Never Tilt Your Chair Back | Percussion Performance

Using Western dining etiquette as inspiration


Never Tilt Your Chair Back is a performance and research project that brings together Australia’s leading female percussionists to present a sonic double-bill interweaving action, notation and gesture. Set at a formal dinner table, the percussionists re-enact etiquette using utensils engaged with eating and drinking, chronicling two centuries of table dining implements and customs.The project is currently in redevelopment for 2019 by Louise Devenish, Vanessa Tomlinson, Leah Sholes.

With an emphasis on the evolving roles of women, Never Tilt Your Chair Back highlights the practices of four award-winning Australian female musicians, featuring the premiere of a new work by composer Kate Neal (Victoria) alongside the Australian premiere of the seminal 1970s music-theatre work Dressur by Mauricio Kagel. Originally designed for the male voice and body, Kagel’s Dressur has been reworked for three female voices, becoming a significant contribution to the performance and history of the work, 40 years after its premiere.

Creative collaborators

Dr Louise Devenish

Head of Percussion/ Artist in Residence – UWA Conservatorium of Music

Louise Devenish is an accomplished musician whose artistic practice lies at the nexus of performance, research and education. Key projects include APRA AMC award-winning solo series 'Music for One Percussionist', co-directing The Sound Collectors duo, percussing for Australia’s leading percussion group Speak Percussion (Victoria) and acclaimed electroacoustic sextet Decibel (Western Australia). She regularly performs throughout Australasia, Europe, North America and the United Kingdom. Highlights include performances at the Nagoya and Shanghai World Expos, Ojai Music Festival, Tage für Neue Musik, The Barbican’s Sound Unbound and Tongyeong International Music Festival.

Louise Devenish headshot

Vanessa Tomlinson

Associate Professor – Griffith University

Vanessa is a percussive artist dedicated to exploring how sound shapes our lives, awakening our ears to new sounds, in new spaces, with the hope that attentive listening will lead to attentive custodianship of place. With a long history in experimental music, Vanessa uses this body of knowledge to consider how we listen through site-specific explorations, and to explore new collaborative sonic ideas. Trained as a percussionist in Australia, Germany and the US, Vanessa relies on this sonic investigation of objects to build compositions, create contexts for improvisation, interpret the voices of other composers and collaborate across art-forms and disciplines. She has toured the world for 25 years, premiering 100-plus works by significant national and international composers, presenting work at major international festivals, and collaborating with improvisers, dancers, artists and more.

Vanessa Tomlinson headshot

Leah Scholes


Leah’s diverse work as a musician and performer spans the Australian and international performing arts scene. She is passionate about imagination, delight and pathos, and pursues the integration of visual and physical theatre in her work. Leah is the Artistic Associate of Barking Spider Visual Theatre. She is co-founder of the Sound Collectors (percussion duo) and the Flying Tapirs (theatrical-music duo), and has been a member of Speak percussion since 2008. Leah has collaborated with numerous artists and organisations, including Chunky Move, Polyglot Theatre Company, the National Institute of Circus Arts, Strange Fruit, Synergy Percussion, Graeme Leak, Lee Ronaldo and the Nick Tsiavos Ensemble, and also appears regularly with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra Victoria, Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra and Auckland Philharmonia.

Leah Scholes headshot

Kate Neal


Kate Neal is an artist with more than 20 years' experience as a composer, arranger, teacher, artistic director and collaborator. Since 2006 she has been incorporating extra-musical parameters within the notation of a musical score, such as physical gesture, design, light and choreography. In many cases, these works provide a variety of unprecedented collisions of unlikely visual and musical cues. In 2015/16 Kate was the recipient of an Australia Council for the Arts Fellowship, allowing her to compose six substantial new works over two years. In 2013 she returned from the US to take a one-year position as Composer in Residence for the Four Winds Festival. From 2009–2013 Kate was a Graduate Fellow at Princeton University in the USA, and from 2007–2009 she was based in the UK.

Headshot of Kate Neal

Contact Louise Devenish