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(L R): Jayden Rathsam Hüa, Kate Vinen and Gus O’Brien Cavanough

During the 71st Sydney Film Festival on Saturday 8 June, AFTRS and Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM) showcased the world premiere of Resonance. 

The short documentary, winner of the AFTRS x ANAM’ Music And Place’ Commission, was produced and directed by AFTRS graduates Jayden Rathsam Hüa and Kate Vinen, in collaboration with ANAM’s Artamidae Quartet – Donica Tran (violin), Fiona Qiu (violin), Harry Swainston (viola), Nadia Barrow (cello) – performing Peter Sculthorpe’s String Quartet No.8.  

The project explores the dynamic within the classical string quartet musicians as they play in the ANAM Quartetthaus, bringing the themes of creation and innovation to the forefront and exploring possibilities of creative expression and collaboration. 

AFTRS CEO Dr Nell Greenwood and AFTRS Master of Arts Screen Music, Discipline Lead Cameron Patrick presented the film in Sydney’s newest cinema, the recently opened auditorium at the State Library of NSW 

After the screening, ANAM musicians Natalie Mavridis, Liam Pilgrim, Seb Coyne and Noah Lawrence gave a captivating performance of the film’s featured composition and Mendelssohn’s String Quartet op. 12 (movement 1), followed by a panel discussion on creative collaboration, featuring Jayden Rathsam Hüa, Kate Vinen, Dale Barltrop and designer Ben Cobham.  

Dale Barltrop is part of the Australian String Quartet and a board director of the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM), part of the Arts8 group of organisations delivering arts education and training nationally. 

Ben Cobham is known for his imaginative lighting design across theatre, performance, galleries, and architectural spaces, with a wealth of experience in theatre and as the Company Director of Bluebottle 

Ben and ANAM are long-time collaborators, passionate about interdisciplinary and collaborative projects that focus on the audience’s experience. Through layered interdisciplinary collaboration, the designer of the purpose-built timber box stage, the musicians, and the audience created something truly unique, captured as a moment in time by the filmmakers. 

Still from Resonance – ANAM Quartetthaus exterior

Ben believes that creative innovation stemmed from the building’s design, drawing inspiration from his own experiences with public performance and the historical context of string quartets. In the past, quartets played in small rooms or chambers, and the ANAM Quartetthaus pays homage to this tradition. The venue resembles a simple wooden box from the outside, but it is circular and intricately detailed inside. It represents a modern interpretation of a classic concept in its form and its experience. 

“Performing in a box was like nothing else. I have ever experienced – simultaneously accelerating and unnerving.” – said Dale about his previous experience playing inside the ANAM Quartetthaus in Melbourne. 

Still from Resonance – Musicians performing inside ANAM Quartetthaus 

He continued to explain how the proximity to the audience is one of the great powers of the ANAM Quartetthaus, how the space envelops everyone so closely that there is almost no space left for resonance: the audience becomes part of the music, and the resonance occurs within the body. 

With a background in classical music, Jayden felt a strong connection with the musicians. He shed light on his own experience learning and performing music, and how the space enabled this connection: “in the emotional space with the musicians, you hear them as people, you see how they relate to one another, you feel the nerves, the rush…” 

“The prevailing philosophy is that we are not there to capture everything as it happens in the moment; we are there to capture the spirit of the moment”, added Jayden. 

Ben deliberately designed the space to create an intimate and challenging performance environment, a zoom in on the movement of the quartet members. The use of a slowly rotating stage allowed him to play with perspective, depth, and time, similar techniques used in crafting film worlds on screen. 

“The quartet sits on a revolving stage, very slow – it rotates once every 60 minutes, the audience and the performers are barely aware that everything is moving”, explained Dale. 

“From an audience perspective, you get a 360-degree perception of the quartet. The feeling in the space is extremely direct; you hear every little gritty detail, and it becomes visceral and immediate.” 

Still from Resonance – Audience listening to musicians performing inside ANAM Quartetthaus

The platform’s revolving motion bridged space and time, a dance between the musicians and the audience. The cameras captured the moment, encapsulating the music in a fourth dimension. The screening combined expressive elements, merging architecture, music, performance and film. The camera seamlessly shifted its focus between the musicians and the listeners while guests at Sydney Film Festival observed both performers and audience, revolving with the music and time, outside of physical boundaries. 

Asked how the cameras got so close to audience members in a tight space, seemingly unnoticed, Kate Vinen quipped “It’s what we’re trained for!” Petra was really nimble, and that was really helpful when moving in the space,” she added about the collaboration with cinematographer Petra Leslie working in such challenging conditions. Both music and film crew were fundamentally exposed. 

“A string quartet is one of the purest forms of music, the nucleus of the orchestra, and, in some form, the nucleus of all music”, explained Dale. “As a performer, I always think about the 5th member of the quartet—the space—everything about the space becomes a part of the performance, and that element of drama is truly well captured in the film—captured so brilliantly.” 

“In a time of endless distractions, it was great to capture attention and emotion and how silence is so special”, said Kate.

The poignant moment of silence in the film was mirrored by a moment of silence in the Festival theatre, before the film was met with loud applause, opening the space for the live quartet strings to continue the musical conversation. 

“ANAM is very supportive of these collaborations across genres—a string quartet in a box is something I have never seen anywhere else in the world,” said Dale, thanking AFTRS for its collaborative approach and beautiful capture of a powerful moment. 

The interdisciplinary collaboration resonated with the audience through its excellence in creative expression, showcasing the emerging talent being nurtured by Arts8 organisations and their contribution to Australian culture. 

Resonance credits:
Directors: Jayden Rathsam Hüa and Kate Vinen
Producers: Jayden Rathsam Hüa and Kate Vinen
DOP: Petra Leslie
Editor: Gus O’Brien Cavanough
Sound: Jonathan Mendolicchio 

The Artamidae Quartet on Resonance:
Fiona Qiu, violin
Donica Tran, violin
Harry Swainston, viola 
Nadia Barrow, cello