Australian Art Orchestra Celebrates 25 Years

To mark their impressive 25-year milestone, this year the Australian Art Orchestra (AAO) has a full schedule of performances, tours, developments, collaborations and each month will place a spotlight on some of their individual musicians through the AAO 25th Anniversary Solo Series digital gallery.

Founded in 1994 by Paul Grabowsky AO, the AAO has a long history of creating visionary contemporary music and initiating ground-breaking cross-cultural collaborations.

As AAO artistic director since 2013, trail blazing trumpeter Peter Knight has guided the company to be a leading force in the Australian music scene with an orchestra now morphed into a shape-shifting ensemble featuring some of Australia's most remarkable performers.

"The AAO's pioneering vision recognised that jazz musicians and artists need to respond to what's directly around us - rather than look primarily to America and Europe for inspiration. A quarter of a century on, I believe that vision is more relevant than ever," said Knight.

"We certainly sound very different now and there are new faces, but there is a thread we have woven through each of our projects that traces back to the AAO's beginnings and continually blend into our collective dialogue," Knight explained.

As the AAO reflects on the past 25 years, they maintain their commitment centred on sound improvisation and also give space for individual creativity and acknowledge that each AAO musician has a highly refined, idiosyncratic and personal language on their instrument.

Each month throughout 2019, the AAO 25th Anniversary Solo Series will expose individual improvisations recorded by a selection of AAO artists - it will eventually culminate to form an 'orchestra of individuals' and montage of digital portraits that highlight the company's incredible musical skills and rich cultural backgrounds.

The AAO 25th Anniversary Solo Series has already featured Aviva Endean (clarinet), Sunny Kim (vocals), Joe Talia (electronics) and over the coming months will reveal Vanessa Tomlinson (percussion), Daniel Wilfred (voice), Mindy Meng Wang (guzheng), Erkki Veltheim (violin), Andrea Keller (piano), Martin Ng (turntables), Simon Barker (drums), Peter Knight (trumpet and electronics) and Jacques Emery (bass).

With a generous program of activities filling their silver jubilee year, the AAO have already kicked off 2019 with Striborg meets the AAO at Mona Foma and the Art by Twilight Series at the Heide Museum curated by AAO artist associate, Aviva Endean.

Following the world premiere in November 2018 as headline acts at the Jazztopad Festival in Wroclaw, two AAO works will have their Australian premiere at the Stonnington Jazz Festival this May: The Plains by Peter Knight and Hurry Slowly 2 by Andrea Keller.

Creative developments and experimentations will continue throughout the year, including with the Hand to Earth Trio featuring Peter Knight, Sunny Kim and Daniel Wilfred as well as the annual 10-day group Creative Music Intensive in Tasmania which brings together over 30 musicians including international guests.

For over fifteen years the AAO has built a friendship fostered through musical exchange and collaboration with The Young Wagilak Group from Ngukurr (Northern Territory) - in particular with Daniel and David Wilfred who have shared their songs and culture with musicians and audiences around the world with the AAO.

In June the AAO will visit the Wilfred brothers on their country and also perform at the Barunga Festival in Arnhem Land; and later in the year, Daniel and David will participate in the Indigenous Storytellers and Spoken Word Residency at the Banff Centre (Canada).

2019 AAO activities include:

  • AAO 25th Anniversary Solo Series - a series of monthly solo digital portraits
  • Striborg meets the AAO - at Mona Foma in Launceston
  • Art by Twilight Series at the Heide Museum - curated by AAO artist associate: Aviva Endean
  • The Plains by Peter Knight - Australian premiere at the Stonnington Jazz Festival
  • Hurry Slowly 2 by Andrea Keller - Australian premiere at the Stonnington Jazz Festival
  • Sharp Folds by Peter Knight - Stonnington Jazz Festival
  • Lacuna by Peter Knight - creative development
  • Hand to Earth Trio - development, workshop and showcase with Peter Knight, Sunny Kim and Daniel Wilfred
  • Barunga Festival (Arnhem Land) - collaboration with First Nations artists: Daniel and David Wilfred
  • Indigenous Storytellers and Spoken Word Residency at the Banff Centre (Canada) - Daniel and David Wilfred
  • Meeting Points Series: New Grooves For Old Streets - featuring Dung Nguyen and Ray Pereira
  • Creative Music Intensive - annual 10-day group residency in Tasmania followed by an intervention performance at Mona
  • Swing Bridge - listening party to celebrate the release of AAO's Swing Bridge composed by Alvin Lucier on Mode Records
  • Pathfinders - AAO music leadership program


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