© 2019 Erik Griswold.

Water Pushes Sand (2015)

Chinese-Western jazz ensemble.  60:00.

Known for its brash and friendly people, spicy food, laid back tea-houses, and the distinctive twang of its spoken dialect, Sichuan is the Texas of China. It is from Sichuan that philosopher Lao Tzu, according to legend, mounted a water buffalo and rode off into the sunset, never to be seen again. Its music combines colours from rustic country folk, street songs, and the ear splitting cacophony of gongs and cymbals. It is more like blues or early rock and roll than classical music. Even the opera is hard core, featuring long stretches of voice and percussion which could be straight out of an avant grade composition by Luciano Berio.

In Water Pushes Sand, composer Erik Griswold and the Australian Art Orchestra team up with all star musicians and performers of Sichuan to create a colourful collage of winds, piano and percussion. The ten-piece big band fuses traditional Sichuan melodies and rhythms with modern jazz improvisation to create a wild intercultural celebration. With dramaturgy and direction from Tamara Saulwick (Pin Drop, Endings, Chamber Made Opera), and video shot on location in Chengdu, Water Pushes Sand  evokes the tea-houses, streets, and rivers of Sichuan. On stage the musicians wear the brightly coloured traditional masks of Sichuan Opera as they explore the changing faces of Chinese and Australian Culture.

“a masterful musical montage...full of fascinating juxtapositions...the musicians…juggle ancient and contemporary disciplines to create something startlingly new.” - Jessica Nicholas, Sydney Morning Herald

“a liberating performance showing the beauty and strength of two cultures intertwining” - Victoria Mantynen, Planet Arts

“a meaningful step towards unpacking the possibilities that exist in Asian-Australian orchestral collaboration.” - Nithya Iyer, Peril Magazine

“This is edgy work. This is not everyone’s cup of tea. But make no mistake: this is genius.” - Tracey Korsten, Glam Adeliade

“Folky and melodic to urbane and chaotic, it was a delightful and rewarding experience for the rapturous audience…a fine example of all that is possible when art and those who practice it are given the great gift of time to develop deep and generous relationships.” - Kristian Pithie, Performing Arts Hub

Commissioned by the Australian Art Orchestra.  Premiered 2 October 2015 at OzAsia Festival, Adelaide.