Dead SymphonyIn the bowels, four floors down into the Arts Centre Playhouse rehearsal room stand fifteen thin, fluorescent tubes on stands, at varying heights. This is the interactive light sculpture by Nick Found developed in collaboration with United Visual Artists. The light installation encircling six musicians and audience encircling the light installation, a circuit, and epicenter is formed. Four speakers, cornered, cross direct and amplify sound, mounted high above heads, on stands. The door closes. The usher sits at a side angle to the circle, facing the door, at odds with the circular flow of the room.


These thin tubes of light create an atmosphere that feels like a medical environment, with the backdrop of concrete grey walls, but also feels consecrated. The tubes of light resemble a dismantled pipe organ, only the high pitch tubes in view. A church-like feeling emerges. The small, contained, underground space could easily be likened to a crypt or a mortuary.

Dead Symphony begins. A mid-tonal airy hum resonates. There’s an uncertainty of which instrument is singing this single note. Apartment House Artistic Director and Cellist - Anton Lukoszevieze, create the orchestra. On harp – Rhodri Davies, keyboard – Kerry Young, vocalist – Lore Lixenberg, percussion – Simon Limbrick, and electronics – Matthew Adkins. They radiate cohesion and uniformity. The speakers loop thematic melodies, and some static can be heard underneath.

Without embracing the archetype of the angelic, this composition does not have a more befitting adjective to describe its metaphysical and etheric effect on the atmosphere, and images in the mind. The light installation flickers at varying intensities, punctuating and intensifying the oscillation of the vibration of sound.

Having experienced near-death, it is nothing that lives and is alive, awakening and shocking. Imagery from that rare life experience came flooding back, unexpectedly, into the present moment. Dead Symphony, as composer Saskia Moore shares in the post show discussion, is transposed from interviews with forty individuals, one on one, who all share the near-death experience, to transcribe what was heard at the point just before death. During it’s creation, Saskia filled the room where the interviews took place, with every instrument she could find, and worked to find the music heard at the moment of dying. Colours were seen, drawn and also translated into sounds, then instrumentations to create Dead Symphony. Combining the elements of music, art installation, and site-specific performance, liberated the performance to experiential collaborative event. Profoundly human in its simplicity, challenging, spiritual and intelligently created through collaborative discussions with artists, neuroscientists, scientists and people who have survived a near-death experience make Dead Symphony unique and hauntingly visceral.

The final moment of Dead Symphony impacted with light intensity flaring to 100%, and, behind now-closed eyes, burned and surged with the climax of the score. The usual kaleidoscope of colour behind the eyes disappeared and was replaced by a surging white. Feeling that a free, disembodied, existence had appeared, an angelic purity, and a peacefulness that belongs to that experience, enveloped. The imagination took flight back to that time of near-death. Then black. The sound of clapping, a welcome relief.


Arts Centre Melbourne and Smartartists presents
Dead Symphony

Venue: Arts Centre Melbourne, Playhouse Rehearsal Room
Dates: 7 – 10 August, 2013
Tickets: $38
Bookings: artscentremelbourne.com.au