Dance of the Bee
Melbourne Town Hall, Friday September 11 until Sunday September 13. Presented by Arts House and Astra.

The world’s bee population is in decline, and it looks a lot like we’re to blame. A mix of pesticides, climate change and introduced species means the ecosystem is being thrown out of balance.

Dance of the Bee is a musical collaboration between three pianists, a choir and a live, buzzing swarm of bees in what Michael Kieran Harvey – who composed the show with Martin Friedel – describes as a “Perspex cathedral” that will amplify their hum. It also allows the musicians to shape their performances to the bees’ collective voice.

“It’s an interspecies affair,” says Harvey. “The dance of the bee is well known, but the sound of the hive is fascinating.”

Music, for Harvey, is a natural way to talk about bees. “Within a bee colony there are elements of apparent chaos,” says Harvey, “but there’s an underlying order to the behavior of bees. Individually they seem chaotic, but as a group they’re dedicated to the survival of the hive.” For Harvey, that’s music in motion. That which looks accidental has broader meaning. A scatter of notes is turned to a composition.

It’s entertainment, but with a serious undertone. Harvey says, “Big Agriculture” would like to see the end of the pollinating bee, so it can control the entire line of supply of food. Eradicating such a crucial link from the biosphere would be catastrophic.

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“We don’t have grand illusions about how effective we can be, but if some people come away thinking about how wonderful the honey bee is, we’ll have done our job,” he says. “Our lives would be infinitely poorer and more anodyne without them.”

Tickets for Dance of the Bee available here.
Full $30 / concession $20 / student $15

A Drone Opera
Meat Market, Thursday September 10 until Sunday September 13. Presented by Arts House and Experimenta Media Arts.

Around the corner at Meat Market is the premiere of A Drone Opera, which is exactly what it sound like: an opera performed by three singers, a sound artist and live, flying drones. It’s the work of visual artist Matthew Sleeth, in collaboration with various musicians, including opera composer Susan Frykberg. Sleeth says bringing drones into the theatre is about forcing the audience to think about them as something in the real world.

“The actual opera isn’t explicitly about the military use of drones, because it doesn’t need to be,” Sleeth says. “Once they’re physically in the room with you, it automatically suggests a military presence. It removes it from being a political abstraction.”

Sleeth wants to make the distinction between the machines and the people who control them clear. “We’re always worried about the wrong things,” he says. “What I hope this piece communicates is that technology is agnostic. It’s not the drones that are evil, it’s what they’re used for.”

It’s common, says Sleeth, to be scared of new things. “That’s the case with all new technology. When photography was invented, there was an initial excitement about the potential, and then a long period of working out the problems, technical and cultural, and working out how we as humans can connect to it,” Sleeth says. “Same with personal computers. Same with 3D printing.

“But let’s have a discussion about who can benefit from the use of technology,” he says. “Machines are nothing until we give them meaning with our actions.”

Tickets for A Drone Opera available here.
Full $30 / concession $20 / student $15