Photos – Lucy Spartalis
“If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live.” – Maurice Maeterlinck, The Life of the Bee
The frightening collapse of bee colonies throughout the world is a clarion call to humanity and the impetus for an extraordinary performance, Dance of the Bee, brought to the Arts House by Michael Kieran Harvey and Martin Friedel, utilising pianos, the Astra and Astra Improvising Choir directed by Joan Pollock and John McCaughey, and an actual swarm of bees in a specially designed performance hive, a sculptural work in its own right; the swarm is videoed and projected onto two screens and used as a visual backdrop while the sound of the bees was amplified to form part of the soundscape. Dance of the Bee describes itself as ‘a remarkable interspecies musical collaboration’. The harmonies provided by the voices of the Astra choir were subtle and entirely reminiscent of the sound of bees on a summer afternoon, a soft and eerily lovely backdrop.
For Dance of the Bee virtuoso pianist Michael Kieran Harvey curated a selection of works for solo and prepared piano, composed specifically for him over several decades. These works become a gateway to the larger collaborative project with beekeeper and composer Martin Friedel. Harvey’s playing is dynamic; talked about as ‘light dancing on a keyboard.’ The five solo pieces move through images of chaos to a closing representation of the ordered natural world of the bees in the pianist’s own new composition. Along with Harvey, the composers were Larry Sitsky, Allan Walker, Andrián Pertout, and Paul Grabowsky. Peter Dumsday and Joy Lee are the other pianists in the show, creating soundscape of intensity and gentleness, with moments of ‘semi-improvised sonic excursions.’ Live video by Mim Whiting enables the audience to contemplate bees at work, the entire show bringing to mind how important our relationship is with this species. Sound was supervised by Michael Hewes.
Arts House and Astra present
Dance of the Bee
Martin Friedel & Michael Kieran Harvey
Venue: North Melbourne Town Hall | 521 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne
Dates: 11 – 13 September, 2015
Tickets: $30 – $15
Bookings: artshouse.com.au | (03) 9322 3713