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MERGE: Music + Architecture

In times of emergency, music lifts us. Consoles us. Brings us together and guides us forward. And right now, there has never been a greater need for music—especially music that is powered by creative communities, coming together in a spirit of collaboration.

In response to COVID-19 and with a mission to support emerging musicians, we have joined forces with MPavilion and Melbourne Music Week to commission five emerging artists to perform in iconic Melbourne buildings – to be streamed online for your viewing pleasure. We put a call out to the local music community and asked applicants to respond to one of the four buildings taking part in MERGE. We received over one hundred submission and were completely overwhelmed with the talent and creativity on offer.

From an overwhelming response to the call-out, a combination of solo artists and musical groups have been selected to take part in the unique project. We are proud to announce the 5 successful applicants commissioned are: The OpalsMara SchwerdtfegerShelly SenbeiHachiku and IJALE.

The selected artists will also perform a new musical piece at Mpavilion during Melbourne Music Week in 2021. Take note of your favourite musician and stay tuned for updates.

Presented by MPavilion, Open House Melbourne and Melbourne Music Week.

While you wait for the latest MERGE updates, we hope you enjoy the marvellous mixtape with tracks from the 5 selected MERGE artists:

Mara Schwerdtfeger

An 1880s Italianate mansion overlooking the Yarra at Studley Park, Villa Alba houses one of the most important examples of late nineteenth century decoration in Australia. Now a museum, the mansion features rare hand-painted, stencilled and gilded decoration by renowned Scottish-trained interior designers, the Paterson Brothers.

Completed in 1884, the vestibule is decorated with two forty-foot painted panoramic murals of Sydney Harbour and Edinburgh, with the ceilings and friezes of the principal rooms  elaborately decorated with hand-painted and stencilled designs. It is one of the Paterson Brothers’ first interiors to depart from the use of pre-prepared wallpapers of repetitive designs and it is a rare surviving example of their domestic work.

Mara Schwerdtfeger is a sound artist and composer whose performed pieces and commissioned soundtracks for dance, film and installations explore the crossover between physical and digital environments. Performing solo with her viola she recreates songs from her albums and EPS pieced together with immersive improvisation.



The Trades Hall and Literary Institute has been the home of organised labour in Melbourne for over 160 years. The complex is a series of ten buildings built between 1874 and 1963. It is the oldest continuously active union building in the world.

The first council chamber at Victoria’s Trade Hall in Melbourne — now known as the Old Council Chamber — seated up to 127 members on tiered platforms ranged around the room. It opened officially on Friday 7th March 1884, and is located in a space previously used for Friendly Society meetings in the oldest part of the Trades Hall (completed ten years earlier). In 2019, Lovell Chen led the project to restore the chamber to its spectacular mid 1880s splendour as part of the first phase of ongoing conservation and upgrade works, funded for the most part by the state government’s Living Heritage Program.

Shelly Senbei is a multidisciplinary collective of artists, predominantly musicians, brought together by the ‘third culture kid’ experience, as well as the experience of growing up in the western suburbs of Melbourne. Dark, dingy, bombastic, brash, in-your-face production and sampling is paired with poetics about their personal adversities and experiences, resulting in a menagerie of styles that are as diverse as the western suburbs, where most of the members of Shelly Senbei come from.


Australian Tapestry Workshop

Designed by prominent Melbourne architect T. J Crouch, the ATW is a distinctive example of Victorian Free Gothic architecture style. The building opened in 1885 as Harcourt and Parry Emporium a drapery establishment for the pioneer Victorian colonist Edwin Harcourt and was later adapted for use as the Patross Knitting Mills. In 1976, a renovation by Peter Carmichael transformed a derelict and dingy factory space into a spacious, light-filled studio – a perfect home for the ATW. Today it is maintained as a vibrant and dynamic public space for creative collaboration and the weaving of contemporary tapestries.

IJALE is a Melbourne producer, vocalist and performer who blends afrocentric sounds that reflect his Nigerian heritage with myriad other musical influences from his Australian upbringing in the internet age.

These concoctions vary in style from piece to piece, but are usually punctuated by hints of African percussion, infectious bass lines and layered electronic textures, all of which pay direct homage to the hallmark genres of black creativity, including Jazz, Soul, RnB, and Hip Hop.

The main unifying connection throughout IJALE’s music is his unique voice and cuttingly honest lyrics that display both intellect, observation and personality.


Waller House was the home of artists Napier, Christian and Lorna Waller. Their murals, mosaics, and stained glass paintings adorn prominent buildings in Australia and their work is represented in major Australian galleries. Their Ivanhoe home and studio has been left intact as a memorial and is now managed by the National Trust of Australia (Victoria).

The house, built in 1922 of dry cast render over reinforced concrete walls, was designed by a local builder and Napier Waller in the Arts and Craft style with a hint of Californian Bungalow. It has a glass studio, built in 1927, and an outdoor studio added in 1934. The house still contains many works by the artists as well as pieces by Klytie Pate, Christian’s niece, and one of Australia’s foremost studio potters of the 20th century. Waller House featured in the Dr Blake Murder Mysteries series!

Hachiku is the brainchild of German bedroom-producer Anika Ostendorf, 25 who writes and produces her home-made dream pop from whichever bedroom she is currently inhabiting. Hachiku’s self-recorded, self-mixed and self-titled debut EP was released on Australian label Milk! Records in June 2017. Since then Anika has taken her catchy melodies, highly tasteful, textural guitar playing and shimmering walls of sound across the world supporting Courtney Barnett on her 2020 USA solo tour, performing at Iceland Airwaves 2019 as well as touring with the likes of The Breeders, José González, Jen Cloher and Snail Mail.



The Trades Hall and Literary Institute has been the home of organised labour in Melbourne for over 160 years. The complex is a series of ten buildings built between 1874 and 1963. It is the oldest continuously active union building in the world.

The double-height chamber at the heart of Melbourne’s TRADES HALL complex — the New Council Chamber or Solidarity Hall — re-opened in late 2019 following adaptation and conservation works, part of the first phase of a larger ongoing project funded by the state government’s Living Heritage Program, the Victorian Trades Hall Council and individual unions. The main fabric of the chamber dates from 1891 but a catastrophic fire in the 1960s destroyed its roof and most of the interior. Hugely important to the trade union movement as its main debating forum in the state, the chamber has been returned to its original orientation and redesigned in the spirit of the original, with improved facilities and a better circulation plan.

The Opals is a collective of women that collaborate on ambient soundscapes using both improvisation and written composition. Their work rejects the formulaic three minute ‘pop song’ structure in favour of sustained linear, a-tonal synth explorations that embrace the core elements of music, building a rich texture of  instrumentation with synthesisers, bass, percussion, guitar, saxophone and trombone. The flexible model of music-making is process based and communal.


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