Live Review: The Music Box Project



The Music Box Project
‘Project: in 4’
Glebe Justice Centre, Glebe, 4 March 2015


Founders of The Music Box Project Erin Hendry, Oliver Hollenbach and Elizabeth Jigalin give audiences a chance to access new music in a non-formal setting.

I step into the Glebe Justice Centre and am greeted by the lovely Erin Hendry at the ticket table. She smiles while giving me a low down of the evening; first is a performance of 40 new ‘cells’ from 40 composers across the globe. Erin hands me the cutest little program I have ever espied. It barely fits in the palm of my hand, yet is clearly formatted. She stamps me with the Music Box Project logo (this is starting to feel like a very cool gig) and asks, ‘Did you bring your instrument?’. I blush a little as my saxophone is being sadly neglected at home and say, ‘I really just wanted to watch and listen’.

Erin then gives me something wondrous – a road map for the ensuing musical adventure. The top half details the cells of Terry Riley’s ‘In C’. Yes you must YouTube it, it is musically nutritious! The submission brief asked composers to creatively and appropriately address the number ‘four (4)’. The bottom half is a collage of a previously uncharted musical landscape littered with graphic scores, matrices and a ‘fourk’ seasoned with BbEEF – delicious.

I look to my surroundings; to my left is a table with gourmet delicacies and refreshments for audience members. Patrons mingle excitedly amongst the musicians as they grab a bite, taking single seats or grouping off on one of the stylish leather couches. I feel I have stepped back in time – surely classical music concerts were once relaxed affairs like this? Fairy lights and tea light candles ornament the room as the sun sets. My first compliment to The Music Box Project is for creating a welcoming and friendly atmosphere; I was already enjoying myself before the music started.

Elizabeth and Oliver enthusiastically introduce our first escapade ‘in 4’ and the quartet of quartets, 16 musicians organised into quartets of woodwind, brass, electronic and percussion. The first cell is a beautiful patchwork matrices of notes. It creates something of a haunting choir as the cicadas hum outside. As we wander through the 40 cells, there are quotes here and there from contemporary classical through to rock through to salsa. The instrumentalists, all of which play excellently, play off against each other and pair off across sound worlds. One of my favourite pair-offs occurs at cell 26; a gentle call and response sounded between a muted trumpet and piccolo.

My only concern with the venue is the boom of the brass off the back right hand corner. Unfortunately, there are instances throughout the night where I have to put plugs in as the aural fatigue becomes so great. The brass are fantastic, but a quick listen at a dress rehearsal from the perspective of an audience member would have identified this balance issue.

After taking in so much fantastic new music, I want to mingle with my fellow adventurers and take in what I had just experienced, but music is played at interval. This is not necessary; the hum of the excited audience would have been enough to keep me entertained.

The second half allows the audience to vote on a cell of the Riley they want to hear the ensemble play altogether. ‘31 lots of fun!’ we call from the gallery while munching on the chocolate and lollies that have been generously provided. A greater palette of musicians come together for the ‘In C’ jam. It is well worth it. At times, I close my eyes to meditate on a groove, or sit on the edge of my seat with the score in hand, trying to chart the journey.

I would highly recommend keeping an eye out for The Music Box Project – I left that concert feeling energised and refreshed. I had heard unexpected musical gems and enjoyed the company of enthusiastic patrons, organisers and musicians – truly a top night out!


Image supplied.



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