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The Creative Issue – News for Creatives | December 5, 2023

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'Wallpaper Music 4' At Brisbane Festival!

‘Wallpaper Music 4’ At Brisbane Festival!
Victoria Jenkins

Erik Griswold will be performing the world premiere of ‘Wallpaper Music 4’ as a part of Brisbane Festival. We spoke with Erik about his life as a composer and the inspiration behind his latest work.

Working in contemporary classical, improvised, and experimental forms Erik’s compositions of prepared piano, percussion, environmental music and music of Sichuan province has seen his music performed at some of the world’s most prestigious venues. A true artistic treasure Erik has collaborated with musicians, artists, dancers, and poets and, together with Vanessa Tomlinson, Griswold directs the APRA-AMCOS Award winning Clocked Out.

Despite COVID restrictions, Brisbane Festival is forging ahead and is set to awaken our city from its winter slumber. Kicking off this weekend the festival will be a three-week long explosion of arts performances and experiences and you can catch Erik Griswold performing ‘Wallpaper Music 4’ at The Old Museum on Sunday 13th September.

The Creative Issue:  Where did your journey begin as a composer?

Erik Griswold: I grew up in San Diego & Los Angeles. I took piano lessons from a very young age and I was always interested in improvising and jazz. Somewhere along the line I started writing down some of those improvisations. My dad had an old reel to reel recorder that had the erase head disconnected, meaning I could overdub as many tracks as I wanted. So I started doing experiments with that, layering one part on top of another…creating my own textural pieces and little concept albums.

TCI: Can you explain your approach to sonic creation?

EG: I tend to be very hands on in my creative approach. I’m usually working directly with instruments, whether it’s piano, prepared piano, percussion, or collaborating with other instrumentalists. I often start with a concept. With ‘Wallpaper Music’ the concept was “What if I completely change the sound of the piano, ‘preparing’ every note by putting bolts, screws, bits of rubber and paper between the strings.” From there I brainstorm, improvise and develop material. And finally I workshop and edit it down into the final form.

TCI: Your work is extraordinary! How do you know when you are really onto something during the writing process?

EG: Thanks! There are moments when I get wrapped up in a project where I have fragments of music going through my mind on repeating loop, trying to work themselves out. I’ll go to sleep thinking about them, wake up thinking about them…it’s a little bit maddening, but exciting at the same time. At the end of the day, though, you never know what might catch other people’s imagination.

TCI: Can you tell us a little about the composition you will be performing at Brisbane Festival?

EG: The idea behind ‘Wallpaper Music’ is to push the piano as far as it can go, radically transforming its sound. The original piece is in three volumes, each lasting for one hour. I perform intricate, often very fast, free rhythmic patterns, which are designed to “sound” the whole piano – to showcase the whole resonance of the instrument. Thanks to this commission from Brisbane Festival, I have created a new fourth volume that takes the piece in a completely new sonic direction, using sustaining, “bowed piano” sounds.

TCI: How do you prepare for a performance such as your upcoming exhibition at Brisbane Festival?

EG: This performance will be two hours of non-stop, intense playing, so I actually have to do a fair bit of physical training. I work up to it a little bit at a time, starting with 20 minutes, then 40, eventually building up to the whole two hours.

TCI: Your music has been performed in Carnegie Hall, Sydney Opera House, Cafe Oto and Chengdu Arts Centre along with many other prestigious venues and festivals. How does it feel to have achieved so much in your career so far?

EG: I just feel incredibly lucky to have so many great opportunities, and to be able to work with so many great musicians and artists. It’s never just one person creating any particular work of art or music, there’s always a community of supportive people behind it, and I’m really grateful to receive lots of support from Brisbane, Australia, the U.S. and beyond.


Image credit: Sharka Bosakova


TCI: What is the next step in your creative evolution?

EG: It’s honestly really hard to know what is next at the moment, with the challenges the global arts community is facing. I think the most needed trend in the current environment is artists coming together to form collectives, helping each other, and forming new boundary crossing collaborations. Those are the sort of opportunities I’m working towards at the moment.

TCI: How important do you feel grants, and other funding for the arts, is to ensuring the next generation of creatives have a strong future?

EG: Arts funding is a hugely important contributor to a healthy and diverse creative ecosystem. A bit of financial support can be critical to keep artists creating, whether they are emerging or established, and making new work requires significant investment and risk. Receiving the endorsement of one’s peers (via grants) can be validating and encouraging, although, of course, not receiving it can be crushing. If we had more money for the arts think how many more artists we could encourage!

TCI:  Do you have any advice for your aspiring creatives who are hoping to follow the path less travelled?

EG: Support and value the community around you and be creative with everything you do!

What: Wallpaper Music Live at Brisbane Festival
When: Sunday 13th September 2020 7pm-9pm
Where: The Old Museum
Event Link:

Images Supplied.