Girgarre Junkestra receives standing ovation after first Melbourne show
The Girgarre Junkestra played at the Deakin Edge in Melbourne on May 4 and the audience response was hugely positive  … moreGIGGLESWICK, AUGUST 2019
I had a fantastic time at my first Music for People (M4P) Summer School in Giggleswick. Here are some glimpses of the MAKE and PLAY workshop, here is the video of the RHYTHM ORCHESTRA PERFORMANCE, and here is the video of the MAKE and PLAY performanceThis radio broadcast by Wayne Hemingway is a brilliant piece. The slideshow video has been added and doesn’t fit the audio. You might prefer to just the audio on headphones. I highly recommend spending the 27minutes and 54 seconds listening to it…maybe while you doing your housework.The 1968 Yamaha Electone C-55 home organ (pictured below) sold for £1,990. I paid £7.50 [to Mark in Northumberland]. It is 50 years old and still works perfectly. Why has it lost all value in today’s world? Will our laptops, tablets and phones still be working in 50 years?
​I REALLY liked it and wanted it not to be finished… it all came together for me to be about being present in life and being with the people around you in an active way… – Kirsty
A wonderful, psychedelic (in a non-acid-trip sort of a way ) and very brave glimpse into your mind. It was  amazing and I love that I was able show my children!! Thank you – Ruth
I loved its flow. I loved the poly rhythms and the improvisation and its “pull you into another reality”  quality.(anonymous)
A slowly unfolding arc of multi layered textures, an acoustical weaving, and a dynamic performance…it was great! – Graham
The following quotes from members of the preview audience for SAVED, January 26, 2019 in Scotland are used with permission

Feedback from preview audience

What we learned from the temporary 2017 prototype is aiding Wallace Williams as he rebuilds Piano Piano for the Girgarre town centre. He has some surprises in store too..  Launches April 2019 
more Picture

Furious Folly at Inside Out Festival, Dorset 2018

Commissioned as part of the 14-18 NOW WWI Centenary, Furious Folly by Mark Anderson played at the inside Out festival in Dorset on Thursday 20 September and Friday 21 September. Festival brochure here and more info here Picture view from the drum tower Picture drum tower Picture Chris and Kepa rigging pyro musician – maker – creator
​height: 175cm

Noise Orchestra

  • Noise Orchestra is an opportunity for anyone to participate in music-making 
  • all skill-levels and ages are welcome
  • musicians are particularly welcome – there are more advanced versions of the parts for them to play
  • junk’n’found is non-threatening, fun and visually interesting 
  • it always attracts interest from the media
  • it’s cheap! – especially if the junk is donated by the community or a sponsor
  • and Graeme loves collecting all this stuff and turning it into an orchestra!
re N.O.W. (Noise Orchestra Winton) Sep 2011
“Again, I thank you for your input. The NOW orchestra was a BIG HIT and lots of people talking about it”
Robyn Stephens, Director, Winton Festival
How It Works
  • people join sessions run by Graeme, grab an ‘instrument’, learn a few grooves, practice walking these while playing, then go in a parade in front of an adoring crowd
  • the sessions can run over several days, or it can all happen on one day
  • with patience and repetition, pretty soon the group is ready to take their junky-funk rhythms to the streets…
Noise Orchestra is ideal for..
  • music festivals
  • school and university performances
  • celebratory events
please contact Graeme if you would like a Noise Orchestra Parade for your festival or event
read the Winton Festival Report to Sponsors
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1. FOLLOWING THE CONDUCTOR – practice videos

  • clap, tap the desk, play any instrument or say the counts out loud to practice
  • listen and make sure you are in time, not early and not late. 
  • good to do with a small group to tell if you are really together

Following the four-beat conducting pattern

Changing beats as we play – but keeping ‘one’ feeling strong

the ‘ALL FOUR’ sign

the ‘FREE CHOICE’ sign

Putting it all together

2. DRUM PATTERN ‘Play the Drum so your Mum can See you on T.V.’ 2012 Olympics 

Have a look at this from the ONE MINUTE mark – this is the pattern we are using (but this is pretty fast)

Pandemonium // Isles of Wonder // London 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony from Karsten Kimble on Vimeo.


  • click on the DOWNLOADS button a have a listen to the supermarket soundscape. 
  • download the ‘bip’ files to your phone and bring it along to the rehearsals, ready to play the files (in flight mode!)

​Please see below demo videos of the various parts of the song, with notes.

this should be played with mallets but I left them at the school! So the demo is with my hands. You might also notice this is not the actual drum…

This part can also be played on bass drums and floor tom toms
Keep it gentle, and try for even sound at both the front and the back of the strokes. Sorry it goes out of focus…

Use a chopstick or a bamboo skewer.
Can also be played on a guiro
DRUM PART – use the following techniques:
BASS TONE – with heel of hand in centre of drum, a dead stroke (doesn’t bounce)
OPEN TONE – with fingers on edge of drum, let them bounce and try not to damp the sound – let the drum ring
CAN BE PLAYED on a djembe or, as in the video, a water-bottle drum

To make things easier we’ll just play one string at a time on the ukuleles. Here is the part for the top, or first, string.
​You can hear the vocal parts in the background as a guide

and as for the FOURTH STRING..
We don’t use the fourth string – as it plays exactly the same as the first string..
Bowed ‘A’String
This can be played on a violin, viola or ‘cello. 

I dont have a violin but there is a viola here so the demo is on viola, which is the top string.

On a violin it would be the second string.

We can put a mark on the fingerboard for the position of the note change to assist.

Try to keep the bow travelling nice and straight, and go for an even tone.

Twelve years on…
Each month the hall is filled with people playing music and the farmer’s market has 150 stalls. The ‘Moosic Muster’ has 900 attending workshops and about 2000 to see the shows.
In 2016 Girgarre won a ‘Small Town Transformation’ grant. I am one of three artists. My brief was to ‘transform the town with sound and music’ in two, three-month residencies during 2017 and 2018. I chronicled events in my blog.
​Girgarre is an amazing town that is living proof of the transformative power of music and the importance of strong community. Picture April 2016 – townsfolk gather on the sound shell site Picture strings rehearsal Picture talking through the composition process Picture Pete Gibson playing a Wallace Williams string-can

February to April 2018: Artist in Residence in Girgarre, Victoria, Australia.

From February to April 2018 I worked  with the Girgarre community to build an orchestra of instruments – ‘Junkestra’ – that can be played by anyone regardless of musical experience. We rehearsed each week for nine weeks and performed at the Gala Opening of the new Soundshell.
The Gargarro Soundshell was launched at a Gala Concert on 21 April 2018. 
The Girgarre Junkestra premiered ‘Spirit Rising’ at the opening, a major new work for string-can orchestra with special guest appearances by local groups including the Girgarre Line Dancers, Jigarre Jammers, Fire Brigade, Rushworth Band and a motor bike soloist. 
video clips >>  more info >> Picture Graeme with Wallace Williams, principal instrument maker Picture Girgarre String Can instruments Picture Girgarre Soundshell Opening, 21 April 2018. Photo: Jim Gow, Speed Shop Photography Picture MAKE & PLAY WORKSHOP – create an instrument then play it in a public concert – no musical experience required! (May 2019) Picture GIRGARRE RESIDENCIES – instruments, installations and a Junk Orchestra Picture NEW PERFORMANCE MATERIALS now being devised for – stay tuned Picture NEW INSTRUMENTS – single string tin-can guitars for community music-making debut in Girgarre EXQUISITE NOW A rondo for massed handbells to be performed in May 2019 as part of the Arts Learning Festival EXQUISITE NOW – a rondo for massed handbells to be performed in May 2019 as part of the Arts Learning Festival Picture SCOTLAND STUDIO new workshop and studio near Glasgow
Graeme is a fantastic teacher: highly skilled, clear, encouraging and a great communicator. His structures cater for a range of skill/confidence levels and allow you to decide how much challenge you take on. Inspiring sessions and great fun too THANKYOU! – Jane

Loved the whole vibe of the workshop and learned heaps! It nearly did my head in but it was refreshing to use a part of my brain that had been lying dormant for quite some time… – Karen

Just like slow release fertiliser I think this stuff will keep feeding me during those dry moments…thanks again – Nara

The material found a good balance between technique and fun. I’ve never had polyrhythmic reading explained and demonstrated so clearly and well. It could be a very dry subject but you made it entertaining and interesting. It opened up a whole lot of areas for me. Fantastic class – Michael

I really enjoyed your workshops. The atmosphere was very relaxed and supportive. I learned heaps and got an idea of where I stand in my rhythmic and reading abilities and where it can get me if I work at this. – Audrey

Excellent class. A unique opportunity to really consolidate the feeling of ‘inner pulse’ and ‘group pulse’. Well presented – the material was often challenging and the musical result was satisfying and often quite quirky. I felt I really improved over the month. The virtue of such a rhythm class is you feel inspired to go home and practise things by yourself. – Helen

A very enjoyable learning experience – I’ve gained much more clarity when reading, playing and feeling rhythm – Ziggy
I initiated performance workshops for composers at the Sydney Conservatorium in the early 80s and have run all kinds of public workshops since in music skills, rhythm, reading, sound effects, foley and performance making. As Lecturer in Performance at La Trobe University in the 90s I evolved an approach based on the body as instrument, with a focus on rhythm as the central organising principle in musical performance. I adapted many aspects of dramatic training to musical outcomes and I like to cater to a wide skill range within the one group. I have also successfully run sessions that engage adults and children on two quite separate levels simultaneously.
My methods are encapsulated in the book ‘Performance Making – a manual for music workshops’ (2003), available through Currency Press.

Please contact me for workshop bookings SoundCloud tracks Graeme’s Vimeo channel YouTube channel NOVEMBER 2016:
​I’m having a great time
working with Encompass Milton Keynes on a dance/music piece. Here’s Najim watching Donna playing low drums. 

May 2017
The first of my Girgarre residencies ended with a celebratory concert at the Primary School on Wed 17 May. It showcased local groups and featured the GPS kids front and centre. I have no pics of the event, so here’s some of the days prior. If you would like to share your pics or videos here please use this link to upload. Include your name for credit! I will return in 2018 for the second residency, which will focus on the formation of the Girgarre Orchestra. It will be an open-access, take-all-comers-of-all-ages-and-skill-levels band with traditional, homemade and junk instruments so please COME AND JOIN when we re-start in 2018. Dates and details to be announced.

Graeme Leak

Thoughts on Musical Performance

Graeme Leak

Kitchen Rack Thumb Piano

For me, life without music is inconceivable. My life experiences are constantly throwing up apparently contradictory situations. A central problem is the ongoing attempt to balance music with meaning against music that pays well. I find the most soul fulfilling music usually happens to be the worst paid and quite often vice versa. Another is to balance spontaneity [improvisation] against predetermined events [composition]. Art that is serious against entertainment that’s supposed to be not serious. Naivety and simplicity against skill and technique. Family life against time alone to work.

I now understand that these apparent contradictories which I once thought were mutually exclusive can be resolved. I’m trying to make music that pays well as soul fulfilling as I can. I’ve developed a technique where improvisation is the starting point for the composition process. I’ve learnt more from comedians and entertainers working drunk Saturday night crowds than I ever learnt at Concert Practice at the Conservatorium. I feel that you need more skill to perform simple music than the most complex music. A supportive and understanding family situation is a prerequisite for me, to get any work done.

I used to play 10 to 20 full programs of new music each year for 10 years to the same 200 devotees when I worked in contemporary music ensembles. I made a decision to focus on one program, call it an act, and play it to as many audiences as I could for the last five years. This act evolves and changes slowly. What I am doing now is very different to what I was doing three years ago.

Much has been written about the transformative power of performance. I haven’t read any of it. What I know is what I’ve experienced over the years. There are moments in performance when I sense that the music is working, especially when I get a response which shows that the music has truly altered the listener’s perception, or when I as the performer feel that my perception has changed as a result of the performance.

I try to bring to the concert platform what I’ve learnt in the entertainment arenas but my motivation is not just to please. I try to build the connection and trust with my audience and then challenge their judgements. I find many people have made up their minds about what they like and don’t like. Twenty year olds would most likely have lost interest in music that they liked at ten, but do forty year olds still like the music they listened to at thirty? I like to open people up to the possibility of new sounds and new musics. I like to challenge people. I feel that what I am doing is a kind of grass roots cultural work in Australia. That’s what my mission, my motivation, is.

audio/aiff (314K)

‘DO THIS’ (12″)

I’ve chosen to live and work in Australia and I need to build an audience to survive. I feel that if I lived and worked overseas I could easily disappear into some foreign country’s woodwork and lose my identity. My principle interest is the production of sounds during live performance. Methods of reproduction such as recordings, samplers, music synthesis and virtual spaces (Internet) are of less interest to me, mainly because they all rely on loudspeakers as the sound source and in my experience good loudspeaker systems are an exception not a rule. Sound reproduction via personal computers and domestic systems is completely uncontrollable and generally of poor quality.

Linden Gallery “Sound Bridge”
designed and built by
Graeme Leak and Stephen Hennessy


It’s appropriate I should say a few words about my background.

Between 1975 and 1990 I worked as a freelance percussionist in Sydney, doing commercial work, 20th Century music including work in ensembles such as ‘Flederman’ (mixed instruments) and ‘Synergy’ (percussion) and as a solo percussionist. I had difficulty in first visualising a future (would I still be lugging gear at 50?) and secondly finding depth and meaning in the work I was doing.

In the late 80’s I was fortunate to be a neighbour with a contemporary dancer, Michael Hennessy. As friends we decided to work up a whimsical piece and it’s success led on to a fully developed dance/music/theatre work, ‘Homeboys’ which opened at the Rocks Theatre in Sydney in October 1989.

Homeboys was a major turning point for me. Michael introduced me to the expressive power of movement and the basics of physical performance. I was free from my instrument cage and my focus shifted off the music stand. I became aware of the power of lighting, colour and design as aids to effective musical performance. I became aware of new communication channels with an audience. I was introduced to two classic aspects of the entertainer’s art – timing and working the crowd.

I now could envisage complete freedom to devise and develop performances which would unite all aspects of my nature and acknowledge and accept who I am, a mix of performer, composer, improviser and instrument builder. In 1991 I moved from Sydney to Melbourne to make a break from my established professional connections and to start exploring the potential of these new dimensions in performance.


I believe that there is a general feeling that we know what music is now. We have defined our instruments, techniques, styles and performance rituals. It’s just a matter of learning to participate in these preset structures and forms, be it ‘jazz’ or ‘classical’ or ‘contemporary’ or ‘pop’ or ‘country’ or even ‘experimental’.

Structure rules every facet of music making. Instruments are structures. Learned techniques are structures. Ensemble combinations from duos to symphonies are structures.

I do find inspiration in existing structures except that I can’t envisage being confined in any one structure for a great deal of time. In the structures I’ve explored: – Symphony playing, freelance commercial work, classical contemporary music, pop and jazz bands and solo recitals – I’ve felt like a visitor and couldn’t make a life commitment to any of these activities.


Intuitively I’ve always felt that rhythm is more important to me than harmony and melody. I’m attracted to music whose main organising principle is time. Traditional African music, John Cage, John Hassall, David Byrne, Carl Vine, Nigel Westlake, Lauri Anderson, Graham Hair, Martin Wesley-Smith (to name but a few) have all inspired me.

The Holy Grail

I want to find something that is renewable and seemingly limitless, endless. I’ve found satisfaction devising original instruments and performances which use music in an extended context encompassing lighting, colour, design, timing and working the crowd. I try to dismantle structures and build new ones. I find a good place to start is to search for sounds and their motivating gestures. My search started in the orchestral percussion instrument family, went through the junkyard the kitchen, on to high tech MIDI systems and is currently centred around my workbench in the shed with tin cans, broom sticks and lengths of wire.


On a wider level I call for continued experimentation with sounds and instruments – for continued investigations of natural acoustics and resonances inherent in bits of wood, metal, skin and string. And I call for music education and training institutions to take responsibilty for the cultural attitudes they generate by focusing on technique and skill thus avoiding the nurturing of imagination, ideas and creativity.

On a personal level I want to continue to develop and consolidate the process I am engaged in and hopefully see a time when the ideas that I am working with gain wider acceptance and popularity. Much of the work I am doing in schools as a performer on found and kitchen sounds will have a long term audience building effect for all kinds of musical performers. In the future I would like to tour my original work to regional centres and country towns as well as to capital cities. I want to contribute towards opening up a circuit in Australia which will support a range of artists from large orchestras to solo artists.

Sound Bridge

Australia is not a half dozen isolated cities. Those cities are connected. With the recent development of major regional Performing Arts Centres we have a viable national circuit. Join the big city dots to these smaller dots and then add the thousands of tiny dots – every town has at least one old dance hall. These halls used to be active as venues for visiting artists. There is no reason why they can’t again be so in the future.

Australians have a lot of work to do to establish meaningful connections with their 18 million strong audience. Once established, income from live performing could become the mainstay of those Australian musicians who choose to become active in our vital and unique contemporary music making culture.

For examples of my work over the last seven years,
please visit the Leak Exhibition.

MikroP 2.01 Contents


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