In 2022, Paulie Douglas stepped up last minute as music programmer for MPavilion, alongside his usual role of site operations manager. But his first line-up showed no signs of a rush job, attracting diverse acts like Bali’s DJ DITA, Sydney-based industrial noise producer Ptwiggs, and Melbourne synth-pop duo Syzygy.

This year, Douglas had the luxury of curating the music program from the beginning. As a veteran of Melbourne’s music and arts scene (he’s worked behind the scenes at Meredith Music Festival, Golden Plains and Rising), Douglas has the nous and connections to make magic happen.

“I’m constantly looking [for talent] and meeting people, and putting it all in my internal hard drive and recording it,” he says. MPavilion comes together in parts. First, an architect is commissioned to design the space. Then come commissions for new works and designs, like the chairs and uniforms, which change annually in response to the proposed structure. And, in the months leading up to the pavilion’s unveiling, there’s an open call for expressions of interest for talks, workshops, performances and installations.

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This year’s structure is by Pritzker Prize-winning Japanese architect Tadao Ando, and Douglas says his music program is informed by the design. “Last season’s [pavilion] was very open and bright, and lent itself to events that were really fun, party-based and upbeat, whereas this [year’s] is fairly minimal,” he says. “I’ve been on a few site visits, and it feels really calm and it makes you reflect.”

With this in mind, Douglas steered clear of rock and pop acts, “because their sound probably wouldn’t be very good [in the space], and their set-ups wouldn’t be achievable”. Instead, the line-up leans towards gentler, more experimental acts and newly developed works “responding to the architecture and incorporating field recordings and the like”.

Among the acts on this year’s program are musicians from the Australian Youth Orchestra and the Australian National Academy of Music; Tribqu, a Naarm-based DJ collective spinning hazy, low-slung soul, hip-hop, breakbeats and dub; and Majed Fayad, a Lebanese-Australian sound artist.

New works include Aeolus: Wind Harp Jam, a harp-like instrument created by Jen Valender and Genevieve Fry that’s activated by wind pressure in the garden. There’s also Synesthete, a composition for electric guitar and modular synths played through subaquatic speakers in the Queen Victoria Gardens’ pond.

Douglas’s broad work in the arts sector means he was drawn to musicians who incorporate other art forms into their work. All MPavilion events are free, so Douglas encourages Melburnians to come out and enjoy the pavilion in its bumper 10th season. “We just spent however many years in lockdown, and this feels like the first year that everyone’s really doing stuff again,” he says. “So I’d say have a look at the program, see what interests you and get involved.”

MPavilion runs until Thursday March 28, 2024. Find more information and plan your visit online.

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