Water Pushes Sand tours China in October 2019



October 2019 concert dates:

22nd - Chengdu Art Centre

23rd & 24th - Shanghai Performing Arts Festival

26th - Shaan Xi Grand Theatre

Composition and piano
Erik Griswold
Percussion Vanessa Tomlinson
Peter Knight
Tim O'Dwyer Double Bass
Samuel Pankhurst Suona (Chinese double reed instrument)
Zhou Yu Sichuan Opera Face Changing Dancer
and Vocals
Zheng Sheng Li
Chinese Percussion
Zhong Kai Zhi
Guzheng (Chinese string instrument)
Zhou Tao Tao
Dizi (bamboo flute)
Shi Lei
Tamara Saulwick
Scott Morrison
Christie Stott (location based filming) Production Manager Jem Savage

Co-Produced by Ping Pong Arts

Financially supported by the Australia Council for the Arts and the Australia-China Council


The Australian Art Orchestra tours across China in 2019 with Water Pushes Sand.

Nominated for 2017 ARIA Awards Jazz Album of the Year and APRA/AMC Art Music Awards 2016 'Jazz Work of the Year', Water Pushes Sand is a major musical work that sees virtuosic Chinese and Australian musicians reinvigorate the endangered music of China's Sichuan Province to create an entirely new sound world. Traditional Sichuan melodies and rhythms are fused with modern jazz improvisation in a wild intercultural celebration.

Composed by Erik Griswold with video shot on location in Chengdu, Water Pushes Sand evokes the tea-houses, streets and rivers of Sichuan and explores the changing faces of Chinese and Australian culture.

Griswold and the Australian Art Orchestra, led by artistic director Peter Knight, will fuse Sichuan melodies and rhythms with modern jazz improvisation, contemporary dance and video projections that evoke the vibrant landscape of the Chengdu Provence.

The October tour of China will see AAO perform in Chengdu, Shanghai and Xi’an. The concerts follow the hugely successful presentation of Water Pushes Sand at OzAsia Festival in 2015, as well as a 2017 performance at MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) in Hobart, Tasmania.

“Water Pushes Sand was a great success at OzAsia Festival. The audiences loved it, unanimous appraise.” – Joseph Mitchell, Festival Director OZ ASIA FESTIVAL.


Listen to ‘Water Pushes Sand’ on Bandcamp, iTunes & Spotify.

Known for its brash and friendly people, spicy food, laid back tea-houses, and the distinctive twang of its spoken dialect, Sichuan is the Texas of China. It is from Sichuan that philosopher Lao Tau, according to legend, mounted a water buffalo and rode off into the sunset, never to be seen again. 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 the opera is hard core, featuring long stretches of voice and percussion which could be straight out of an avant grade composition by Luciano Berio.

Australian musicians Erik Griswold and Vanessa Tomlinson (Clocked Out) have been travelling to Sichuan for 15 years, learning about the local music and collaborating with musicians and dancers. Their good friend, composer Zou Xiangping, has introduced them to some legends of Sichuan music, like the last Jinqianban storytelling master Zou Zhongxin. Their previous collaborations have produced three large scale shows - Chengdu Streetsongs, Sichuan Fantasy, and The Wide Alley - that have toured in China, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

In Water Pushes Sand, composer Erik Griswold and the Australian Art Orchestra team up with all star musicians and performers of Sichuan to create a colourful collage of winds, piano and percussion. The ten-piece big band fuses traditional Sichuan melodies and rhythms with modern jazz improvisation to create a wild intercultural celebration. With dramaturgy and direction from Tamara Saulwick (Pin Drop, Endings, Chamber Made Opera), and video shot on location in Chengdu, Water Pushes Sand  evokes the tea-houses, streets, and rivers of Sichuan. On stage the musicians wear the brightly coloured traditional masks of Sichuan Opera as they explore the changing faces of Chinese and Australian Culture.

The 2019 tour of Water Pushes sand is supported through the Australia Council for the Arts and the Australia-China Council. 

The original development and presentation of this project was developed in partnership with the Sichuan Conservatory of Music, and supported by the Australian Government through the Australia International Cultural Council, an initiative of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, as well as the Australian Council for the Arts (Creative Partnerships with Asia) and Creative Victoria.