of the now aged first piano to arrive at the Alice Springs Telegraph Station. It’s old strings reminded me of the chains that First Nations people were so often chained together by the neck with.

Painting the picture of the cross-cultural strife the piano arrived into we hear sounds reminiscent of many yidaki (didgeridoo) playing simultaneously sometimes burning our ears violently while at other times reminiscent of a sacred fire. Other sections in the piece are biting awkward dances built of juxtaposed and re-sculpted indigenous rock/folk tunes representing the pain of colonisation as it continues. These sections surround a slow lament for the Arrente culture and people and The First Nation Mparntwe, also known as Alice Springs, so much of which has been lost, while also questioning the culture, the piano and the people that have supplanted it. The volatility of the old Telegraph Station piano is symbolic of the destabilisation of the time of its arrival. The 1880’s were a time of war in Central Australia as the original First Nations inhabitants were cleared from their land. ‘Station Chains’ solemnly remembers this part of the Frontier Wars.

The Fourth Estate – Cat Hope

For grand piano, two ebows and AM radios
By Cat Hope (AUS)

The Fourth Estate is a societal, political or institutional force whose influence is not officially recognised, and is a term often used to refer to the press. Its original use relates to the three estates of the realm: clergy, nobility and commoners. Australia in particular has seen just how powerful ‘unofficail’ voices can be, through monopolisation of the media, editorialised media reporting and political bias. The Fourth Estate is a work that compares the sonoric qualities of the piano with those of small electronic devices that extend and contrast with it. Small voices that have, the ability to change everything. As the Fourth Estate is thought to be an element of society ‘outside’ official recognition, here the electronics attempt to pull the piano into a different sound world outside its usual realm.

The Intensity of Light (2017) – Luke Harrald

For piano and pre-recorded electronics

The Intensity of Light aims to capture a sense of the unique beauty, and light of the South Australian landscape, particularly in the mid-north and Flinders Ranges.  The work was influenced by an archival recording of an interview with Hans Heysen from 1960, where he describes his approach and work.

Despite being almost 60 years ago, many of his statements are quite prophetic; the most poignant for me being “we’re forgetting the sky”. Vivid skies, sunsets like fire, deep purple evenings in the heat of summer, and rich blacks of the night punctuated by the milky way are re-imagined through the work, coalescing with a sense of the colonial within the landscape and lament for the loss of appreciation of simple pleasures through the pace of modern life.

Constantine Koukias

Konstantin’s avant-garde approach to the presentation of opera has resulted in hybrid productions such as Days and Nights with Christ, To Traverse Water, MIKROVION (Small Life – 36 Images in a Phantom Flux of Life), The Divine Kiss, Tesla – Lightning in His Hand and most recently The Barbarians, inspired by Constantine Cavafy’s famous poem Waiting for the Barbarians, commissioned by the Museum of Old & New Art.

His works range from large-scale music theatre & opera to mobile installation art events.
His compositions have been always remarkable for their characteristic, mesmerising and atmospheric qualities created by temporal, spatial and production designs. In his recent works, exotic flavours have been introduced through Eastern timbres and melody-design.

In 1993 he was commissioned by the Sydney Opera House Trust to compose ICON, a large-scale music theatre piece to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Sydney Opera House. Music theatre works include Kimisis – Falling Asleep, Borders, Orfeo, Rapture – Sonic Taxi Performance, Schwa – The Neutral Vowel, Antigone and The Da Ponte Project. Prayer Bells, which draws on traditions of Latin, Hebrew and Byzantine chant, had its USA premiere at the Chicago Cultural Centre.

In 2004 he was awarded a Sir Winston Churchill Fellowship. His Incantation II for soprano and digital delay won the International Valentino Bucchi Vocal Prize in Rome in 1997. His design credits include the internationally acclaimed Odyssey and Medea.

In 2014, Kimisis – Falling Asleep, a chamber opera for Soprano & Electric Trombone had its Netherlands premiere at Splendor Amsterdam and toured to the Karavaan Festival. In December Before the Flame Goes Out premiered at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.

In 2017 & 18 he is preparing two major new works The Boy Who Fell Out of The Sky – Concerto for Ondes Martenot and Shaped by Trees – A Film Opera with librettist by Biasino Pezzimenti.

Jon Rose

For over 45 years Australian violinist, composer, inventor, multi-media artist, and writer Jon Rose has been at the sharp end of experimental music and art on the global stage. His primary life’s work is The Relative Violin, the innovation of a total artform based around the one instrument. His violin (Rosenberg) Museum contains over 1,000 artefacts, a provocative cultural critique, and has been exhibited in Berlin (x3), Paris, Rotterdam, Vienna, Nove Zamky, Budapest, Krakow, Brno, and the Slovakian town actually called Violin (x3).

In 2012, he was awarded The Australia Council’s most prestigious award for life long contribution to Australian Music – The Don Banks Prize.

He has appeared on more than 100 albums, radiophonic and media works, collaborating with many of the mavericks of new music like Kronos String Quartet, John Zorn, Alvin Curran, Otomo Yoshihide, Christian Marclay, Ilan Volkov, at festivals of New Music, Jazz, and Sound Art worldwide such as Ars Elektronica, Maerzmusik, Dokumenta, Maerzmusik Berlin, etc

Most known internationally are his “Great fences of Australia” project and his multi-media works with a series of interactive violin bows which he invented in 1985. The huge variety of Jon Rose projects can be viewed at:

James Rushford

James Rushford is an Australian composer-performer. His work is drawn from a familiarity with specific concrète, improvised, avant-garde and collagist languages.

Commissions include BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (Glasgow), Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble Neon (Oslo), Speak Percussion (Melbourne), Ensemble Vortex (Geneva), Melbourne International Arts Festival (2006/2008), Norway Ultima Festival (2011), Unsound Festival (New York 2014) and Liquid Architecture Festival (2010).

Performance highlights include STEIM Institute (Amsterdam), Issue Project Room (New York), CNEAI (Paris), Super Deluxe (Tokyo), Monday Evening Concerts (Los Angeles), Send & Receive Festival (Winnipeg), WORM (Rotterdam),  Centre for Contemporary Art (Warsaw), Only Connect Festival (Oslo), Now Now Festival (2011/2012), Adelaide Festival (2014) and the Tectonics Festival (Adelaide 2014, New York 2015, Tel Aviv 2015). He has also performed live with the Krakow Sinfonietta, Australian Art Orchestra, Michel Pisaro, David Behrman and Jon Rose.

Collaborators include Joe Talia, Golden Fur (with Samuel Dunscombe & Judith Hamann), Ora Clementi (with crys cole), Oren Ambarchi,  Klaus Lang, Kassel Jaeger, Graham Lambkin, Francis Plagne, Tashi Wada, the visual artist Michael Salerno and the writer Dennis Cooper.
His music has been published by Pogus (US),  Prisma (Norway), Bocian (Poland), Penultimate Press (UK), Black Truffle (AUS) and KYE (US).

James holds a Doctorate from the California Institute of the Arts.

Elena Kats Chernin

Elena Kats-Chernin is one of Australia’s leading composers. Trained in Moscow, Australia, and Germany, her distinctive idiom reflects her unique personal history * Music often combines chiseled rhythmic pulsation with a bittersweet melodic/harmonic language. Diverse output includes operas, orchestral works, chamber and solo pieces, plus music for dance, film, and theater * Interpreters include Ensemble Modern, Bang on a Can All-Stars, and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra

Looking Ahead: next stage production of Iphis at Hannover State Theatre (premiere: Mar 2019); new opera on Australian painter Brett Whiteley (WP Sydney 15 July 2019)

“Her status as one of this country’s most prolific and consistently innovative composers remains unchallenged… [She] appears to achieve the impossible, straddling the two seemingly irreconcilable camps of intellectualism and accessibility.”
– Sydney Morning Herald

David Harris

David Harris is a Melbourne based composer, broadcaster. He lectured in composition at the Elder Conservatorium, Adelaide University until 2015. As a composer David has been prolific (350 pieces since 1980) and varied, ranging stylistically from ‘hardcore minimalism’ to an expressive post-romanticism and many experimental shades in-between.

David’s works have been heard in Germany, France, USA, Canada, Poland and Australia.

In 1994 643 Pieces for a Percussionist, commissioned by Vanessa Tomlinson was performed in the Darmstadt New Music Festival. Also in Darmstadt, Compossible IV received repeat performances at Prinz Georgs Garten in 1996. Compossible VII for solo Guitar was toured by Geoffrey Morris as part of the European tour by Australia’s leading new music organisation, Elision in 1997. Later that year works for solo and duo piano were performed at the Marmosaal Concert Hall in Stuttgart, Germany.

Cat Hope

Professor of Music, Head of School, Zelman Cowen School of Music, Arts, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

Cat Hope’s music is conceptually driven, using mostly graphic scores, acoustic /electronic combinations and new score reading technologies. It often features aleatoric elements, drone, noise, glissandi and an ongoing fascination with low frequency sound. Her composed music ranges from works for laptop duet to orchestra, with a focus on chamber works, and in 2013 she was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to develop her work, as well as Civitella Ranieri (Italy) and Visby International Composers residency (Sweden) fellowships. Her practice explores the physicality of sound in different media, and has been discussed in books such as Loading the Silence (Kouvaris, 2013), Women of Note (Appleby, 2012), Sounding Postmodernism (Bennett, 2011) as well as periodicals such as The Wire, Limelight and Neu Zeitschrift Fur Musik Shaft.

Her works have been recorded for Australian, German and Austrian national radio, and her work has been awarded a range of prizes including the APRA|AMC Award for Excellence in Experimental Music in 2011, 2014 and the Peggy Glanville Hicks composer residency in 2014. She has founded a number of groups, most recently Decibel new music ensemble, noise improv duo Candied Limbs, the Abe Sada and Australian Bass Orchestra bass projects. She has also founded and written pop songs for Gata Negra (1999-2006).

Luke Harrald

Dr. Luke Harrald is a composer, performer and new-media artist, who is known for his groundbreaking work with improvisation and interactive computer music. Possessing a wide range of musical interests, Luke has played in a number of cover and original bands spanning genres from ‘60s pop to death metal, and written for film.

Luke has performed his work widely throughout Australia, and internationally, including performances and artist talks in London, Paris and Montreal.  In 2006, Luke participated in the Centre de Creation Musicale Iannis Xenakis Summer Intensive, presented his work at the 2009 International Computer Music Conference, and at the 2013 Pan Pacific Conference on Game Theory.

Recent commissions include a radio play ‘Emergency in the Sim Ward’ (2016), commissioned by ABC Radio National; ‘Way of the Warrior’ (2015), commissioned by the Adelaide Oval Stadium Management Authority; and ‘Ten Minutes to Midnight’ and ‘Ngurini’ (2015), two immersive sound and visual works that respond to British nuclear tests conducted in South Australia during the late 1950’s / early 1960’s.

In 2013, Luke’s work ‘Resonant Ghosts’ (2012) won two national awards for Excellence at the 2013 APRA Art Music Awards. Luke is Head of Studies for the Popular Music and Creative Technologies program at the University of Adelaide, and lectures in Sonic Arts.

Technical Performance Information

Three works require Pre-recorded electronic tracks:
Epirus by Constantine Koukias
Picnic at Broken Hill by Jon Rose
The Intensity of Light by Luke Harrald

Pre-recorded electronic tracks to be operated by performer, a sound operator is required to set up sound equipment.
Stereo PA, preferably with a subwoofer with 2 to 4 speakers.

Equipment Provided by performer:
Computer to play the electronics (in Quicktime)
Headphone jack with a stereo 3.5mm – RCA cable into the mixer

December 20, Frankfurt
Radio broadcast, Hessischer Rundfunk/Radio Frankfurt, interview and piano program of Of Broken Trees and Elephant Ivories.

December 6, United Kingdom
Bournemouth University Gabriella performs works from Of Broken Trees and Elephant Ivories program (Hope, Emmerson (WP), Veltheim)

December 5, United Kingdom
De Montford University  Gabriella performs works from Of Broken Trees and Elephant Ivories program (Hope, Emmerson (WP), Veltheim)

October 27, Cologne
Perform Klangstrom Austealia-Europe at LOFT
Of Broken Trees and Elephant Ivories program (Koukias, Harrald, Rose, Kats Chernin, Hope, Sistermanns)

October 25, KuBa Saarbruecken, South Germany
Sprach-Klang-Fantasie über das Wesen des Klangs, (Speach-Sound-Phantasy about the Essence of Sound) Johannes S. Sistermanns – Komposition / Sound Installation / Monochord Gabriella Smart – Piano Wolfgang Korb – Textcollage / Rezitation
Live radio broadcast at KuBa Art Station. Gabriella performs works from Of Broken Trees and Elephant Ivories program (Koukias, Harrald, Rose, Rushford, Kats Chernin, Sistermanns)

October 21, Amsterdam
Of Broken Trees and Elephant Ivories program (Koukias, Harrald, Rose, Rushford, Kats Chernin, Harris, Hope)

October 16, Bratislava
Of Broken Trees and Elephant Ivories program (Harrald, Kats Chernin, Harris, Veltheim)

August 25, Sydney Australia
Of Broken Trees and Elephant Ivories in ‘Extended Play’, a 12 hour new music event at Angel Place Recital Hall ( Harrald, Rose, Rushford, Kats Chernin, Milliken, Harris, Hope)

July 15, Adelaide Australia
Of Broken Trees and Elephant Ivories, a solo concert by Gabriella  as part of her Prelude Residency at Beaumont House, South Australia (Harrald, Rose, Rushford, Kats Chernin, Milliken, Harris)

June 29, Perth Australia
Of Broken Trees and Elephant Ivories program in Perth as part of TURA series (Hope and Veltheim)

April 22, Melbourne Australia
Of Broken Trees and Elephant Ivories program in MLIVE, Monash University (Hope and Veltheim)

April 13, Adelaide Australia
Of Broken Trees and Elephant Ivories program at Adelaide Central School of Art as part of ‘Listening Gallery’ Series (Veltheim)

April 5, Adelaide Australia
Of Broken Trees and Elephant Ivories program in Two Horizons Conference: Australian Association for Pacific Studies Conference, University of Adelaide (Milliken, Harris, Kats Chernin)

Constantine Koukias

Constantine Koukias
Foundation IHOS Amsterdam

Phone +31 6 49894484