Melbourne’s science museum on the Yarra at Spotswood combines the French chateau style of the 19th-century pumping station with a modern circular building – an environment for a program combining traditional choral sound with live sound processing, electronic music and newly-invented instruments.

Fittingly for a science museum, the program, on November 7 1992, moved from traditional repertoire of choral songs towards the ‘pure sound’ of invented instruments, improvising choir and live electronics. It was presented as a collaboration between Astra and the Music Department at La Trobe University – at that time at its height as the largest department in the country and a celebrated university centre for music technology and experiment. (The Department was later closed down owing to university budget cuts in 1999.)

The Sewerage Pumping Station is registered as being of historical and architectural significance to the State of Victoria. More information can be found by searching for this building on the Victorian Heritage Register.

For 30 years, the concerts of Astra Chamber Music Society have ranged around Melbourne’s architectural environment. Each concert has had a site-specific design that takes advantage of the marvelous visual qualities, spatial possibilities, and acoustic personality of each building. The music, in turn, contributes a new quality to the perception of the buildings, now experienced by audiences as a sounding space - an area where cultural issues from music’s history are traversed, and new ideas in Australian composition are explored.