"Juggles ancient and contemporary disciplines to create something startlingly new." The Age

Review of Water Pushes Sand at Melbourne Festival October 9th 2015




Darwin Festival, Darwin, Thursday August 17, 2017

The Jazzlab, Melbourne, Tuesday August 22, 2017

Ainslie Arts Centre, Canberra, Wednesday August 23, 2017

Due West Festival, Thursday Braybrook, August 24, 2017

MONA, Hobart, Saturday August 26, 2017


Out now on Jazzhead


Dates to be announced

OzAsia Festival, Adelaide
2, 3 October, 2015

Arts Centre Melbourne, Melbourne Festival
9, 10 October, 2015

APRA/AMC Art Music Awards - 5 piece version featuring Mindy Wong (guzheng)     15th August 2016


Composition and piano
Erik Griswold
Vanessa Tomlinson
Peter Knight
Tim O'Dwyer
Double Bass
Samuel Pankhurst
Tamara Saulwick
Scott Morrison
Christie Stott (location based filming)

Suona (Chinese double reed instrument)
Zhou Yu
Sichuan Opera Face Changing Dancer
and Vocals

Zheng Sheng Li
Zhong Kai Zhi
Guzheng (Chinese string instrument)
Zhou Tao Tao
Dizi (bamboo flute)
Shi Lei




Nominated for 2017 ARIA Awards Jazz Album of the Year and APRA/AMC Art Music Awards 2016 'Jazz Work of the Year' 

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.

Water Pushes Sand is a major new musical work for the Australian Art Orchestra and is central to the orchestra's 2015 program under Artistic Director Peter Knight. In partnership with the Sichuan Conservatory of Music, it explores, decontextualise and reinvigorates the disappearing and endangered music of China's Sichuan Province.

The 2017 and 2018 tours of Water Pushes sand are supported through the Australia Council for the Arts, Creative Victoria and the Australia China Council. 

The original development and presentation of this project was 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.