Water Pushes Sand


Erik Griswold and Master Musicians of Sichuan Province


1 - Cover-Water Pushes SandThe Australian Art Orchestra, led by artistic director Peter Knight, is renowned for merging musical styles and cultures to create thrilling works. August 2017 sees The AAO cement their position as Australia’s leading art music ensemble as they tour nationally performing their acclaimed work Water Pushes Sand with a ten-piece ensemble featuring Sichuan ‘face changing’ dancer and promoting the album release of this important work through Jazzhead.

Water Pushes Sand was composed by Erik Griswold for the Australian Art Orchestra and master musicians from Sichuan, China. Long term associates of the AAO, Erik Griswold and Vanessa Tomlinson have spent 15 years exploring the music and culture of Sichuan - their collaborations with musicians from Sichuan are well known.

Sichuan is the “Texas of China”. It is known for its brash and friendly people, spicy food, laid back tea-houses and the distinctive twang of its spoken dialect. Its music combines colours from rustic country folk, street songs, and the ear-splitting cacophony of gongs and cymbals. It is more like blues or early rock and roll than classical music. Even Sichuan opera is hard core. The combination of Griswold’s spaced out big band sensibility and an Australian / Sichuanese ten-piece all-star band makes Water Pushes Sand sound like nothing you’ve ever heard.

Since Water Pushes Sand’s lauded debut at 2015’s Melbourne Festival the piece went on to be nominated for the APRA/AMC Art Music Awards ‘2016 Jazz Work of the Year’ and won rave reviews in the media for its unique fusion of Sichuan folk music and jazz. Planet Arts called it “a liberating performance showing the beauty and strength of two cultures intertwining”, and The Music “an excellent collaboration”.

Peter Knight says, “The AAO is doing something unique in Australian music. We collaborate with musicians from around the world to work in the space where cultures, genres and disciplines collide. We are breaking down barriers, blurring lines, creating dialogue and building friendships. Water Pushes Sand epitomises this, creating something distinctive and completely relevant to Australia in 2017.”

Water Pushes Sand, featuring master musicians from Sichuan out now on Jazzhead PLUS a national tour of acclaimed ten-piece ensemble commences August 17th at Darwin Festival.


The Players

ZHENG Sheng Li 郑胜利 (Voice / Changing Faces 歌手 / 变脸表演)
SHI Lei 石磊 (Bamboo Flute 笛子)
ZHOU Yu 周宇 (Suona / Chinese Violin / Bamboo Flute 唢呐 / 板胡 / 笛子)
Timothy O’DWYER (Saxophones 萨克管)
Peter KNIGHT (Trumpet / Laptop Electronics 小号)
ZHOU Tao Tao 周桃桃 (Gu Zheng 古箏)
Erik GRISWOLD (Piano 钢琴)
Vanessa TOMLINSON (Percussion 打击乐器)
ZHONG Kai Zhi 钟开志 (Percussion 打击乐器)
Samuel PANKHURST (Contrabass 低音提琴)


Review of Water Pushes Sand at Melbourne Festival 09 October 2015

“Juggles ancient and contemporary disciplines to create something startlingly new”

The Age

“a masterful musical montage”

Sydney Morning Herald

Nominated for APRA/AMC Art Music Awards' ‘2016 Jazz Work of The Year’

Track Listing Show

  1. Joy at the Sunrise
  2. Here Come the Waves
  3. Rivers of Bicycles
  4. Forgotten Streets
  5. Bandong Chant
  6. Clouds in White
  7. Mapo Tofu
  8. Remember Harry
  9. Water Pushes Sand
  10. Changing Faces
  11. Joy at the Sunrise Reprise