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SCU extensively involved with The Flood production


31 March 2004
Weird and original musical instruments such as aluminium pipes played with a gas flame torch, a man playing a piano in a tank that fills up with water, and a large mobile Noah’s Ark, are among the features in the upcoming production of The Flood.

The free, multi-media performance being put on by NORPA over Easter, April 8-10, in the streets of Lismore, involves extensive collaboration with Southern Cross University (SCU), SCU’s Executive Dean of Arts, Professor Paul Thom, said.

The university’s involvement is funded by an Australian Research Council (ARC) grant awarded to SCU with NORPA as its ‘industry partner’. It includes funding for several aspects of the production as well as a book, being launched this Friday, April 2, in Lismore, a film and a conference.

“The 10th anniversary year of the university marks a special collaboration between the university and NORPA,” Professor Thom said.

“The collaboration came out of discussions between myself, (Head of SCU’s School of Arts, Associate Professor) Michael Hannan, and (NORPA Artistic Director) Lyndon Terracini (pictured with Professor Thom), about how the university could be involved in the production of The Flood that NORPA was planning to do,” he said.

“The performance is based on the idea of the flood as an iconic local event that shapes people’s experience in this region, including the tragic human side and the community-building side, plus a whole lot of literary and cultural references to flood.”

Professor Hannon composed the musical score for the production, while Janis Balodis, a part-time lecturer in script writing in SCU’s School of Arts, wrote the libretto (words).

Professor Hannan has also been involved in creating recorded soundscapes for The Flood performances, with fellow composer Colin Black, a graduate of SCU who recently won the coveted Italia Prize for radiophonic art.

The musical score includes sounds from a number of unusual instruments created by Steve Langton, including: ‘thongaphones’: sets of long plastic pipes played with thongs; water chimes involving a set of aluminium chimes suspended over a tank of water that change pitch when dipped in water; and ‘Dr Whoaphones’ or a wearable set of plastic instruments that sound like the riff from the ‘Dr Who’ tv series.

Meanwhile Ian Slade, a lecturer in Media for Video Production in SCU’s School of Arts and former freelance cinematographer, along with some students, is making a documentary of the production, from its germination through to performance. They hope to have it broadcast on SBS or ABC TV, as well as Lismore’s Link TV. Mr Slade has also helped produce images which will be projected onto walls, buildings and trees during the shows.

Professor Thom has also produced a book in association with the project, called Flood: Essays across the current, which he edited. It includes a selection of essays that present floods from a range of perspectives: science, history, theology, psychology, law, art and music. The book includes recollections of those who experienced 1974 Lismore flood and 1996 Coffs Harbour flood, and photographs.

The Flood book will be launched on April 2, at 6pm in Lismore’s Star Court Theatre. It is published by Southern Cross University Press and sells for $39.95. The painting on the book cover was done by a SCU Visual Arts lecturer and local artist, Leonie Lane, who has experienced a flood.

“One of the purposes of the book was to provide material that could be then be fed into the libretto of this theatre piece,” Professor Thom said.

In a further, unusual association, a lecturer in SCU’s School of Exercise Science and Sport Management, Associate Professor Shi or ‘Joe’ Zhou, will test the aerobic fitness of selected performers, including actors, musicians and singers, on campus in a regime he usually applies to elite athletes.

“Joe’s involvement came out of my hearing about what NORPA call the ‘creative laboratory’,” Professor Thom said. “I was really struck by that idea and thought about ways we could involve science and the humanities and the university in general in it.”

Meanwhile, Professor Thom has organised an academic conference on contemporary opera and music theatre on Sunday, April 11, at the Broken Head Coastal Foundation, to tie in with the show. Speakers include leading scholars in music, drama and philosophy: Professor Thom and Professor Hannan; Arthur Groos, Professor of German Studies, Medieval Studies and Music at Cornell University in the US and a Puccini expert; Stephen Davis, an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Auckland and one of the world’s leading philosophers of music; and Michael Ewans, an Associate Professor of Music and Drama from the University of Newcastle and a contemporary opera expert.