C17 Life On Land’s Edge

  • Saturday, 7 May 2022

  • Fairfax Theatre, National Gallery of Australia

    Parkes Place, Parkes ACT 2600

  • In Association with

To watch the flight of shorebirds that have swept up and down the surf lines of the continents for untold thousands of years… is to have knowledge of things that are as nearly eternal as any earthly life can be.
Rachel Carson

This performance is the Bowerbird Collective’s ode to migratory shorebirds, one of the world’s most extraordinary, and most threatened, species groups. These awe-inspiring birds travel from pole to pole twice annually, weaving invisible connections between continents and cultures. With Life on Land’s Edge, violinist Simone Slattery and cellist Anthony Albrecht make these connections visible through sound, image, poetry, text, and music.

Millions of birds travel every year on vast migratory corridors, Flyways, between their breeding and feeding grounds. The East Asian-Australasian Flyway, the focus of this performance, stretches from the tundra of Alaska and Siberia in the north, to the coastlines of Australia and New Zealand in the South. For shorebirds, who dwell beyond society’s awareness on overlooked tidal mudflats, at the edge of the land and the sea, migration is in their DNA. Some of these birds have broken records that defy the imagination, flying uninterrupted for more than 12,000km.

Characterised by their extraordinary physical feats, diverse beaks for feeding in deep mud, and their soft, haunting calls, the 58 species that use our local Flyway have suffered the steepest population declines recorded anywhere in the world in recent decades. This, like so much ongoing degradation of the natural world, is due to climate change, human disturbance and loss of habitat. Certain species have experienced declines of between 60-90%, some with only a few hundred individuals remaining.

The Bowerbird Collective has sought to establish a new genre of conservation storytelling, with the goal of strengthening emotional connections to nature through the arts. Life on Land’s Edge continues this multimedia mission, bringing together scientific and traditional knowledge, stories, music and imagery from across the Flyway. In partnership with BirdLife Australia, eight new Australian compositions were commissioned for this production, juxtaposed with works by Philip Glass, Dai Fujikura and Antonio Vivaldi. With references to the leading literature on migratory shorebirds, new poetry by Maggie Slattery, soundscape contributions by ABC Off Track’s Dr. Ann Jones, and spectacular projected footage, this performance is a musical and visual odyssey, and an uplifting call to action.

Simone Slattery | violin, vocals
Violin by Claude Pierray, 1720, Paris
ANAM, PhD, Churchill Fellow

Anthony Albrecht | cello
Cello by Peter Walmsley, c.1740, London
MM The Juilliard School

Concept, Direction, Editing, Sound & Lighting Design
The Bowerbird Collective | Anthony Albrecht & Simone Slattery

Simone Slattery – Invisible Connections (2020)*
Philip Glass – Opening (1981)
Anne Cawrse – Sanctuary (2021)*
Chris Williams – (Codex) on the Flight of Birds (2021)*
Corrina Bonshek – Far Eastern Curlew Lament (2021)*
Corrina Bonshek – Between Sea and Sky (excerpt, 2022)*
Anne Cawrse – Ruddy Turnstone (excerpt, 2021)*
Dai Fujikura – Star Compass (2020)
Gambirra Illume – Wind Birds (2022)*
Vivaldi – Violin Concerto “per Chiareta” in B flat major RV 372a, Andante (c.1720)
Simone Slattery – The Godwit and Curlew (2020)*
* New Commission

ARTIST Learn more about the artist

Artist Bowerbird Collective


The Bowerbird Collective creates new multimedia work that tells conservation stories, with the aim of strengthening emotional connections to the natural world. They tour extensively, with a focus on performing in regional areas, deliver exceptional educational outreach opportunities to school age children, and work with national and international conservation organisations to explore nature through the arts.

They create outstanding concert experiences for audiences and artists across the world. They have produced over 180 events in Australia, the UK and North America. They strive to achieve net-zero carbon emissions for all our events. While connecting audiences with the finest musicians of their time, a core aim of their production, touring and management services are to give partner artists a sense of connection with people, place and the environment.

In addition, they create soundscapes for major gallery exhibitions and apps, as well as compelling content for National Parks and eco-tourism partners, incorporating music, videography and nature recordings.