We’ve arrived at that time of year when Bendigo embraces Australia’s most dynamic music festival, the annual Bendigo International Festival of Exploratory Music (BIFEM), which returns for its seventh year.
A champion of innovation and progressive musical thinking, this year’s programme is proving to be one of the most industrious line-ups for the festival, bringing the most innovative and virtuosic concert music from all around the world direct to Bendigo’s View Street Cultural precinct with more than 120 local, national and international musicians.
For those unfamiliar (it’s okay, we’ve got you), the festival has an emphasis on premiere or rarely-performed long-form works, and has won critical praise from around the world because of this. With a priority the experience of the artists AND the audience, BIFEM gets rid of the barriers, allowing the audience to completely engage – creating an experience like no other.
Founded by artistic director (award-winning composer) David Chisholm, who felt he needed a platform for composers and musicians to get the chance to showcase their full works, the first festival of its kind took place in 2013, winning critical praise from around the world and delivering festival and broadcast audiences a visceral experience. It has now gone on to grow significantly in scale every year since… so much so that BIFEM was recently awarded the Art Music Award for Excellence in Experimental Music after presenting an extraordinary 389 works over seven annual weekend editions, including a staggering 91 world premieres, and 216 Australian premieres.
This year highlights include Ann Rosén and Sten-Olof Hellström from Sweden, a fiercely interesting composer duo who both actively perform with and in each other’s works: working with knitted knee cuffs, graphite drawings, candles, and electronics – it’s wildly visceral work too!
We would also recommend that you check out the recitals from French cellist Severine Ballon and New Zealand Hurd gurdy performer Kerian Varaine (both of whom are the composers for their programmes), along with Sydney’s The Music Box Project, house roster Argonaut, and the ever-present always exciting Argonaut String Quartet.
That’s barely scraping the surface though. There’s so much more on offer at BIFEM and we couldn’t possibly fit it all on this page. You can even buy single tickets where you can pick and choose all of you your favourite performances. But be careful, limited places are available for some sessions, so get in quick.
The best part is that BIFEM is for anyone with open ears and a curious temperament – which is basically anyone! It’s a festival that doesn’t tell you how to listen, but is rather asking, how do you listen? A lot of the first half of the 20th century was spent positioning newly composed music into settings that generally people felt you need to be an expert to understand. BIFEM resets this by getting out of the way of the performer and the audience.
Oh, and it’s mostly free, due to been built on virtuosity and innovation, and its principles of diversity and social access.
There really is no other festival quite like BIFEM.
It all goes down at the Bendigo Arts Precinct from September 6 – 8. Visit www.bifem.com.au for all the deets.