Announcing a new album of original music for piano and didjeridu...

Gardens of Stone

Amanda & Michael Amanda Amanda & Michael Amanda Amanda & Michael

Photos from Joan Sutherland Centre concert May 2013, by John Handel. Click for full resolution.

Gardens of Stone
Cover by Lyndall Gerlach

Gardens of Stone reviewed by John Shand

Music Critic for Sydney Morning Herald

"No, the Gloved One has not returned from the dead. This Michael Jackson plays the didjeridu, and in a most unusual context. Composer Amanda Handel has penned a repertoire of pieces evoking the Blue Mountains, which she performs at the piano in company with Jackson’s instrument. Ostensibly it is one of those “shouldn’t work, but it does” marriages. Take away the didj and the programmatic nature of the beautiful title track would be lost, for instance. The piano may be supplying the lyricism and harmony, but the didj has a crucial colouring effect, much as changes in light dramatically affect a mountainscape. The other especially striking piece is Blue Labyrinth, on which Jackson takes the main theme on didjeribone, the haunting (French horn-like) timbre and melodic capability of which suggest that this is an avenue for further exploration from this interesting project."

Review from

This vibrant CD of Australian Contemporary Classical music is a unique creative venture initiated by Amanda Handel, in collaboration with Michael Jackson.

Conjuring landscapes and other natural features of the Blue Mountains, the music reflects a journey which moves between highly charged and powerfully rhythmic passages into areas of delicate sonority.

Crafted with luxurious dissonances, the piano writing explores extended modal harmonies against the bedrock of fixed didjeridu pitches. This unusual acoustic combination creates a wealth of resonance and surprising timbral effects.

Much more than just an accompaniment or drone, the didjeridu plays an integral role within the texture and phrasing of Amanda’s compositions. Michael plays a battery of didjeridus and the didjeribone with astonishing virtuosity and a richly complex tone, using a large repertoire of rhythms, overtones and vocalisations.

Gardens of Stone features a solo piece on each of the two instruments, and the album closes with a spontaneous improvisation where Amanda and Michael leap into unchartered territory, eliciting a strange and exciting new realm of sound.

Gardens of Stone National Park

Gardens of Stone
Photo by John Handel

The Gardens of Stone National Park is in the Blue Mountains World Heritage area near Lithgow (west of Sydney), where the stunning rock formations are characterised by distinctive pagoda-like shapes. These unusual outcrops of sandstone contain lacings of ironstone which create intricate surface detail.

At the time of writing (2012), the Gardens of Stone National Park is seriously threatened by increasing and encroaching coal mining enterprises. Sadly, evidence of collapsing stone and general degradation of the environment can be seen near the Park’s border. The Blue Mountains Conservation Society is working to promote awareness and is involved in a campaign for the preservation of the area.