The audience was asked to leave its “preconceptions at the door” in a flyer for a sold-out concert of five “sonic pillars” by Sydney-based experimental music collective The Music Box Project. If that didn’t pique your curiosity, going through the doors into the darkened Australia Hall, lit solely by a spotlight behind the seating, certainly did.

Music Box Project's Shallow ListeningMusic Box Project’s Shallow ListeningPhoto © Frazer Ruddick

As the 40 or so of us took our seats, loud sounds of something being rolled across the floor at the back of the hall added to the feeling of anticipation. Then, behind a transparent stage curtain, a man in white was rolling on the floor, sticking a leg out towards the audience. In front of him six packing cases with painted paper front panels were arranged in a semi-circle. In front of those a double bass lay on its side.

This was the opening of the first piece, Clearing The Air, by Moya Henderson who wrote it in 1974 while studying composition with Karlheinz Stockhausen and music-theatre with Mauricio Kagel in Germany. The man in white, Joseph Franklin, produced short sounds by bowing the instrument...