Such an undertaking is inevitably going to invite flaws, but for the most part Timeline manages to be an engaging couple of hours all the same.
The Brainchild of the Australian Chamber Orchestra's artistic director Richard Tognetti, Timeline sees the ACO team up with The Presets to present a documentary-like study and select recounting of music history spanning 42,000 years; all complete with visual projections to match. Although titled Part 1: 40,000 BC - 1900 AC, the first major section actually opens with a glance back 13.8 billion years to the very beginnings of sound, as we know it, with an arrangement of physicist John G Cramer's simulation, The Sound Of The Big Bang. However, all too brief as the attention this receives may seem, it is the most apt of starting points. It not only frames music as a cosmic creation, but also establishes poetic connections to the first cultural selections; Aboriginal music of 40,000 BC. Some ancient examples are run through, including Chinese and Ghanaian drumming, a Nordic lur call and a Hurrian hymn, before transitioning from BC to AD with a Greek hymn and Seikilos Epitaph, Julian Hamilton's vocal performance on the latter astounding, and one of the most pleasant surprises of the night. There's a near-complete departure from non-Western tracks from here on in, and with the arrival of classical, the dominance of the Church is shown to dictate and influence the prevailing progressions, for the most part, up until the arrival of the Enlightenment. Evidently there's a more sustained focus on the latter portion of this section as the ACO find their element through channeling Vivaldi, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner and Schoenberg, among others.
After a short interval, the second major section (containing Part II 1900-1945, Part III 1945-2000, Part IV 2000-2014) shows the advent of modernism, with classical slowly giving way to jazz, R&B, soul, funk, rock and pop etc. While this is an exciting period of musical innovation and revolutions, there is, ironically, a partial declining sense of excitement. There's a kind of in-between phase where the ACO begin to exercise less engagement, and The Presets are yet to reach their depth. Having said that, when Hamilton delivers an excerpt of John Cage's Sonatas And Interludes: Interlude 1, and then the whole stage pauses for the mystifying 4'33”, both are simply sensational and among the highlights of the night. Shortly after Ron Grainer & Delia Derbyshire's Doctor Who Theme becomes a grand little inclusion, signalling the impending impact of studio production and other technological advancements. And eventually hip hop and techno, arguably the last two revolutions in musical genre, mark the transition into 'contemporaneity' before the internet affects revolutions of access and use. This is where The Presets enter their own, and Part IV hosts a fevered and climatic megamix of the past 14 years, before Continuum, an original piece composed by The Presets and Tognetti, gazes out into space and ponders our coming frontiers. Such an undertaking is inevitably going to invite flaws, but for the most part Timeline manages to be an engaging couple of hours all the same.