We caught up with Piñata Percussion Artistic Director Dr Louise Devenish to chat about their upcoming performance Interior Echo. The show is part of offBEAT, FAC’s annual celebration of rhythm.

You’re one of WA’s most in-demand percussionists, performing in electro-acoustic sextet Decibel, Speak Percussion and The Sound Collectors, and are Head of Percussion at UWA’s School of Music. Tell us a bit about your musical background and how you first discovered percussion. I started percussion lessons in Year 8, but had music in my life from childhood. I always loved music but it wasn’t until I started university that I really discovered what percussion could be and became completely hooked on percussion instruments and music. Over the years my explorations of percussion have included orchestral playing, world music and experimental music. At the moment I am really interested in what has recently been described as post-instrumental practice – which is what a lot of percussionists are doing. We are using our orchestral instrumental training to explore new ideas including building instruments, working with electronics and blending aspects of the visual and theatre arts with percussion music. I’m also very interested in Australian music – there are some amazing creative minds at work at the moment making vital contributions to the national and international music scenes and you will hear some of them in this concert!

You formed Piñata Percussion at UWA in 2013. What inspired this new ensemble? I’ve always loved ensemble music, and much of my performance work has been with various percussion ensembles. As the number of percussion students at UWA has grown it became possible to form a new ensemble, and for me to share some of my experiences and musical discoveries with new players in Perth. Doing so has allowed the students to explore Australian music and large-scale percussive masterworks of the twentieth century through a season of projects each year, and working with this wonderful group of players is such a joy for me.

Pinata Percussion. Photography by Olivia Davies

What’s a Piñata Percussion performance like? Piñata performances are unexpected musical adventures – each concert includes music that hasn’t been heard in Perth before. This often means that unusual instruments are on display, and the instrumental steups are fascinating to look at as well as listen to. The nine players work exceptionally well together, and communicate great energy to each other and to audiences in their performances, which is quite special to experience live.

For Interior Echo listeners will travel through FAC’s historic spaces in a promenade performance. What kind of musical experience will they find in each room? Each room will contain different combinations of performers on different instruments and the music performed has been programmed to complement the vibe of each room. For example, in the main gallery, which is currently quite dark and mysterious with a beautiful black and white print, the audience will hear soft, spacious music, but in the painting studio they will hear an interlocking groove-based work using found objects as instruments. The event will be a series of exciting sonic discoveries, made more exciting by the opportunity to explore otherwise off-limits rooms in the FAC building.

What are some of the more unusual instruments we’ll see on the night? Car springs, noodle bowls, microtonally tuned bits of metal, glass jars, coffee cups and saucepans all make an appearance, alongside the usual percussion suspects such as drum kit, sampler keyboard, vibraphones and marimbas. It will really be quite an adventure!

Piñata Percussion perform Interior Echo on Friday 24 March. Click here for more details and to buy tickets.

Piñata Percussion. Photography by Olivia Davies