The Splinter Orchestra is a large-scale electro-acoustic improvising ensemble based in Sydney, Australia.
The Orchestra is one of the few groups of its kind in Australia, or anywhere else in the world for that matter. Formed by Clare Cooper and Clayton Thomas in 2002, the group currently comprises of 30+ members. It brings together musicians from various musical backgrounds to combine and collaborate on equal terms. Made up of individuals from the improvised music, jazz and classical scenes, electronic musicians, sound artists and those who are involved in environmental sound and field recording, the Splinter Orchestra creates a stark minimalism despite their large number – without any leaders or conductors.
The Splinter Orchestra, formed around 2002, is a Sydney based large-scale ensemble, consisting of a fluctuating number of members with various backgrounds: improvisation, jazz, classical, electronic, electro-acoustic, sound art, visual art, and environmental sound, acoustic ecology and field recording. Some members are highly skilled instrumentalists, others are conceptual thinkers playing a just found object for the first time. Despite its size (which can be 30+) the Splinter Orchestra usually hovers around minimalism and the ensemble is based on a social, democratic, gender equal, and non-egotistical view towards cooperation via improvisation, conceptual ideas and site-specific conditions. Over the years, the Splinter Orchestra has become a social and artistic meeting point and a way to test and recalibrate one's own ideas. From early 2015, Splinter resides in Tempe Jets Sports Club, near the Sydney airport, and rehearses weekly in various configurations in either their small studio or elsewhere on the premises.
Splinter Orchestra’s primary ethics are innovation, exploration and co-creation. The nature and structure of the ensemble, as a large scale improvising orchestra, is progressive and experimental.
The ensemble has an unconventional structure in terms of instrumentation, as well as having no conductor, no ‘sections’, and a non-hierarchical flexibility that allows members to be constantly evolving.
Splinter is an environment where musicians can explore instrumental techniques and making sound in unconventional ways. It is a space for innovation. Conventional instruments can be rethought with personalised approaches to technique, modifications and preparations. Members invent new instruments and set-ups, using materials such as PVC, foil, old stereos and speakers, power tools, mirrors, buckets, etc. There is also exploration of voice and text in the group.
Our approach to composition is unique. We compose as a group. Our process involves workshopping (playing and listening) and discussion. Recently, our focus has been on new methodologies for ‘spatialisation’ and recording, making music specific to time and space. Our recent release MUNGO, recorded at Lake Mungo National Park, is an example of this.
Splinter has been at the forefront of art music for 16 years and It is one of the longest running large-scale experimental groups in the world. It continues to ask questions about making orchestral music that is relevant to our time and place in Australia.
Our notable achievements and examples of excellence in this field include:
• Performing at Adelaide Festival of Arts, 2016 as part of Tectonics
• The MUNGO project, 2016, supported by The Australia Council
• Numerous ABC TV and Radio performances and recordings since 2005, including Set, and New Music Up Late.
Splinter is more than just an ensemble: it is a community / institution and it is vital to the Sydney creative music scene.