Next Wave Festival 2016: THE HORSE

Silence in space made into music

By Myron My

Every now and again, there is a production that pushes the boundaries of what can be done. Dylan Sheridan’s The Horse is one of these shows, in that it uses a variety of tools to create an immersive musical space travel experience for its audience. As director, composer and performer (electronics), Sheridan vividly creates an intergalactic world with a saxophone, violin, cello, electronics and automated instruments.

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The Horse takes its title from the Horsehead Nebula, a cloud of gas and dust in outer space, 1,500 light years from Earth. So named due to the shape of its swirling gases, it is visible in the night sky as a dark silhouette against other luminous matter, though above the Horsehead is a bright pink gas which contrasts with the dark gas found below. For his composition inspired by this phemonemon, Sheridan translates actual interstellar data into the music of The Horse. For the most part this metamorphosis of information into art creates interesting results, but at times – perhaps deliberately – it feels like not much is happening to keep us engaged musically.

The perfectly executed lighting takes some of its cues from the colours of the nebula, shining a cold light on one half of the stage, and a warm, glowing light on the other. The close of the performance also cleverly has us physically moving from the darkness towards the pink glow, further building on this evocative environment Sheridan has created so well.

While The Horse creates a delicate mood of space exploration and dream states, there is also a sense of trepidation and unease from what is transpiring. The show begins in pitch black until a dull light shines on a single automated violin being strummed. The highly skilled musicians – Benjamin Price (saxophone), Emily Shepherd (violin) and Robert Manley (cello) – constantly appear suddenly and slowly fade away as if they are spirits. At another one point, a light shines on a single square patch of grass, with birds chirping in the background that immediately turns to darkness and we begin to hear train engines working from all directions.

There are some parts in The Horse that feel like they go on for a little too long or need to be more engaging for the audience; however, if you allow yourself to be taken in by the experience, you really do feel like you have left Earth to drift into new realms. While the Horsehead Nebula still has about 5 million years left before it erodes away, The Horse is only on until the end of the week so make sure you book your tickets and support some creative emerging talent.

Venue: Arts House, 521 Queensberry St, North Melbourne, 3051 
Season: Until 22 May | Thurs – Sat 8.15pm, Sun 7.15pm 
Tickets: $23 Full | $18 Conc 
Bookings: Next Wave Festival

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