Atlas of the Sky

Speak Percussion - Atlas of the Sky A4 - Jeff Busby.jpg


Atlas of the Sky is a new work of dramatic and ritualistic power by award-winning and internationally acclaimed Australian composer Liza Lim. It combines driving rhythms with swarming percussion and vocal sounds from a ‘crowd’ of performers.

Featuring Speak Percussion’s virtuosic instrumentalism and Jessica Aszodi’s vast palette of vocal colour, Atlas of the Sky tells stories about the stars, the power of crowds and changing constellations of memory.

The ‘crowd’ of performers consists of a group twenty trained and untrained musicians plus young people from Speak Percussion’s Sounds Unheard program, who will create large-scale patterns that counterpoint the turbulent rhythms of our contemporary world. Using purpose-built instruments, the work demonstrates the expressive elemental power of string drums, stones, wood blocks made of Australian timber and the semantron — a resonant plank of wood that is used like a bell in Greek and Eastern European Christian Orthodox ritual.

The music is expressive, lyrical, textural, percussive, playful, dynamic and conceptually rich. Liza Lim is one of Australia’s most celebrated contemporary classical composers, and has strong affinities with Asian and indigenous Australian cultural practices.

Join Liza Lim and Eugene Ughetti for a post-concert Q&A in the Ground Floor Foyer.

Atlas of the Sky was assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body and the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria. Speak Percussion is assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body; the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria and the Department of Education and Training; City of Melbourne and City of Darebin.

Presented by Melbourne Recital Centre


Speak Percussion
Music Director, Eugene Ughetti
Soprano, Jessica Aszodi
Percussionists, Kaylie Melville, Matthias Schack-Arnott, Eugene Ughetti
Composer, Liza Lim
Movement Director, Jo Lloyd
Lighting Designer, Keith Tucker (Megafun)
Production Manager, Megafun
Sound Design, Tilman Robinson
Producers: Michaela Coventry and Sheah Sutton

‘Crowd’ performers: Chris Ardley, Simon Aubor, Owen Bomford, Melisand Box, Debbie Brady, Kay Cooper, David Cramond, Kris Eira, Jonathan Griffiths, Lee Zelda Hunt, Perri Hammond, Jim Hill, Zoe Petch, Madison Petherick, Gillian Tang, Katherine Walsh, Emily Wans


Between rehearsals for her new work for Speak and Jessica Aszodi, ‘Atlas of the Sky’, Liza Lim reflected on the inspirations and creative process of the work.

What was the initial inspiration for the work?
The way ‘Atlas of the Sky’ evolved as a proposition for a work is very special to me. It came out of a very simple exercise with Speak’s AD Eugene Ughetti, writing a piece for solo woodblock. So the idea that the humblest object can reveal a whole cosmos of sound was really the starting point.

Can you tell us about the poetry on which the libretto is based?
There are three poems that are used in this work. The first is ‘The Stars’ by Eliot Weinberger, a text which is in essence very simple but unfolds an incredibly rich set of resonances, where different ideas of what the stars represent from one culture to the next speak to each other. He repeatedly asks the question: what are the stars? Are they nails nailed into the sky? Are they holes in the curtain that separates us from an all-encompassing light? Are they messengers for lovers? Do they portend death, love, war?

And then I’ve also drawn on two poems by contemporary Chinese poet Bei Dao, which also explore ideas of the stars but in conjunction with the idea of the crowd, and the power that is held by the crowd. He sees the crowd as a mass into which we can read patterns, stories and find rituals of transformation.

What has your experience been of working with the ‘crowd’ of twenty musicians?
It’s been a revelation. There’s a real diversity of individuals in the group, from school kids to older members of the community, some of whom haven’t had any experience with performing or reading music before. But all with an incredible enthusiasm about being involved in the project. It’s been great seeing what’s possible in terms of performing, playing instruments, vocalising. The complexity and richness of their performance has been really startling.