Rare sounds rock canyon
Music makers: The Etica Ensemble tunes up, with Rebecca Erin Smith on viola, Rachael Aquilina on violin, Anna Sarcich on cello, Aaron Wyatt on violin and Philip Everall on clarinet. Picture: Tura New Music

Wacky violin sounds, Papua New Guinean log-drumming, some traditional Mozart, the didgeridoo and conch shell blowing were just some of the noises reverberating from the rugged cliffs at Shothole Canyon, near Exmouth, on Saturday.

An eclectic mix of WA musicians performed for An Evening at Shothole Canyon, an outdoor concert attracting a sellout audience of about 200.

Part of the inaugural Sounds Outback (... to Reef) Festival, artists included legendary Broome musician Stephen Pigram, experimental violinist Jon Rose, Perth's classical Etica Ensemble, percussion ensemble Defying Gravity and indigenous dancers Pundara Performance Group, with Darren "Capes" Capewell on didgeridoo.

The five-day musical adventure at stunning sites across the Ningaloo world heritage area and broader Gascoyne region is presented by WA group Tura New Music.

Its artistic director and chief executive Tos Mahoney said the festival aimed to create new, often unconventional experiences and forge relationships between people and place.

"The motivation is to bring music, sound and art practices to regional parts of Australia … things people here would not otherwise experience," he said.

"Equally it's about opening our eyes to the land we live in and there's a whole lot of it that we don't go to or experience or immerse ourselves in. All those elements coming together in such strange juxtapositions out in the middle of nowhere with this odd combination of demographics is very rewarding."

Musician Rebecca Erin Smith, of Etica Ensemble, said collaborating with other musicians and playing in remote locations was a unique and valuable experience.

"Doing a gig in a canyon is incredible. It's an experience you would literally never get anywhere else," she said.

Pigram said the event helped broaden his musical horizons.

"These secret, hidden, exotic places do inspire you," he said.

"You don't know what to expect and you're thrown in the mix with lots of different musicians. I like the uncertainty of it."

Planned for today and tomorrow are a performance on a glass- bottom boat over Ningaloo Reef and two days of performances at various sites on Bullara Station, in the northern Gascoyne. Mr Mahoney hopes to expand the program over the next three to five years.

The West Australian

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