Between the Keys (2013)

Between the Keys is an Ensemble Offspring project exploring new instruments and new tuning systems. The project is a reincarnation of our Partch’s Bastards project, first presented in 2011, finding inspiration in the music and ideas of maverick American composer Harry Partch.

On encountering the iconic Harry Partch you can’t help but wonder if the history of Western music took a wrong turn somewhere after Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier. Partch’s musical ideas were so revolutionary that they could not be performed on existing instruments and he had to design, build and perform an entire orchestra of novel instruments himself.

Although Partch died in 1974, his legacy continues to grow with a young generation of musicians around the world keen to expand his theories. Partch’s innovative vision and do-it yourself aesthetic resonates strongly with Ensemble Offspring’s artistic mission and in this project we pay tribute to this luminary in our own exploration of just-intonation and instrument building.

Between 2010-11, Ensemble Offspring commissioned the design of entirely unique wind and string instruments from the Australian master instrument builders Peter Biffin and Linsey Pollak as well as commissioning a number of composers to write works that exploit their characteristics. At the centre of this project is Kraig Grady, a Californian-come-Wollongong musician who traces a very direct legacy to the Partch tradition particularly via his connection to the alternative tuning theorist Erv Wilson. For this performance Grady has shared with Ensemble Offspring a unique tuning system – centaur tuning – on which all instrument builders, composers and performers have based their music. He has also constructed the centaur vibraphone featured in the recording as well as composing a new work for the project.

It hasn’t been easy recreating music completely from scratch: from newly invented tuning theories to the design of new instruments to play them, not to mention the task of composing for them and the challenge of learning how to play them. The project has involved an artistic team of instrument builders, composers and musicians working to common themes. Ensemble Offspring is very grateful to all those involved for their creative contribution to an imaginative new world of musical colour.

Released January 1, 2013

  1. Arana LiMysteries 
  2. Amanda ColeHydra I
  3. Amanda ColeHydra II
  4. Amanda ColeHydra III
  5. Phillip GlassMusic in Similar Motion
  6. Damien RicketsonSome Shade of Blue 
  7. Kraig GradyAkashic Torus
  8. Terumi Narushima Hidden Sidetracks


Claire Edwardes
Damien Ricketson
Jason Noble
Diana Springford
Anna McMichael
Bree van Reyk
Peter Biffin
Kraig Grady
Linsey Pollak


“Dedicated to new music and new ideas in music performance, Ensemble Offspring has produced a recording of most unusual compositions, based around a new tuning system.” – Barry Walmsley


Ensemble Offspring would like to extend a special acknowledgement to Russell Staley who has generously supported both the commissioning of new instruments and new works. The Ensemble would also like to thank Kraig Grady for making available his Centaur tuning to all involved and to Terumi Narushima for facilitating the recording of this project.

This recording has been created with the support of the University of Wollongong, Faculty of Creative Arts.