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Ben Robinson
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Con students perform to full house as part of new music festival

14 September 2018
Opportunity to premiere new work sees students extended
Composition students were recently treated to a host of professional development experiences, through masterclasses, a digital installation and performing on a festival bill alongside world-renowned artists.

Sydney Conservatorium of Music composition students recently had the opportunity to participate in Extended Play, a festival of new music presented by City Recital Hall. The festival was created in honour of a tradition started by headliners, Bang on a Can All-Stars. Every year since 1987, the New York based ensemble have presented a marathon of experimental music, taking the form of "Lollapalooza advised by the ghost of John Cage," as Vanity Fair once wrote.

Four composition students were selected to form ConCreative, a line-up showcasing a range of approaches to contemporary composition at the Con, while another group were invited to participate in a masterclass with artists from the Bang on a Can All-Stars.

‘It was a great privilege to represent Sydney Conservatorium's Composition Department amidst a myriad of incredible new music acts,’ Gabrielle Cadenhead, a ConCreative artist, explained.

Gabrielle Cadenhead

‘We are the future of new music, and it was wonderful to have that recognition at Extended Play - and to perform to a packed venue we shared with superstars of the Aussie music scene.’

Gabrielle composed her solo flute piece ‘Echo’, and a poem by the same name which she read before the flute performance, as a reflection on the time she has spent using church spaces alone for music practice. The compelling pieces reflected on these sacred, generative and empowering experiences.

Earlier this year, Ben Robinson was inspired by Florida shooting survivor Emma González’s powerful speech addressing the gun control issues in America. The speech functioned as rallying force worldwide, demanding young voices be heard. Ben worked with the pitch and rhythm of Emma’s words, notating them into a video-score accompanied by an ensemble of instruments. Clustered around an iMac computer, each musician furiously followed the cadence and pitch-contour of every syllable with their instrument.

‘It was an honour to be included in Extended Play, being a student in a program of otherwise accomplished composers and performers,” Ben said.

‘Simply having an audience that contained members of the public, and not just family or friends, was an important step for me as a young composer.’

Soloman Frank


Solomon Frank presented his humourous piece ‘D_ART_A-BOT’, a reflection on artificial intelligence and creativity. 2018 Composing Women participant Bree van Reyk, played vibraphone alongside a string quartet, in her stunning piece ‘Six Scenes’. Off the concert stage, another 28 young Conservatorium composers had their works peppered around the City Recital Hall in a sound-installation and audio-visual works projected on a vast interior wall.

Reflecting on his students’ performances, Dr Damien Ricketson, Program Leader of Bachelor of Music (Composition), said:

The current crop of young composers at the Con represent a hotbed of creativity and musical exploration.

The day before the festival another group of composition students had the opportunity to workshop their current projects with four members of the Bang on a Can All-Stars: Ashley Bathgate, Ken Thomson, Vicky Chow, and Taylor Levine. Performing each others’ compositions, the group bravely faced critique from these world-renowned musicians.

Bang on a Can All-Stars


‘In projects such as the Bang on a Can workshops and Extended Play at the City Recital Hall, it’s exciting to see our students not only engaged and learning from some of the best in the field, but also demonstrating that they themselves are active contributors to our new music community’,
Dr Ricketson said.