Between Zero and One - A chat with Murray Hickman

We had a chat with Murray Hickman about his upcoming show, Between Zero and One

What is the concept of Between Zero and One?  How did the development of the show begin?

It started with a conversation between myself and John Psathas.  I had always wanted to ask him to write for us so after CNZ gave us some funding it gave us a chance to make it happen as a full length work rather than just one piece.

Initially John had talked about exploring the story of percussion and music through the ages but he must have decided that was way too small minded so decided to write about the beginning of the universe instead… 

The concept of the show is exploring what happens when the gods turn their backs.  As in, what would happen if the gods who look after us took the day off, or left us to it for a while. It starts with our gods present in the space, so the music is epic and intense, then as the gods leave we explore what it means to be human - to play, fight, feel, interact, love and with a bit of chaos thrown in the mix. So we go from a gigantic, universal moment to something that is quite personal and intimate, and back again.  

That's what we are exploring, but it's not literal. The great thing about music is that people can listen, feel and respond in whatever way they like. I'd be keen to hear what people think after the Christchurch premiere, about what stories the music unlocked in them. 

Why do you think Christchurch is going to love this show?

We have been regular visitors to Christchurch over the years, working in schools, with the NZ Army Band and at the Festival.  This show a real development for us as a group. The music is technically demanding for us and some of it quite different from what we have done before. We are adding a whole new element of AV and interactivity and Christchurch is going to be the first audience ever to experience this combo.  But you don't need to be a music expert to understand what we do - it's not because it's simple, but because John is very clever with what he has written and he is inspired by numerous musical forms from around the world and from popular music.

Another thing is that we are bringing down nearly every percussion instrument ever invented, and some that have been invented especially for this show. We don't do things by halves…

Tell me about how the show is being staged? Not just musicians on stage?

Strike's whole plan since we first began in 1998 was to challenge the 'rules' of ensemble playing (like you might see at a gig or the orchestra), and in the past we've done that by placing instruments in strange places, on the walls, from the ceiling, on our own bodies and then kind of having to dance and move in order to play them. 

David Downes has written a piece for the show called 'Dog Eat Dog' and that really challenges what music performance can be.

We've also added a whole new element of interactive triggering and visuals- where we are working with an amazing AV artist called Tim Gruchy to create visual content that interacts with our bodies and the music.  He is also a musician so it's amazing to see how musical the AV design for us is.   

Where do you want to take this show after Christchurch?

We're very lucky to premiere in Christchurch, after having some an amazing and touching time last Festival working with Gareth Farr's memorial for the earthquakes, The Nor'west Arch. We've got plans for world domination with this show of course, but after Christchurch we're starting with Nelson Festival in October.  

A lot of Asian countries are interested in Strike because in Asia there is a strong percussion tradition and we've taken our last two shows to Taiwan at the International Percussion Convention. The first time we went there no other percussion group used amplified/sampled sound or theatrical lighting, so we ended up making quite an impact.  Other places in Asia, like Korea and China looks likely too.  We haven't played in Australia in a while, so hopefully we can tour the show there.