Plum Blossom: Chinese Music for Bells

Cultural Diversity Week 18-26 March
Hourly, 9am to 9pm

Renowned Chinese Australian composer Julian Yu has arranged two traditional melodies for Melbourne’s iconic Federation Bells.

Hear Julian’s arrangement of Plum Blossom, a piece written for the ancient Qin, and Ba Ban, the ‘seed melody’ to hundreds of variant Chinese folk melodies.

Played every hour between 9am and 9pm throughout Cultural Diversity Week.

Program Notes (by Julian Yu)

Plum Blossom

This melody, called Mei Hua San Nong (literally “Three Takes on Plum Blossom”), was discovered in China engraved on ancient bamboo strips dating from about fifteen hundred years ago. It was a piece written for the ancient qin, a seven-stringed zither played by Chinese intellectuals as part of their meditation. The music was written in tablature notation, meaning that it did not directly tell what notes were played; instead, the notation showed tuning, finger positions, and stroke technique, thus comprising a step by step method and description of how to play the piece.
Qin music is the earliest notated music of the east. It is more authentic than Chinese folk music, which has been either lost or distorted from its original form. Its significance is demonstrated by the fact that a sample qin piece was one of the relics sent up in the Apollo spacecraft as a symbol of the culture of mankind.

Ba Ban

In traditional Chinese instrumental music, Ba Ban is considered to be a “seed melody”. Over the centuries, it has given rise to hundreds of variant folk melodies as it was passed down and embellished from one generation to another. Almost anyone who took up a Chinese folk instrument would learn to play it in some form or other.

This piece which I have written for the Federation Bells consists of three versions of Ba Ban. The first is quite simple; the second is moderately embellished; and the third adds still further ornamentation. The piece concludes with a return to the slow, simple beginning of the seed melody.

Bart Willoughby single launch - Woodskin Funk

Monday 19 Dec, 5.30 – 6.00pm, free

Pioneering indigenous performer Bart Willoughby is celebrating the release of the first single Woodskin Funk off his forthcoming album Resonance due for release early 2017 with a performance incorporating the Federation Bells.

A labour of love, the album is a progression from Bart’s earlier album We Still Live On. A combination of atmospheric recordings from the Kimberly’s Bungle Bungle Ranges and the Melbourne Town Hall grand organ. On this occasion Willoughby plays with the Federation Bells, melding the resonating sounds captured within the vastness of nature with the grandeur of the City of Melbourne’s grand organ.

Personally it was a chance for Willoughby to connect his father song-lines to the Gija people through stories told and collaboration with elder song man Uncle Gabe on two tracks.

For the single launch at the Federation Bells, Willoughby will be jamming on his woodskin along with the Bells accompanied by:

  • Phil Bywater on Sax
  • Anita Hustas on Double Bass
  • Soprano Shauntai Batzki.

The atmosphere of the Bungle Bungle ranges are placed at Birrurung Marr in urban Melbourne through soundscapes recorded by Nick Harrison and visual imagery by artist Frances Loriente.

Supported by the City of Melbourne Arts Grants Program.
Photo by Cole Bennetts

Sound Workshop and Performance with Dylan Martorell

27 – 28 September, 8 October

In this workshop series led by Dylan Martorell, you will experiment with sound techniques using Ableton and Fruity Loops to create a series of compositions and sound designs for the Federation Bells.

Investigate touch and vibration based electronics, play with robotics and work with experimental sound methods.

Your compositions will be performed at the Fed Bells on sunset to a live audience.


Workshops: Tuesday 27 and Wednesday 28 September (Spring School Holidays), 10am to 4pm each day at SIGNAL.

Performance: Saturday 8 October 7pm at Federation Bells, Birrarung Marr

SIGNAL is located on Flinders Walk, Northbank behind Flinders Street Station.

Workshops are free and open to young people 13 to 25 years.

Bookings for the free workshop are essential. BOOK NOW

This project is presented in collaboration with SIGNAL.

Dylan Martorell

Transience, improvisation and collaboration form the basis of Dylan Martorell’s music-based art practice. Housed within the conceptual framework of a musical diaspora, his work is drawn to ways in which music travels through space and is affected by changes in geography, climate, culture and materials to become an agent for cross-cultural reciprocation.

Martorell’s works typically involve a highly disciplined and refined level of detail intertwined with an ad hoc improvisation and bowerbird aesthetic. Inspired by his global travels, major interests for the artist are the natural world, human ritual, ethnography and mythology. This interest manifests in his art through an almost synesthetic combination of colour, pattern, sound and line. Focusing on the use of site-specific gleaned materials and incorporating elements of upcycling, DIY culture, robotics, and alternative power sources, Martorell’s recent projects conducted in Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Australia have focused on concepts of transience, portability and sustainability.


SIGNAL is a creative studio for young people 13 to 25 years located on Northbank in the heart of Melbourne. The program offers young people the opportunity to work alongside professional artists in a collaborative way, through mulit-artform workshops and mentoring.

SIGNAL provides emerging and established artists with opportunities and spaces for exploration, creation and showcasing.


Barney McAll with ASIO and the Federation Bells

Transitive Cycles

Saturday 4 June, 12.00pm – free

As part of the Melbourne International Jazz Festival, home-grown jazz piano luminary Barney McAll is back from New York and celebrating with two specially-commissioned new works for the Federation Bells.

McAll will play the bells along with his self-made instrument called Chucky and members of the Australian Symbiotic Improvisers Orbit:

  • Stephen Magnusson – Moog Guitar
  • Leigh FIsher – Drums
  • Jordan Tarento – Acoustic Bass
  • Adrian Sherriff - Trombone, Bata Drums and Shakuhachi Flute

Throughout the festival a specially commissioned work of McAll’s will also play on the bells every hour on the hour of the festival.

This is a free event, so come down to the Federation Bells for a very special Melbourne International Jazz Festival aural feast!

For more information visit


Oktoberfest at the Bells: Friday 23 - Saturday 24 October

oktoberfest is coming to birrarung marr:
  • Friday 23 October, 4pm – 11pm.
  • Saturday 24 October, 2pm – 10pm

To help set the festive mood the Federation Bells will be featuring a couple of classic German drinking songs, specially arranged for the bells:

  • Ein Prosit - the drinking song that is heard throughout the Oktoberfest to get the Gemütlichkeit going.
  • Hofbräuhaus-Lied - the classic oom-pah ode to Munich’s famous beer hall.

These songs will be heard alongside a selection of other bell ‘hits’ on the hour and half-hour throughout the festival.

So come along, grab a Bier und Wurst, and sing along with the Oktoberfest bells!

For more information and tickets visit

Oktoberfest at the Bells - Saturday 25 October

Oktoberfest is coming to Birrarung Marr on Saturday 25 October, 2pm – 10pm.

To help set the festive mood the Federation Bells will be featuring a couple of classic German drinking songs, specially arranged for the bells:

  • Ein Prositthe drinking song that is heard throughout the Oktoberfest to get the Gemütlichkeit going.
  • Hofbräuhaus-Lied – the classic oom-pah ode to Munich’s famous beer hall.

These songs will be heard alongside a selection of other bell ‘hits’ throughout the afternoon and evening.  To see a complete list of what’s playing when, visit the schedule page.

So come along, grab a Bier und Wurst, and sing along with the Oktoberfest bells!

For more information and tickets visit

The Long Walk - Saturday 31 May

The Long Walk is a charity inspired by Michael Long’s walk to Canberra to get the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people back on the national agenda. The Long Walk raises awareness to improve the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to make Australia a better place for all Australians.

The annual commemoration of Michael Long’s walk to Canberra is held in Melbourne in conjunction with the AFL’s Dreamtime at the ‘G clash between Essendon and Richmond.

The Federation Bells will play the theme songs from the competing clubs as well as two original works by Indigenous composers as the Long Walkers pass by the Federation Bells.

All Bells That Ends Well by James Henry and Eternal Birrarung by Deborah Cheetham will feature between 5.45pm and 6.20pm.

For more information about The Long Walk visit

Composing for the Federation Bells in your classroom

Tuesday 4 March – Online Professional Learning

Arts centre melbourne – digital learning hub

A rare opportunity to discover the iconic Federation Bells. Learn how to use computer software to create original compositions for performance on the bells. A resource kit will be available for download that gives you the opportunity to compose for the bells in your classroom.

  • Cost: $25
  • When: Tuesday 4 March, 3:45 – 5pm
  • For: Primary and Secondary Teachers

Contact the Digital Learning Hub for more info and to sign up.

For more information and other Online Professional Learning sessions, visit the Arts Centre Melbourne website.

White Night - 22 February 2014

Melbourne’s iconic 39 bells will open and close White Night Melbourne 2014.

The federation bells will perform a 20-minute selection of shortlisted entries, at both 7pm and 6:40am, of works submitted for the recent composition competition. View the bell schedule to see detailed timings of pieces being played.

Opening 7:00pm

Cumbia Train by Bryan M Phillips
Occupy, My Heart by Edward Gould
Mantra by Chris ONeill
A Festival Fanfare by Will Larsen
Captain Cook by Dennis Wilkinson
Fed Bells by Sam Gill
Federation Celebration by Robert Ashbridge

Closing 6:40am

Curn 2 by Archer Moore
Whispers by John Coutts
The Birrarung Rag by John Coutts
And As We Open the Musicbox by Jordan Gilmour
I Climb by Karen Berger
Suspended Animation by Rob Jennings

Throughout the night, visit the Federation Bells to enjoy newly installed dynamic coloured lighting.

Anyone can write music for the computer-controlled bells.  See the information for composers if you are interested in submitting a piece.


Melbourne Indigenous Arts Festival

The Melbourne Indigenous Arts Festival celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and culture from across the nation.

The festival presents a diverse range of art forms and experiences for all ages, including Indigenous theatre, music, literature, film, cabaret and dance.

Friday 7 to Sunday 16 February

As part of the festival the Federation Bells will feature two works by Indigenous composers played hourly from 9am – 9pm:

For more information and to download a Festival Program visit the Melbourne Indigenous Arts Festival website.

Composers Open Session

Tuesday 28 January, 3pm – 7pm


Fed Bells Rainbow

A chance to refine your composition before the deadline and learn from the experts. Learn more.

Pantha Du Prince vs Federation Bells

Saturday 16 November, 7pm-8pm

Melbourne Music Week 2013 celebrates the full spectrum of Melbourne’s vibrant music scene, showcasing the best and brightest home-grown talent alongside remarkable international artists.

HeaderThe Federation Bells will be a feature this year. Notably, German-techno minimalist musician/producer and Melbourne Music Week headliner  Pantha Du Prince will take control of the iconic Federation Bells, ringing out his ethereal soundscapes and sending shining bell textures shimmering through the twilight air.

pantha-du-prince-interview-1This mesmerising once-only performance will be supported by Melbourne art-rockers Glasfrosch, who will incorporate the Federation Bells into a live performance that crosses pop, jazz and ambient textures.

Free Event     All Ages

The pop-up home of Melbourne Music Week is The Residence. The Federation Bells will ring out for full hour to salute the conclusion of The Residence programming each night.

Melbourne Music Week With Bells On

Saturday 23 November, 2pm-5pm

Think you’ve got what it takes to write a piece for the Federation Bells? The Melbourne Music Week With Bells On workshop is your first pit-stop on the road to success. Learn how to write for the bells using a digital audio workstation under the expert guidance of an experienced composer, and at the conclusion of the session hear your work played on the bells.

Whether you write sweet pop songs, classical symphonies or electronic music, this tutorial will allow you to unleash your creativity through writing for the iconic Federation Bells.

Further workshops will be held throughout December, January and February to help you refine and perfect your composition. Competition entries are due February 2014.

Held at the Arts Centre Melbourne’s, Digital Learning Hub (but meet at the Bells)

$15 per person. Book at   Limited places available

Federation Bells Composition Project

Arts Centre Melbourne and City of Melbourne present the Federation Bells Composition Project. A rare opportunity to discover the iconic Federation Bells. Use computer software to create your own compositions and hear them performed live on the Bells.

This is a full day workshop offered to school groups in 2013 and 2014.

fedbellsschoolsWHERE: Arts Centre Melbourne, Digital Learning Hub, Australian Ballet Centre Level 4
WHEN: 9.30am – 2.40pm, dates subject to availability
COST: $15 per student

More information: Watch a video about this project with the Arts Centre Melbourne’s Amy Bennett.

Screen Shot 2013-05-22 at 4.41.05 PM

Federation Bells Ring Out For The Long Walk

On 21 November 2004 former Essendon footballer Michael Long embarked an historic trek, walking fromhis home in the suburbs of Melbourne all the way to Parliament House in Canberra – more than 650 kilometres away.

After returning home from yet another Indigenous funeral, Michael decided that something needed to be done about the plight of his people. He took it upon himself to get Indigenous issues back on the national agenda and resolved to meet with Prime Minister John Howard to discuss his concerns… even if he had to walk all the way to Canberra to do it.

Today Michael Long and his supporters continue to promote the story of The Long Walk in all communities. More than 10 000 people are expected to walk from Federation Square to the MCG for the annual “Dreamtime at the ‘G” clash between Richmond and Essendon on Friday 25 May 2013.

As the Long Walk passes the iconic Federation Bells in Birrarung Marr the unique instrument will celebrate two of Australia’s finest Indigenous musicians.  Deborah Cheetham’s Eternal Birrarung and James Henry’s All Bells That Ends Well will ring out between 6pm and 7pm.