The name was first imagined by Allen in the mid-1970s following experiences of a higher intelligence that guided the progress of his band Gong and was used in a French spelling ‘Compagnie d'Opera Invisible de Thibet’ as an alias for Gong’s composing credits.
Years later, it manifested as a musical outfit in 1986 in Australia under the leadership of Daevid Allen and Russel Hibbs. This first band spent a traumatic six months in the studio recording the Invisible Opera Company of Tibet's eponymous album, before engaging on a tour.
Daevid Allen then left Australia to return to the UK in early 1988, encouraging Russell Hibbs to take the lead in the Australian band. They continued to tour sporadically and rehearse with an ever changing line-up, with increasing difficulties to keep the band together. They split in 1989, reformed briefly in 1992.
Meanwhile, arriving in UK in 1988, Daevid Allen had also used the Invisible Opera Company of Tibet moniker for a European tour, that lasted from March 1988 to June 1989, with an unstable line-up that included Wandana Turiya (harmonium, singing), Elliet MacKrell or Graham Clark (violin), Lydia Lite (percussion), Sheena Johnstone, Didier Malherbe (sax, ex Gong), Shyamal Maïtra (tablas), Harry Williamson (keys, guitar)…
Two recordings of this tour were released, alas, none of them credited to the Invisible Opera Company of Tibet as they were billed then :
Live In 1988 - The Return, credited to Daevid Allen alone.
Live At The Glastonbury Festival 1989, credited to Gongmaison, as they were soon to be known.
Indeed, by October 1989, this Daevid Allen version of the IOCT changed its name to Gongmaison.
There was never a stable line-up for any Invisible Opera Company Of Tibet incarnation. And since Daevid Allen himself encouraged anyone to pick up the ‘IOCT’ spirit, different band versions originated in different parts of the world creating an international umbrella group with shared or compatible songs and music, developing and promoting themselves simultaneously. Apart from the Australian/Allen IOCT band, there were 3 other versions :
- in Brasil : Invisible Opera Company Of Tibet (Tropical Version Brazil) created around 1988/1989 by Fabio Golfetti ;
- in US : The Invisible Opera Company Of Tibet (2) ;
- in UK : The Invisible Opera Company Of Tibet (3), created in 1992 by Brian Abbott.
In 1990, travelling for a short while to Australia, Allen assembled a new short-lived version of his Invisible Opera Company – now christened Invisible Opera Company Of Oz – that lasted only for a few rehearsals.