What a fantastic week.
Twenty nine budding composers applied with five being short listed to workshop their pieces with Jan-Bas Bollen (Amsterdam), Melody Eotvos (Bloomington, Indiana) and Stephen Whittington (Adelaide) as the mentoring composers.
The week culminated with the Soundstream Collective consisting of flautist Geoffrey Collins, violinist Sophie Rowell, cellist Simon Cobcroft, and pianists Ashley Hribar and Gabriella Smart, Clarinet Peter Handsworth and percussion … performing the 5 works:
“As Rendered” – Michael Terren
“Trio I” – Alex Chilvers
“Things are Become New” – Samuel Smith
“Mapping Australia” – Daniel Portelli
“Two Fingers” – John Pax
Composers Samuel Smith, John Pax and Daniel Portelle were commission recipients.
Along with Jeff Brownrigg, I reckon that the one enduring symbol of the colonial period is not the billycan, but the piano. As a rock is shaped by external forces, pianos have come to appropriate different meanings according to the reshaping of history. This is the fascinating element that is the starting point of my story. It involves the creation of 16 new works by composers around the world, inspired by the narrative surrounding the colonial piano. My sincere thanks to Jon Rose and Ross Bolleter for sharing their vast knowledge on this subject.
The piano took on a cult-like status in colonial Australia. Settlers revered it as a genteel symbol of their heritage, because it represented the best aspects of their forsaken culture. While other physical necessities such as furniture and housing could be improvised, the piano’s complex structure made replication impossible under harsh Australian conditions. Pianos were transported by camel, bullock and horse to all known areas of the Australian terrain. It was been estimated that around 700,000 pianos were imported to Australia by 1888, an extraordinary statistic even by prevailing European and Anglo-Irish standards.
Pianos from colonial Australia still exist in varying states of decay: Individually in remote parts of Australia; as collections in un-airconditioned warehouses in Nowra (NSW) and Sorrel (Victoria); in Ruined Piano Sanctuaries in rural Western Australia; and in museums. They are a remarkable and fundamental part of Australian history that is fading away, largely undocumented, with the weathered demise of each ruin.
The history of those pianos that exist today remain sketchy, to say the least. Take the case of the Bechstein piano recently acquired by the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney. It was a showpiece created specifically for the Sydney International Exhibition in 1879, where it won first prize. After the Exhibition closed in 1880, the piano’s whereabouts disappeared. It is reputed to have been owned by Geoffrey Tozer. The exact model was also owned by Liszt, and presides in his house in Weimar.
The existence of serial numbers and brand make it relatively easy to trace the origins of the maker. In the case of some (such as the piano residing in the Governor’s House in Pt Arthur Penitentiary Museum and the piano that once belonged to Robert Louis Stevenson), it’s relatively easy to trace their history for given periods of time.
Myths have coalesced around these pianos’ existence. The first piano to arrive in Alice Springs still exists in the Telegraph Station, and was reputed to have arrived on camel back. Apparently aboriginals abhorred the piano, perceiving it as a symbol of white man’s ‘bad fella stuff’. This is hardly surprising, given it was deified as a symbol of white cultural supremacy in colonial Australia (and its associated cruelty through ethnic cleansing). Ironically, Ross Bolleter says that it may have been aboriginals who were among the first people to play the early pianos, citing the example of Fremantle, which was such a treacherous landing point that many of the early pianos were simply dumped at the foreshore, leaving them exposed to the curiosity of the locals.
Soundstream supports the next generation of composers through the Emerging Composers Forum (ECF).
Australia has a formidable collection of internationally renowned composers. It’s vital that we support our next generation of composers through creating professional opportunities in which to practice their art. The ECF raises the profile and careers of emerging composers by supporting them to create new works through close collaboration and mentoring by internationally recognised composers.
“…when a young composer shows me a score… I’m looking to be surprised, because surprise wakes me up to the world, surprise makes me see something or feel something in a way I never before expected… how often are we bowled over, how often have we been forced to stop all other discursive mind wandering and just sit there in astonishment, listening or looking in rapt amazement? What does it take to move us from our customary place? (… the word “ecstasy” literally means: ek-stasis- to be moved out of one’s place.) And that is what we want when we confront a work of art, whether it’s a completely new creation or an impassioned performance of masterwork from the past.” – John Adams
The inspirational words of esteemed composer John Adams ring true in this age of economic rationalization, where human needs are reduced to the menial. It is in this climate that we need the arts more than ever, to create a sense of wonder and inspire others to view life outside of their ‘customary place’. From this perspective, Soundstream supports the next generation of composers through the Emerging Composers Forum (ECF).
The inspirational words of esteemed composer John Adams ring true in this age of economic rationalization, where human needs are reduced to the menial. It is in this climate that we need the arts more than ever, to create a sense of wonder and inspire others to view life outside of their ‘customary place’.
A final concert of the works will be held on 4th November, performed by Soundstream Collective. Commissions of $5000 and $2000, and another of $1500 sponsored by Winston Music, for the creation of a new work and its performance in 2015 by Soundstream Collective, will be awarded.
Performances of xyz by…
The Soundstream Emerging Composer Forum etc bla has selected young composers for xyz…
Alex Chilvers – NSW
Currently a postgraduate student at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Chilvers holds Honours degrees in Information Technology and Music Composition. Currently an Australian Postgraduate Award recipient, he has been invited to participate in Symphony Australia’s Tasmania Symphony Orchestra Composer’s School and includes as his mentors Anne Boyd, Trevor Pearce and Paul Stanhope.
Daniel Portelli– NSW
Daniel Portelli is a PhD Candidate at Huddersfield University (UK) studying under the supervision of Liza Lim. Some of his work was recently selected to represent Australia at the ACL Young Composers Competition in Tokyo, Japan. Portelli’s music has also been performed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and his mentors include Nigel Butterley and Bruce Crossman.
John Pax – WA
Australian Composer John Pax has participated in the Australian Youth Orchestra’s National Music Camp and the West Australian Symphony Orchestra’s Composition program. He has worked with a number of ensembles and orchestras and is currently participating in the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra’s Cybec Program.
Michael Terren – WA
Graduating with a Bachelor of Music (Composition) from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts in 2012, Terren is currently studying for his Honours degree. He has released two CDs and recently had two works accepted into the Australasian Computer Music Conference in Melbourne and another work accepted into the International Computer Music Conference in Athens.
Samuel Smith – VIC
Smith is a Masters candidate at the University of Melbourne under the supervision of Elliott Gyger and currently holds an Australian Postgraduate Award. Originally from Armidale (NSW), Smith studied guitar and composition at the Australian National University under Timothy Kain and Larry Sitsky. His music has been performed around the world, including at the Bang On A Can and You Are Here festivals.
Please keep Tuesday, November 4th free for the performance of the emerging composers’ finalist’s works by Soundstream Collective, new music Ensemble-in-Residence at the University of Adelaide. The performance will be followed by the announcement of the winners of the three awards for commissioned works: $5000, $2000, sponsored by our generous private donors, and $1500, sponsored by Winston Music.
The initial mystery that attends any journey is how did the traveler reach his starting point in the first place? Louise Bogan, Journey Around My Room
This is the quote that Lawrence Krauss used, to commence his talk about cosmology sponsored by the Richard Dawkins Foundation*. He went on to say that scientists love mystery, they love ‘not knowing’. This is also the essence of artistic practice. Mystery the propels the original creation of ideas of value; it comes about from interdisciplinary, new ways of seeing things. And it is these ideas that shape our culture. It is also mystery, and the need to communicate it to others, that inspires and drives me on a daily basis. These ideas need to breathe and gestate, to gather the momentum of meaning. They need room for experimentation and failure. Without these fundamental elements within the creative process, artists don’t expand boundaries, creating a healthy state of flux.
To conclude, I’d like to quote Walter Pater (1868): “… art comes to you proposing frankly to give nothing but the highest quality to your moments as they pass, and simply for those moments’ sake.” Let’s not forget the essence of art and the true meaning of culture, in our quest to make it politically correct. And let’s not forget, as the physicists remind us, that we are all made of stardust.
*Krauss’ lecture is on Youtube: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ImvlS8PLIo).