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MPavilion, Open House Melbourne and Melbourne Music Week announced the 5 successful applicants for MERGE—a collaborative music and design initiative commissioned by MPavilion for Open House Melbourne’s July and MPavilion/Melbourne Music Week’s November 2020 program. From an overwhelming response to the call-out, a combination of solo artists and musical groups have been selected to take part in the unique project. The 5 soloists/groups commissioned are: The Opals, Mara Schwerdtfeger, Shelly Senbei, Hachiku and IJALE.

Taking place in two parts—the first recording and airing online on at 4pm on Saturday 25 July 2020. Each artist/group will perform an existing musical work in one of the following heritage locations: Villa Alba Museum, Waller House, Australian Tapestry Workshop, and Trades Hall. The second, the artists will create a new musical work as part of MPavilion 2020’s expanded program which will be performed live at MPavilion 2015 by Amanda Levete, at Collins Street, Docklands on Wednesday 18 November 2020 as part of Melbourne Music Week.

The MERGE selection panel consists of MPavilion Creative Director, Jen Zielinska, Melbourne Music Week Event Coordinator Anna Paterson, and Open House Melbourne Program Manager Brianna Carroll, who today commented: “In a time of huge global challenges and shifts, our three organisations are specially placed to come together to provide some stability and support for local creatives.

The artists who have been selected to take part in MERGE embody so much of the artistic spirit of this city—its vibrancy, its diversity and its endless ability to take you by surprise.

The artists who have been selected to take part in MERGE embody so much of the artistic spirit of this city—its vibrancy, its diversity and its endless ability to take you by surprise. This project is an exciting way of championing their practices while amplifying the unique qualities of Open House Melbourne, Melbourne Music Week and MPavilion.”

The successful applicants represent a microcosm of the eclectic musical talent that has made Melbourne a global music hub; The Opals is a collective of women who collaborate on ambient soundscapes using both improvisation and written composition; Mara Schwerdtfeger is a sound artist and composer whose performed pieces and commissioned soundtracks for dance, film and installations explore the crossover between physical and digital environments; Shelly Senbei is a multidisciplinary collective of artists from the western suburbs of Melbourne that produces dark, dingy, bombastic, brash and in-your-face pieces paired with poetics about the members’ own personal adversities and experiences; Hachiku is the brainchild of German bedroom-producer Anika Ostendorf, who writes and produces her ethereal, home-made dream-pop from whichever room she is currently inhabiting; IJALE is a Melbourne producer, vocalist and performer who blends afrocentric sounds that reflect his Nigerian heritage with myriad other musical influences from his Australian upbringing in the internet age.

The MERGE events of Saturday 25 July will happen in heritage venues that have been specially chosen to enhance each musical performance. Villa Alba Museum in Kew is prized for its architectural beauty, and magnificent Victorian interiors with hand-painted decorations; Mara Schwerdtfeger will use multiple microphones to highlight the natural room tones and their autonomous creaks, while responding musically with her viola. Waller House in Ivanhoe is the beautifully-maintained former dwelling and studio of Australian muralist, mosaicist and stained glass artist Napier Waller; from field recordings taken inside the site, Hachiku will create a conceptual music piece inspired by Waller's mosaic technique.

Australian Tapestry Workshop is the only workshop of its kind operating in Australia, with large spaces dedicated solely to the production of hand-woven tapestries and the support of local artists, architects and designers; IJALE will stage a performance that responds to the site’s location on the unceded land of the Yaluk-ut Weelam of the Wurrung Boon people and the history of colonial co-option of black and indigenous labour and creativity across Australia and the world. Trades Hall is the iconic home of the Victorian Trades Hall Council, which has stood as a symbol of Victoria’s groundbreaking labor history for over 150 years; its open, stately interior and contrasting decorative features will serve to complement the spatial drones and melodic flourishes of The Opals. In contrast, Shelly Senbei will also use Trades Hall to present their ‘metal machine music’ borne of multicultural childhoods in the industrial western suburbs.

The MPavilion 2020 program endeavours to stimulate audience and artistic engagement with a greater investment in artists, performers and collaborators. At a time where artists and designers have been disadvantaged, displaced and disconnected due to the pandemic, MPavilion is adapting its operation to be more accessible to more Melburnians while supporting new needs in the most efficient and sustainable ways. Driven by this mission to aid creativity in the wider community, MPavilion is set to deliver an amplified new program across its six locations from 12 November 2020 to 21 March 2021.

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