Water Pail


A sculpture and sound art installation about the artist’s Donna Chang’s intersectional Chinese-Australian identity and her mother’s and her maternal grandmother’s life in Hong Kong during the 1960s-80s. See more here.

The work is based on the stories we documented from Donna’s mother, Monica. Monica lived during Hong Kong’s water famine, and experienced significant hardship and poverty. As a young child Monica had to carry a pail of water up multiple flights of stairs everyday to get fresh water.

In a video work, Monica’s voice recounts the story of a family inheritance in which only men could take over assets, leaving Donna’s grandmother impoverished. The water pail represents the labour/burden that migrants, their descendants, and their forebears have to carry, and the intergenerational effects. It is also a reminder of the very real water crises we face.

The music is an immersive 8 channel haptic sound artwork responding to the stories and sculptural objects. Many of the water pails in Hong Kong during that time were repurposed cooking oil drums. The work explores their historical significance and sonic potential in an 8 channel array of these drums, each containing transducers that vibrates and distorts the surface of the metal. The red Chinese words imprinted on the drums say: 水 = water 女 = female 马 = horse 劳 = work 兔 = rabbit 家 = family – Donna’s mother was born in the year of horse and Donna, year of the rabbit, representing matriarchal lineage. While 8 drums was used for this installation, future iterations of this work could include any number of these pails (10, 16, 21, 40 etc.)  that fill the entire space. It will also include multiple percussion players. Donna performs a solo percussion piece on a bamboo/water pail structure (which sits on top of a lazy susan allowing her to turn it.) The work is a composer/performer theatrical piece devised in collaboration with Daniel. The music is inspired by the genres of contemporary classical, experimental music, and new music theatre. Drawing on Helmut Lachenmann’s musique concrète instrumentale, Mauricio Kagel’s absurdist instrumental music theatre, and Harry Partch’s instrument building. The solo performance is accompanied by the ‘oil drum chorus’.

“The works use of absence through image isolation, blackness and silence within a growing grating biting of sound that suddenly disappears is disturbing and poignant. Its beauty is absence of sound and sight to make the isolation of shape and materiality of sounds poignant—representative perhaps of trauma within a materiality-metal bamboo and timbre harshness envelope highlighted by absence which speaks to both a specific cultural context and the human condition.” written in the newsletter: Music & Music Therapy Discipline, Volume 3, May, 2021.

The work was exhibited at World Square, in Sydney, as part of the Now You Hear Her festival. Curated by Lamorna Nightingale, Bree van Reyk and Damian Barbeler, from the 8 March to 11 April 2021

Memory Tape


for cello, trombone, and recorded media
The work explores a lexicon of soft textured instrumental sounds taking their cue from the iterations of whispers produced by an empty rotating reel-to-reel tape machine. Small speakers are spread out across the space and are playing the recordings of multiple tapes crackling. The speakers played textured sounds, such as various grainy crackling noises that provide spatial colouring to the listening experience. Read more



Copy-make is a demonstration video about the physicality of sound and proposes new methodologies of working relationships between composer and performers in an open and visually centred collaborative approach.  You can read further about this project here in a paper published in Leonardo Music Journal, Volume 30, 2020 or see further documentation on this website.

This installation came about in a workshop where the premise was to explore notions of perception and music, musical preconditions, ‘music without sound’, and ‘composition beyond music’. My response was to make visible the invisible world of music through a display of its gestural processes. This allowed for a transference of a diverse array of parameters involving; rotation, closing, expanding, roughening, smoothing, demarcation, recursion, inversion, punctuation, dynamic change, velocity, and duration. 

Sound and movement are recorded on a glass surface to be used as a multi-screen video score for musicians to use with an instrument or sounding object. Text, numbers and symbols are written over videos containing gestural movements – a technique called digital annotation that has been used in the field of dance and anthropology. The emphasis is on the line-semantics of the performers movements. A gestural matrix allows for multiple points of focus for the performer to reiterate, interpret and retrace actions within a given frame (outlined here using yellow tape). This project was intended to be sound-based, but there is scope for it to be explored within a choreographical context. The video theorises potential uses of this way of working that could have multiple performance outcomes. It is a platform for experimentation and for realising a fixed work, and is open to anyone who wants to discover its possible uses.

Whale Fall


Whale Fall text


(2015) video score

for violin, ‘cello, percussion, keyboard, and choir with video score – 10′ [and video]
Premiere: 16 April 2015, Warwick Stengårds (conductor), Elizabeth Layton (violin), Simon Cobcroft (‘cello), Gabriella Smart (piano), Andrew Penrose (percussion), and the Adelaide Philharmonic Choir. Anne & Gordon Samstag Museum, University of South Australia, Australia. Link to work.

Mapping Australia / Cartografie in Australië


This work is an experimental multimedia piece for piano, electronics, video score, live camera, and video. Archival footage of Australia’s cartography practices from the 1960s are transformed into a video score for a performer to engage with by tracing the movements of the people in the video. Read more



Serpentine is a multimedia piece for erhu, percussion and spoken word. It centres around the winding shapes and lines of movement such as those made by a serpent or snake.  Fragments of the text include: “The landscape is a system, a geometry of soil and sky”, “You cant think of a line without tracing it in our mind”, “What the rock doesnt say about itself”, “But whoever said you can only walk half way into the forest, has never been lost.” Read more



For robotic piano made as part of a workshop at the University of Huddersfield run by Prof. Peter Ablinger and Prof. Winfried Ritsch. Read more.

A Sense of Space


Alba Bru Carci (flute), Diego Castro Magaš (guitar), Peyee Chen (soprano), St. Paul’s Hall, University of Huddersfield, UK. Read more.

The Glass of Imagination  (2020)
The Glass of Imagination is a group improv piece where performers trigger video samples of singing wine glasses and bells ringing that are tuned to different microtonal pitches. It can be performed on multiple devices online by up to 4 people (or more). The videos also include chimes, guitar noise, and insect sounds. It can be performed on laptops, phones and other devices whilst sitting, walking and/or while singing.


(2015) video score preview

The video is a 60 second preview of my video score used by the Adelaide Philharmonic Choir in my piece Animal. A section in the score asks the choir to whisper short quotes from parents describing the mental state of their children living in Australian immigration detention centres such as: “Open and close, open and close”, “The locks and the chains”, “I am a bird in a cage”, “I am an animal”. These were taken from the National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention: Mental Health of Children in Immigration Detention, 2004. Link to work. Full programme notes here

The work premiered on the 16 April 2015 at Samstag Museum in South Australia, conducted by Warwick Stengårds.



This film is a reaction to a deeply felt concern, that we, the current generation, are not prioritising the needs of future generations through our degradation of the environment and its limited resources. The film is based on the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child – “Mankind owes the child the best it has to give”. It’s a film that looks to explore this greater social issue through archive footage and ghostly images that remind us of how fragile both our world, and our future are. The work is visceral, poignant and bleak, and highlights the careless interactions humans have with the environment, animals and our natural resources. Scored for chamber ensemble: flute (including piccolo), clarinet, tenor sax, piano, percussion, cello and uses a recording of a german lieder. View score here

Watershed at zed end


Graduation exhibition of Fine Arts, Electronic Arts and Music at Bay 19, Carriageworks, Everleigh, Sydney, 2009. The exhibition, Watershed at zed end, marked the end of ‘Z block’ and the Fine Arts and Electronic Arts degrees at Western Sydney University. My works, Twin Phobias and Satori, were part the exhibition.

Choreographer and composer workshops


I participated in two workshops at Critical Path in Rushcutters Bay in Sydney, Australia. One was a choreographer and composer workshop with sound artist Cathy Lane and choreographer Rosemary Butcher. The works-in-progress that we made were shown at Campbelltown Arts Centre at an exhibition called ‘What I Think About When I think About Dancing’ and was a study in positive feedback loops in digital media, performance, dance, sound, and as a social function. The second workshop was with artist Christian Zegler where I developed the sound design for his ‘forest’ installation that uses interactive lights that the dancers choreographed works within.

Performance video

This is the video that accompanies the performance Animal. It consists of a match stick being stuck repeatedly and then a series of videos of waves crashing against the rocks at different rates and speeds. The video ends with the match stick bursting into a flames. Read more

All rights reserved © 2009-2024 Daniel Portelli