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Music Soup: Interview with an Experimental Musician

Ben Drury, local musician and composer, on the set of 'Twin Pedals' . Photo by Alex Henderson
Ben Drury, local musician and composer, on the set of ‘Twin Pedals’ . Photo by Alex Henderson

Ben Drury is a local musician of many talents—he composes electronically and acoustically, and plays the double bass, bass guitar, organ keyboard, household objects with microphones attached, and occasionally drops things into cymbals, if the performance demands it. I sat down with him to talk about the Experimental Music Studio, You Are Here, performing in alleyways and making music with no notes.

How long have you been interested in music?

I started learning when I was twelve… which is awkward because I work with a lot of people who have done it since they were five, and they all say things like “by grade seven people should know what they’re doing” and I started in grade seven. But once I picked it up, it didn’t take me very long to realise it was what I wanted to do.


What goes on in the ANU Experimental Music Studio?

The Experimental Music Studio was set up by Alexander Hunter in 2013; he wanted to form a new musical ensemble that was informed by a classical tradition, but is more modern… the EMS is more improvisatory and based in electronics, doing the kind of music that wouldn’t really be possible with a written score. You set up some parameters and some rules, and you work out how much you want to follow them, and how much you want to react to other musicians in the group and do your own thing, and see what happens. You have a hypothesis of what’s going to happen, but you just go and see what comes out—it’s very rare for us to play the same thing twice.


ANU Experimental Music Studio’s Toy Ensemble performing with JM Donellan as part of Speakerbox, a Noted and YAH crossover event with support from The Street. #cbr #yah15 #experimental #music #spokenword

A photo posted by You Are Here festival (@youarehere_canberra) on

You designed your own event for the You Are Here festival, what is it?

“Pieces for cars, tunnels, and hexagonal vents” is my event—I found this place that doesn’t look like it’s in Canberra at all: it’s this totally strange construction, full of geometric shapes. There are hexagonal vents that lead into a tunnel below, so I’m putting four cars in the tunnel, where they’re going to play music composed by me and some friends out of their speaker systems, using the vents as an amplifier.

I’m also performing in Twin Pedals for the festival, and later on in Collected Resonances at the Ainslie Arts Centre and SoundOut.

What about your personal band, Helena Pop?

We have a tour coming up! We had two songs recorded in Melbourne, basically in an alleyway across from the Victoria Markets. Which was interesting, since we had birds making noise and ladies with trolleys going past. It’s been a lot of fun. Our songwriter Jack Livingston brings these great acoustic pieces to the band, and we all add different things and make it into nice musical soup.

What’s your ultimate goal?

I don’t really want to be famous or anything—I just want to be able to perform and travel, and make enough money off doing that to live… to be able to make new things and show them to people.

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