Fragile, fleeting echoes of sound: SZCSoMP International Women's Day Commissioning Prize Performance Event

On Thursday 26 May, staff and students of the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music and Performance (SZCSoMP) gathered for an intimate, world premier performance of Taiwanese-Australian composer Annie Hui Hsin Hsieh’s “Echoes of the Unspoken”.

Hsieh, who works in acoustic and electroacoustic mediums, was awarded the Monash International Women's Day Commissioning (IWD) Prize in 2020. The annual $10,000 prize provides an opportunity for a female composer anywhere in the world to create a work for a SZCSoMP ensemble of their choosing.

On receiving the commission, Hsieh said "it is a great honour to be acknowledged at this point in my career, to be given a privileged platform for expression. But, more importantly, it also brings an opportunity for me to actively participate in the conversation in improving the gender balance in our field, contributing as a musician and educator towards building an inclusive musicking environment.”

Professor Cat Hope opened the evening's proceedings, welcoming the audience and detailing the prize’s conception and why the fight for equality in music matters.

The audience were firstly treated to a performance of Kate Moore’s ‘Bloodwood Variations’ by Dr Anna McMichael. The piece, which features in Dr McMichael and Dr Louise Devenish’s Climate Notes project, is a reflection on the 2019 bushfires.

Hsieh, currently working in the US, then conveyed their thanks and introduced their work via video message.

"Echoes of the Unspoken", written for string orchestra and percussion soloist, featured members of the Monash Sinfonia, led by Head of Strings, Dr McMichael, alongside a solo by Head of Percussion, Dr Devenish. The performance was conducted by Mr Aaron Wyatt.

The work, powerful, haunting and ethereal, took its inspiration from the Greek myth of Echo, the nymph who was punished by the goddess Hera for protecting Zeus, and only able to speak the last words spoken to her.

SZCSoMP Head of School, Professor Margaret Barrett, closed the evening by perfectly summing up the performance: “Fragile, fleeting echoes of sound…so much depth and richness to feast on”.

Read more about the Monash International Women’s Day Composition Commission Prize here.