The Bad Seeds and The Presets welcomed into the Australian Music Vault

by the partae
Photo credit: Jason Lau
Visitors to the Australian Music Vault (AMV) have the opportunity to explore electronic music in Australia through a dedicated display curated in collaboration with Mess Electronic Sound Studio (MESS) until March 2023. The display features machines used by music makers The Bad Seeds, The Presets and B(if)tek.

Electronic music in Australia has a long history with this display focusing on two main themes: made in Australia and used in Australia.

“In the made in section we feature the Optronics workstation (featuring the incredibly rare VCS-1 made in the UK), the Transaudio synths built here in Melbourne ca. 1975, the ETI 4600 and the Fairlight paraphernalia. In the used in section we have a sampler used by The Bad Seeds, a Korg MS-10 used by The Presets, a B(if)tek drum machine and a musical toy synth that featured in the work of the duo Plastic Platypus at the Clifton Hill Community Arts Centre concert series in the late 1970s,” said MESS co-founder Robin Fox.

The display at the AMV brings together a variety of electronic genres and technical innovations which recognise that the electronic music making community in Australia has been not only vibrant and strong, but also exists at the very forefront of the industry.

Interestingly, the Fairlight CMI Synthesiser, which is an Australian invention, became an international sensation used by the likes of Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel and Stevie Wonder.

“Music has and always will underpin revelry and electronic music is no exception. But there is more to the story. The history of electronic sound and music is also the history of innovation and extraordinary creation,” said Fox.


From the early experiments of Percy Grainger, through the radical works of composers like Keith Humble, Ros Bandt and Cindy John to the more recent work of musicians such as Gotye, Severed Heads, Alison Wonderland, Kardajala Kirridarra and The Presets, electronic instruments have provided musicians with the means to work beyond the boundaries of traditional music making.

“Electronic music is often unfairly dismissed simply as a vehicle for drug fuelled hedonism. At MESS, we work to educate people about just how much more there is to it. Sculpting sound with voltage is a beautiful artistic alchemy. When you shape voltage into audible information you are literally massaging one of the fundamental forces of the universe and using that information to communicate feelings and ideas that are virtually impossible to express in words,” said Fox.

MESS is a unique not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the creation of electronic sound and music in all its forms. At the heart of MESS is a significant collection of over 500 rare electronic sound and musical machines. MESS is dedicated to the preservation and accessibility of these machines with the collection used both to highlight and preserve the history of electronic music, and to support the creation of electronic sound and music in all its forms in a welcoming and accessible space. Bookings to use the collection can be made via the MESS website.

As a living collection, all the instruments at MESS are available for everybody and anybody to play at their publicly accessible studio in North Melbourne. They are also used in live performances by members, resident artists and by the MESS Synthesiser Orchestra.

The MESS collection holds instruments from many important moments in the history of electronic sound. This includes the invention of the internationally significant Fairlight Computer Musical Instrument, the ground-breaking curriculum of Melbourne’s La Trobe University Music Department, and the creative output of the Clifton Hill Community Music Centre.

The MESS display will be at the Australian Music Vault until March 2023. Entry is FREE.

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