Decoding the composition
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What happens in the universe’s downtime? What would we humans do if we knew none of our gods were watching? Maybe we’d spend all our time just trying to find each other ... or maybe we’d release ourselves into an ecstatic frenzy...

Between Zero and One

is a music and visual performance on an epic scale – a new percussion work written by internationally acclaimed New Zealand/Greek composer John Psathas and performed by Wellington’s Strike Percussion.

Beginning and ending with a Big Bang, expect wild instrumentation, complex rhythms, moments of delicacy and warmth together with Strike’s signature charm.

Real time projection by Australian multi-media artist Tim Gruchy turns the space into a work of art. Also featuring additional compositions from David Downes and Jack Hooker plus guest musicians.


See below for available products
Shiva Sleeps: 6 Percussionists
$ 60.00 NZD
Wanting to expand your programme with a dazzling combination of live percussion and digital audio? This product contains the complete set of Performance Materials for Shiva Sleeps including PDFs of the full score, individual percussion parts, and click, performance/backing, and reference tracks in MP3 or WAV format. #Percussion
Score - PDF
Parts - PDF
Performance - Audio
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Encore 2: 6 Percussionists
$ 30.00 NZD
At just a little over 2 minutes - this lovely encore option for percussion ensembles (best described as a kind of primal goodnight lullaby for the audience), involves three players on one vibraphone, and another three clapping and stomping. All six hum in unison at times during the piece. No individual parts - the score is 4 pages. This piece originated in the large-scale project ‘Between Zero and One’ for NZ percussion group Strike.
Score - PDF
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Watch and Listen

A curation of Performances, interviews and reviews of my work
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In Focus:

Between Zero and One Show

Performance Notes, Articles, Reviews, John's Messages

Project Details

Between Zero and One Show

with Strike Percussion

Commissioner: Strike Percussion

Video editing: Tim Gruchy

Performers: Strike Percussion

Set and Lighting: Glen Ashworth

Video and Interactives: Tim Gruchy

Director: Philippa Campbell

Instrumentation: Percussion Sextet: Mixed Percussion

Premiered by Strike Percussion on September 6, 2013 at the Christchurch Arts Festival, Christchurch, New Zealand

Difficulty Level:
Live Show
Instrument Tags:
Mixed Percussion
Mallet Percussion
Digital Audio


John Psathas - Composer

What influenced you in composing the work?

I was inspired by the rhythmic music of the world we live in. Today this means music of over 5000 years of human history. So there is music inspired by very old traditions from Africa, Persia, Greece, and there is music inspired by dubstep, drum'n'bass, classical music (old and new), jazz, rock, and electronica. It's a very wide spectrum of sources and influences. When I write music what I most want to do is celebrate positive energy, especially the beautiful connections that music can create between us during live performance. Strike are one of the most positively charged groups I've ever worked with and written for. Thinking about their unassumingly kiwi yet powerful and virtuosic stage presence also inspired me a great deal when creating the work. I've always felt Strike express beautifully the idea of musical 'play'. As hard as they work (and they do work hard!) there is always that underlying sense of fun and joy. I love this and it shaped the way I approached the music in Between Zero and One.

The idea Between Zero and One? If the big bang creates an expanding universe that eventually collapses under its own weight only to explode again and repeat the cycle endlessly; how does something (especially something the size of the universe) become nothing? And how does nothing become something? How does zero become one? This show was inspired by the thought 'what if there was time between the universe not existing and then existing again? What is there was a pause button – creating a sustained moment between zero and one? And what if we were somehow there? What would we do? Who would we be?

Have you composed for Strike before? How different has it been composing this work and working with artists ‘by remote’.

This is the first time I've written for Strike. It's also the first time I really got to workshop material and develop it in an extremely energized environment. It was a terrific experience, very hands on. They are extraordinary collaborators, willing to go on any journey to explore the potential of an idea. They are a world class ensemble, not just as performers of percussion music, but each of them as creative individuals and also as an ensemble with a massive storehouse of accumulated experience and knowledge. My normal 'way' is to create a piece in private with almost no contact with the performers I'm writing for. This project has been the opposite of that, I've been engaged with Strike from the start and have been part of a dynamic process that is still unfolding (and will keep unfolding in the years ahead as the show goes to other parts of NZ and overseas). This collaboration has crow- barred me out of my very private creative bubble and dragged me into a world that is built on trust, mutual support, big fun, and thrilling, visceral music-making.  


Tim Gruchy – av and interactives designer

What is the video/interactive concept behind Between Zero and One?

Fundamentally it fits under the conceptual framework John put in place at the outset of his composing. I have taken a fairly abstract stylistic treatment using mostly mathematically generated visual material.
The interactivity utilises dynamic particle systems to further enhance the overall feel and look of the work.

How did your involvement in the development of this show begin?

Fortunately I was invited to partake early in the creative process which always ensures a better cohesion of ideas and outcomes. Hilary Beaton from Downstage made the original connection and introduction.

Why do you think Christchurch is really going to love this show?

Because it is fun, smart, vibrant and exciting!

Tell me about how the whole show is being staged visually as it's not just a band on stage is it?

Collectively, with a lot of input from all-rounder Glen Ashworth who also designed the lighting and runs my video, we designed a set which would be best described as a ‘transformer’. It services the conceptual arc of the show, the enormous array of instrumentation, the dynamics of the performers and the not inconsiderable technical needs of the show, no mean feat. Onto that ever-changing form the video is 3D mapped to make a wonderfully engaging visual playground to accompany and elevate the sonic feast.  


Murray Hickman – artistic director and player - Strike

What is the concept of Between Zero and One? How did the development of the show begin?

It started with a conversation between myself and John Psathas. I had always wanted to ask him to write for us so after Creative New Zealand gave us some funding it gave us a chance to make it happen as a full length work rather than just one piece.

Initially John had talked about exploring the story of percussion and music through the ages but he must have decided that was way too small minded so decided to write about the beginning of the universe instead...

The concept of the show is exploring what happens when the gods turn their backs. As in, what would happen if the gods who look after us took the day off, or left us to it for a while. It starts with our gods present in the space, so the music is epic and intense, then as the gods leave we explore what it means to be human – to play, fight, feel, interact, love and with a bit of chaos thrown in the mix. So we go from a gigantic, universal moment to something that is quite personal and intimate, and back again.

That’s what we are exploring, but it’s not literal. The great thing about music is that people can listen, feel and respond in whatever way they like. I’d be keen to hear what people think after the Christchurch premiere, about what stories the music unlocked in them.

Why do you think Christchurch is going to love this show?

We have been regular visitors to Christchurch over the years, working in schools, with the NZ Army Band and at the Festival. This show is a real development for us as a group. The music is technically demanding for us and some of it quite different from what we have done before. We are adding a whole new element of AV and interactivity and Christchurch is going to be the first audience ever to experience this combo. But you don’t need to be a music expert to understand what we do – it’s not because it’s simple, but because John is very clever with what he has written and he is inspired by numerous musical forms from around the world and from popular music.

Another thing is that we are bringing down nearly every percussion instrument ever invented, and some that have been invented especially for this show. We don’t do things by halves...

Tell me about how the show is being staged? Not just musicians on stage?

Strike’s whole plan since we first began in 1998 was to challenge the ‘rules’ of ensemble playing (like you might see at a gig or the orchestra), and in the past we’ve done that by placing instruments in strange places, on the walls, from the ceiling, on our own bodies and then kind of having to dance and move in order to play them.

David Downes has written a piece for the show called ‘Dog Eat Dog’ and that really challenges what music performance can be.

We’ve also added a whole new element of interactive triggering and visuals– where we are working with an amazing AV artist called Tim Gruchy to create visual content that interacts with our bodies and the music. He is also a musician so it’s amazing to see how musical the AV design for us is.

Where do you want to take this show after Christchurch?

We’re very lucky to premiere in Christchurch, after having some an amazing and touching time last Festival working with Gareth Farr’s memorial piece “The Nor’West Arch”. We’ve got plans for world domination with this show of course, but after Christchurch we’re starting with Nelson Festival in October.

A lot of Asian countries are interested in Strike because in Asia there is a strong percussion tradition and we’ve taken our last two shows to Taiwan at the International Percussion Convention. The first time we went there no other percussion group used amplified/sampled sound or theatrical lighting, so we ended up making quite an impact. Other places in Asia, like Korea and China looks likely too. We haven’t played in Australia in a while, so hopefully we can tour the show there.

How different has this been for Strike and what are some of the challenges?

This show has extended us more musically and technically, especially as we are using quite different instruments, and more sophisticated techniques on the keyboard instruments (marimba and vibraphone).

We had the luxury to work with both the AV components and a full set, so we were able to devise the performance around what we were actually going to be playing on rather than just imagining it. Playing with backing tracks and samples has been a challenge, because we have to remain truthful to the live ensemble playing but honour the backing tracks and John’s music.

It has been rewarding working with a group of artists who can take over the direction of the show and serve John’s vision – leaving me to concentrate on being a player and the musical direction. Philippa Campbell has been in room almost the whole time. In our previous shows we have had directors or dramaturgs popping in and out, but never had someone direct the piece from scratch. This gives us more consistency in approach and the chance to attack the performance from a deeper level.

As a musician, this is the hardest ‘learn’ I have had in a long time, maybe because I’m getting older, but memorising my part is harder! Maybe because previously we wrote most of the pieces ourselves, the music was already in my body and mind.

John Psathas hadn’t written anything specific for Strike before and he is very good at challenging our existing techniques and style.

Working the performance aspect into the show is especially different for our new players. We don’t perform like we are in a classical concert or recital, nor are we a rock group, I suppose we veer towards a theatrical delivery of music performance. It’s unique for a music group to work in this way – plus we move our own set and instruments around during the show, we are cued by lights and AV and there are elements of storytelling, ‘acting’ or a style of performance that has been deliberately written into the music.

How different is it working with artists who aren't physically in the same room?

In today’s world I think barriers of geographic location have been completely broken down with skype, video calling etc. So it hasn’t been an issue.  

Philippa Campbell – performance director

It took a while to figure out a definition of my role. I worked with Strike many years ago on their first big show which premiered in Wellington’s Opera House. My job description then was dramaturg – which was a total mystery to us all until I began to do it.

John has taken care of the shape of the music in Between Zero and One, and the musical journey of the piece overall. This time I’m the performance director. This has involved collaborating with Murray, Tim, Glenn and Olivier on the aural and visual design elements, and working with the ensemble on the physicality of their performances and how the music is presented, what we want the audience to feel.

What is your role in the show?

As both a Literary Manager (for Auckland Theatre Company) and film producer (most recently of Emmy-nominated series Top of the Lake) I’m very involved in the creative development of the projects I work on. Figuring out how creative processes can be energised and focused in order to make work that’s really satisfying for audiences – this is a lifelong fascination and it’s as much in play here as in my work in film and theatre. As is the ambition of the piece itself, and everyone’s aspirations for its future. We have high hopes!

How does your work with Strike differ from the other things you do?

But working with Strike is an absolute treat for me. First, my focus is entirely creative; I don’t have to worry about the practical and financial infrastructure that supports the making of the work. And then there’s the immersion in the world of music; with composers John Psathas and David Downes and with the musicians themselves. They’re very different from actors, and from

Further Reading






http://www.artsfestival.co.nz/news/youth-ambassador-review-between-zero-and-one  http://www.listener.co.nz/culture/classical/classical-review-between-zero-and-one/