American composer and conductor, Evan Ziporyn, has brought nine musicians to Australia to work with students from the Elder Conservatorium of Music and to perform a series of shows across the final weekend of this year’s Adelaide Fringe.

The first concert his Ambient Orchestra performed was titled An Ambient Primer and featured music by Satie, Laraaji, Robert Fripp & Brian Eno, as well as a piece by Ziporyn himself.

Ziporyn is well-credentialled in the world of ambient music and in areas of related, contemporary composition. He has worked with Eno directly on his Music For Airports project, and has also worked with the likes of Steve Reich, Yo Yo Ma, Ornette Coleman, Philip Glass, Thurston Moore and the Kronos Quartet amongst many others. He is also a Professor of Music at Boston’s prestigious MIT.

Prior to the commencement of the first piece of the evening, Ziporyn explained the rationale behind the selection of music chosen for this performance as ‘an exploration of the place of the orchestra in the age of electronic music‘ and as a starting point he had chosen the three Gymnopedies by the French composer, Erik Satie, an early pioneer in minimalism and experimentation with repetition.

Most people would have been familiar with Gymnopedie No. 3, because, as Ziporyn put it, it is often played in elevators and at supermarkets, but the orchestra’s slow hypnotic interpretation of this music gave it a new quality for me, having most often heard this music, in recent years, in stripped down electronic versions only.

The first half of the concert was completed by a full orchestral take on Laraaji’s Dance No.1¬†from his Ambient 3: Day Of Radiance album recorded in New York with Brian Eno in 1980.

The original version was played on a dulcimer, and then put through the ‘Eno-ssification’ treatment, but hearing the piece played with the gamut of instruments available to a full orchestra forced a complete review of the impact and emotion of the piece, as the music rolled through its layers of repeated string, woodwind and brass motifs.

The effect created was powerfully evocative, and has certainly whet the appetite for a performance from Laraaji himself, who is also due to appear at The RCC this weekend.

After a brief interval, Ziporyn’s own composition, Frog’s Eye, inspired by Walden Pond, a glacial lake not far from Boston, was the first piece played, and its cleverly interwoven passages conjured up musical images of the passing of slow glacial time, overlaid with other sections which seemingly represented the changing seasons in nature.

The concert finished with Robert Fripp & Brian Eno’s music. The entire first side of their seminal 1975 album, Evening Star, was reimagined as one continuous piece by Ziporyn, incorporating Wind On Water, Evening Star, Evensong & Wind On Wind.

The music was trancelike, and deeply relaxing, but I had to fight its hypnotic effect to stay awake. This is not a criticism of the piece, but more so a confirmation of Eno’s earliest explanations of his excursions into ambient sound, when he said it was meant to almost be subliminal, working beneath the levels of your conscious hearing.

Tonight and tomorrow afternoon, the Ambient Orchestra will be playing David Bowie’s Blackstar album in its entirety and this promises to be a fascinating and deeply moving experience that lovers of music should not miss.


Rating: 4 stars


Ambient Orchestra presents Fripp & Eno, Laraaji & Satie: An Ambient Primer was performed at the Elder Hall, in the RCC on Friday 15 March, 2019.

Their performances of David Bowie’s Blackstar album will take place at Elder Hall on Saturday 16 March at 8:00pm and Sunday 17 March at 1:00pm. Tickets available HERE.