Harmonies of History
In 2019, the National Museum of Australia commissioned classical guitarists, also brothers, Slava and Leonard (Lenny) Grigoryan to create a suite of music inspired by historic objects selected from the Museum’s extensive collection. The resulting album and performance piece was This is Us – A Musical Reflection of Australia.
This month, after touring internationally, it’s the Top End’s turn to experience this unique, conceptual performance.
By Kate Conway
Tasked with whittling over 250,000 potential artefacts down to just 18, the brothers embarked on multiple excursions to the museum to find inspiration for the project.
“It could’ve been any other 18, many times over. At one point, we asked the director and curators to come up with their top 100 list and they gave us a short list of their favourites. Out of those, Lenny and I narrowed it down,” Slava says.
“The curators and the staff were so passionate about their areas of expertise, and we loved hearing about their favourite objects. In the end, we chose the pieces that we felt meant what it means to be Australian. Through our eyes, of course.”
Donald Bradman’s cricket bat, a lifebuoy from the freighter MV Tampa, and a case of trial frames and lenses used by ophthalmologist Professor Fred Hollows are just some of the objects of historical significance that inspired the 18-piece concert’s works, each ranging from two to six minutes long.
The rich history behind each item lent perfectly to the brother's cinematic approach to composition.
“It is very soundtrack-based for us. There’s a set of images and a storyline that’s going through our own heads, it's not something that we have to write down,” Slava says.
“If you can imagine, it’s like a five-minute film about each one of these objects where the music, in our minds, acts as a soundtrack to that story. This project had so much information about these objects, we read so much about them. There was a real depth of narrative behind each one.”
The storylines are further portrayed to the audience by a projected backdrop of high-definition videos featuring the objects, and the brothers introduce each piece before playing to provide the audience context.
Fusing the Grigoryan’s signature guitar prowess with Australian history and storytelling, This is Us – A Musical Reflection of Australia is an audio-visual journey through some of the country’s most significant moments, and a must for history buffs.
“If you’re familiar with our music or guitar music, you’ll enjoy this. But also, if you’re into history or moved by historical stories, then this is really special. The objects are amazing.”
Photo: Rohan Thompson