Music review: Angel Strings and K Mak, Scienceworks Planetarium, Melbourne Fringe Festival

A successful marriage of cosmic imagery and ethereal music.
Angel Strings. Image is a cosmic view of swirling colours on a large screen on a dome, with a crowd seated below and looking up at the dome.

Sometimes one tires of talking-heads theatre, comedians desperately trying to raise a laugh or even acrobats showing off their elastic tumbling skills. Sometimes you just want to sit in a large space, under a enormous dome projecting the awe and wonder of the cosmos while music washes around you, lost in your own thoughts. Fortunately, this year’s Fringe catered to this niche desire.

Angel Strings and K Mak were both hour-long, site-specific music events in Sciencework’s Planetarium.

The former is an aptly named string quartet ensemble who performed live the works of a mix of contemporary and classical composers including Philip Glass, Ravel, Max Richter and Vivaldi. It wasn’t surprising to learn that they’ve toured extensively and shared the stage with a range of artists, including Nigel Kennedy, Andrea Bocelli, Kanye West, Eminem, Il Divo and Archie Roach. The band’s dramatic and stirring strings were a perfect complement to the celestial wonders of the further reaches of universe.

K Mak is the alter ego of soundscape artist Kathryn McKee, who specialises in a mix of (cello) strings, beats, synths and vocals, and describes her music as “art pop”. Her work was reminiscent of the otherworldliness of Bjork, and evoked relaxing, ambient-trance vibes.

Both events offered a transportative, contemplative, nerve-tingling experience.

For those who haven’t been to the Melbourne Planetarium lately, it features 16-metre domed ceilings, reclining seats and a 7.1 surround sound system, so the full effect of sitting back and taking in both visual and aural stimuli was a powerful, sensual delight. Sometimes the experience was dizzyingly overwhelming, with the graphics zooming in and out: close-ups of planets and other heavenly bodies moving about across the wide expanse of sky.

For space nerds, there was plenty of cosmic material to marvel at, but the night also included other random visuals that were amplified and rendered magical thanks to the Planetarium’s immersive reach: kaleidoscopic vectors, tropical fish floating in and around a coral seascape and time-lapse flowers budding and blooming.

Read: Theatre review: Frankenstein, Playhouse Theatre QPAC

It was a sensuous pleasure to see and hear both shows, to be able to empty the mind of its usual run of worrisome thoughts and journey through the wonders of the universe through a melange of classical, alternative and electronic music.

Angel Strings and K Mak were performed for one night only on 19 October 2023 at Sciencework’s Planetarium for Melbourne Fringe Festival.

Thuy On is Reviews Editor of ArtsHub and an arts journalist, critic and poet who’s written for a range of publications including The Guardian, The Saturday Paper, Sydney Review of Books, The Australian, The Age/SMH and Australian Book Review. She was the books editor of The Big issue for 8 years. Her first book, a collection of poetry called Turbulence, came out in 2020 and was published by University of Western Australia Press (UWAP). Her next collection, Decadence, was published in July 2022, also by UWAP. Twitter: @thuy_on