“Many thanks for your wonderful article about Defying Gravity and percussion in today’s West. I’m really thrilled with it; you managed to fit absolutely everything into your article; it read beautifully, and the photo is lovely too. Thank you so much from all of us in Defying Gravity!!”

Tim White, director Defying Gravity

A piece of fence, a battered wheel hub or some conch shells could all be part of the music when Defying Gravity head north for Sounds Outback. Making music from junk is all part of the training for the eighteen student percussionists from Defying Gravity. The WA Academy of Performing Arts ensemble will celebrate its twenty-fifth birthday this month with a series of concerts, the inaugural WA Day of Percussion and a tour to the Ningaloo Reef.

The student ensemble has a devoted following and their three concerts at WAAPA have already sold out. Ensemble director Tim White says the attraction to percussion comes from deep in our DNA.  

“Percussion is so clearly from the earth and our distant past. There is something primal about playing it – you whack it with your hands. It is so natural, everyone can do it.”

The percussionists will be scouting instruments from Exmouth station junk for their Sounds Outback tour which will include a concert at Shothole Canyon and on a glass bottom boat.
“I’m thinking John Cage’s Second Improvisation ‘Inlets’ for amplified conch shells will be a good piece to program,” says White. “The exciting thing about Sounds Outback is that it is heading back to nature. Percussion is a great instrument for outdoors and for exploring boundaries. It is the most exciting instrument in new music because it has helped open the doors in the exploration of rhythm and timbre as equal building blocks to melody and harmony.”

The tour will be a combined birthday party with Tura new music who also celebrate 25 years of music making. The organisations have worked together closely over the years and White is delighted to be participating in another Sounds Outback.

“I am very much a Tos Mahoney (Tura director) fan. He has put that much of his heart and time and money into new music in WA and I think he is a heroic figure.”

White, who is also principal percussionist with the WA Symphony Orchestra, has been directing Defying Gravity since 1994 when he inherited the ensemble from founder Gary France. Since then the ensemble, which includes students from both the University of WA and WAAPA, has produced 53 graduates. 75 percent are still working full time in the music industry including Marcus Perrozzi (Cirque du Soleil), Genevieve Wilkins (London’s ensemblebash) and the many percussionists who have played with WASO and Tetrafide Percussion.

Gary France is contributing a birthday present in the form of a piece of music he has written for Defying Gravity. France will also perform at the concerts and present sessions at the WA Day of Percussion alongside other high profile guest artists including Iain Robbie, Joshua Webster and Japanese percussion superstar Kuniko Kato.

“Kato has astounding virtuosity and skill as a musician. She is a sensational marimba player. Watching her perform is like watching the best of Taiko drumming and western classical music combined.”

This is the first time WA has hosted a Day of Percussion, a phenomenon made popular in America. White hopes a day jammed with workshops, masterclasses and concerts will help profile what most people already know: Perth is alive and kicking in the world of percussion.


Sounds Outback (…to Reef) runs from October 5-9. Details: tura.com.au

This article copyright The West Australian 2012.