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Tactus

Kate Milligan, Jonty Coy and Olivia Davies with HIP Company

Presented by Tura and WA Museum

Tactus: derived from Latin, ‘to touch’, also a term for a 15/16th-century rhythmic measurement.

In 2017, a renaissance flute was recovered from a shipwreck in the Markermeer, North Holland. Made materially fragile by the passage of time, the instrument was nevertheless preserved intact in its watery solitude for 500 years. Archeologists and historians can only speculate on the flute’s origin, directed by material clues, including a small roll of Germanic text found curled inside the instrument. Replicas have since been made of the flute, reviving a sound lost to the ocean for centuries.

The instrument’s journey unfolds in Tactus, a new audio-visual work by Tura’s Summers Night alumni Kate Milligan, Olivia Davies and WA flautist Jonty Coy. In a meeting of experimental music-making and historically informed performance, this intimate work explores the materiality of cultural heritage as it is transformed by time and water. Field recordings from the Markermeer mingle with chant, sunken voices imploring “Ave, maris stella” (Hail, star of the sea).

Coy is joined by early music ensemble HIP Company, in an exploration of renaissance music. Speculating on the flute’s likely journey down the Rhine River and time-travelling to 2024, the flute undergoes a renaissance in and of itself, giving new life to this instrument in the 21st century.

Produced by Tura and commissioned by the APRA AMCOS Art Music Fund, Tactus traverses time and place in a performance where postmodern and renaissance artistic practices unite to submerge audiences in an antique, experimental, sunken sound-world seldom heard in Australia.

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History of the Warder Flute

In 2017, an archaeological diving team from the Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed (RCE) was excavating a shipwreck, labelled as site HE-11-53, off the coast of Warder (Noord-Holland) when they made an extraordinary discovery. Among the artefacts and debris, an intact transverse flute (dwarsfluit) was found, dating from the early sixteenth century. The ship itself has been dated to the 1530s, and researchers believe it was sunk shortly thereafter, making the ‘Warder’ flute easily the oldest surviving flute in the Netherlands, and one of the oldest intact flutes found anywhere. Musical instruments from this period are extremely rare; only a handful of flutes from the sixteenth century survive. The fact that this flute was preserved for almost 500 years underwater makes its discovery all the more extraordinary.

The research team from the RCE consulted historical flute specialist Kate Clark, to help construct a more complete picture of the instrument’s provenance and historical significance. Clark’s observations then informed the creation of several replica flutes by Roberto Bando, one of which has since been made available by the RCE for research purposes. The ‘Warder’ flute and its replicas were then presented as part of a special event at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, receiving much attention from the local press. In one frequently cited interview, Clark evocatively described the sensation of playing the flute as being “like a kiss from the sixteenth century.”

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Kate Milligan

Composer and Director

Kate Milligan is a Western Australian composer, designer, and musicologist. Her work engages with theories of temporality, ecology, and the posthuman, asking questions of musical subjectivity into the deep future. At the audio-visual intersection, these works often include experimental music notation, and a range of graphic, animated, and sculptural media.

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Jonty Coy

Performance and Historical Musicology

Jonty Coy is a Western Australian flautist, researcher, and singer, specialising in historical performance practices. He regularly performs with early music ensembles in the Netherlands and throughout Europe. Jonty is currently a PhD candidate at Leiden University, for a thesis focussing on the Warder flute.

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Olivia Davies

Video Design

Olivia Davies is a Western Australian interdisciplinary artist with a practice including composition, photography, film, and installation. She is a composer of acoustic and electro-acoustic music that explores ideas of space, stasis, and flow, and creates works ranging from experimental installations of light and sound through to orchestral composition.

Creative Team

Kate Milligan

Composer and Director

Jonty Coy

Performance and Historical Musicology

Olivia Davies

Video Design

Bonnie de la Hunty

Voice, HIP Company

Sarah Papadopoulos

Violin, HIP Company

Krista Low

Viol, HIP Company

Shaun Ng

Lute

Ensemble Cacophany!

Chant (recorded)

Rob Polmann

Movement Direction

Production Team

Tyler Hill

Stage Design

Eli Smith

Stage Design

Steve Berrick

Projection Design

Tristen Parr

Tura Producer

HIP Company is a collective of musicians from Perth, Western Australia, specialising in the performance of seventeenth and eighteenth century music on historical instruments. Directors, Bonnie de la Hunty, Sarah Papadopoulos, and Krista Low, are committed to engaging with the community through approachable and eclectic performances, combining tradition with innovation. HIP Company is joined by Shaun Ng, a Sydney-based lutenist.

An APRA/AMCOS Art Music Fund Commission. Produced by Tura.

Supported by the State Government of Western Australia through Department of Local Government Sport and Cultural Industries, and the Australian Government through Creative Australia, its principal arts investment and advisory body.

This project has also been made possible through St George’s College, Perth.