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30 March 2012

Composer & performer news April 2012

Sarah Hopkins with members of the Montclair State University Singers Image: Sarah Hopkins with members of the Montclair State University Singers  

Our bulletin from the composing/performing world: news, new releases, awards, commissions, reviews, and links to interesting articles elsewhere on the internet. Featuring Sarah Hopkins, Mary Finsterer, Anne Boyd, Matthew Hindson, Georges Lentz, Ros Bandt, Joseph Twist, Julian Yu, Andrew Ford, Alex Pozniak, Liza Lim, Brett Dean, Luke Styles, Daniel Blinkhorn, Cat Hope and Mike Nock, among others.


Sarah Hopkins has returned from a trip to the US, promoting her choral music. In particular, she collaborated with the Montclair State University Singers and their artistic director Dr Heather Buchanan, who workshopped Hopkins's Honour the Earth and later performed it at the Eastern Division Convention of the American Choral Directors Association in Providence, Rhode Island, on 17 February (event details). Further projects with the choir are being planned.

Mary Finsterer has rescored her work Red, Green, Blue for Western Australia's Juniper Chamber Orchestra. Performed in 2010 by the Dutch new music ensemble Orkest De Ereprijs, the work explores colour (the title of the work refers to the RGB colour model) in the orchestration through the employment of specific themes, with groups of instruments merging together, or refracting, to create an unexpected result. The concert takes place on 30 March at the University's Callaway Music Auditorium (event details - see also a news item on the University of Western Australia website).

A mini-festival at London's Kings Place concert centre this week (26-31 March) is focusing on music by New Zealand-born composers. Gillian Whitehead's work Hineputehue is included in a concert by the New Zealand String Quartet and Richard Nunns on 31 March (event details - see also Kings Place website).

The Australian String Quartet launched its new line-up with the 'Towards the Light' tour in March, with Sculthorpe's String Quartet no. 11 in the program. Formerly an all-female ensemble, the ASQ now consists of violinists Kristian Winther and Anne Horton, violist Stephen King and cellist Rachel Johnston.

The forthcoming Vale of Glamorgan Festival in Wales will include several concerts featuring Australian music. Anne Boyd's choral work As I crossed a bridge of dreams will be performed by Ars Nova Copenhagen on 10 May, Matthew Hindson's Chrissietina's magic fantasy by Ensemble Midwest on 3 May, and Georges Lentz's Ingwe by guitarist Zane Banks on 5 May.

New releases

Ros Bandt and Johannes Sistermanns have launched a new CD, Tracings, on the German label artist.cd/Wergo. The CD includes the inter-continental satellite piece A Global Garden for Percy.

A new CD by soprano Lisa Harper-Brown and pianist David Wickham, The poet sings, includes songs by Roy Agnew, Geoffrey Allen, Michael Bertram, Raymond Hanson and Paul Paviour. The CD was recorded in Perth at the Callaway Music Auditorium of the University of Western Australia and released by Stone Records. More details and audio samples are available on the AMC website.

Full circle is a new CD of Australian works for trombone by Michael Mulcahy and Eric Klay. Released by Australian Brass Work, the CD includes compositions by Stuart Greenbaum, Barry McKimm, Richard Mills, David Stanhope, Carl Vine and Martin Wesley-Smith. More details and samples on the AMC website.

West-Australian Kynan Tan has released a new album of his electronic music. Raetina is available as CD and download through Listen/Hear collective.

Awards, scholarships, commissions

Joseph Twist has received the Brian May Scholarship for Film Composition - a scholarship to the value of $80,000, allowing an Australian to study for a Master of Musical Arts in music theory and composition, scoring for film and multimedia at NYU Steinhardt, New York (more information about the scholarship).

A recording of Julian Yu's piano album The Young Person's Guide to Composition: Variations on the theme of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star has won the 2011 Record Geijutsu Academy Award (Contemporary Section). Released on the Fontec label, Yu's informative, humorous guide to musical composition takes the simple theme from Mozart's early piano variations and presents it in many different styles from species counterpoint to classical harmony; from Minuet to Habanera; and from Bach via Schoenberg to the present day. Each variation shows a different compositional idea or technique - watch and listen to Michael Kieran Harvey play an extract of the work in the style of Schoenberg, Webern and Berg (Youtube).

Andrew Ford has been much preoccupied with anniversaries. Having just completed a centenary march, The First Hundred, for the Brisbane Excelsior Brass Band, he is now embarked upon a third string quartet for the 40th birthday of the Brodsky Quartet.

APRA's Professional Development Award 2011 winner Alex Pozniak is writing a new work for the first Composit festival - a new summer festival in July for composers of new music, held in Rieti, Italy, and led by the spectralists Tristan Murail and Joshua Fineberg. For more information about Composit, see the festival website. Pozniak is also intending to take part in the Darmstadt international composition courses this coming July.

Liza Lim has been invited to be one of the 13 founding members of a new Akademie der Kunste der Welt in Cologne. This 'Academy of the Arts of the World' is a new cultural model funded by city of Cologne, bringing together artists, theorists and writers from every continent. The Academy will be officially launched in October.


Brett Dean's music was covered extensively in London during the BBC's 'total immersion' day in March. Among the works performed were the award-winning violin concerto The lost art of letter writing and Dean's more recent orchestral score Fire Music. The Guardian's Andrew Clements wrote in his review (19 March): 'The concerto underlines Dean's remarkable ability to take precisely what he needs from the music of the past and forge a totally personal idiom from it. In Fire Music, the evocation of the Australian bush fires that devastated parts of the state of Victoria in 2009, there are echoes of Stravinsky (Firebird, Rite of Spring), but the energy and sweep of the music, its moments of mystery and menace and the way in which flickering instrumental groups around the auditorium mimic how such conflagrations spread, are vividly original.'

Luke Styles's new score for solo cello, commissioned for the emerging choreographers' program by the Royal Opera House, was described by the Guardian's Sanjoy Roy as being 'packed with tonal and dynamc variety' (the Guardian, 24 February). His new wind quintet, Shimmers, received a very detailed review by Andrew Miller in the Berkshire Review (23 February). 'The equilibrium of dynamics and timbres and the play off the instruments' overtones makes it something of a performer's piece, the music sounding beyond the pitches that can be written down conveniently on the page, even if there are no real characteristic solos or passages written separately and specially for any of the instruments in the ensemble', Miller wrote.

Elsewhere on the internet

The MusicNSW website has interviewed Daniel Blinkhorn, a finalist of the 2012 APRA Art Music Awards in the Excellence in Experimental Music category. 'What's interesting for me is that, whilst I have studied at a number of universities, the work I'm now doing is probably the last thing I ever imagined I would be doing, and is something I didn't study formally!' said Blinkhorn.

A video interview with Cat Hope has been made available by RealTime Arts. The interview covers some of Hope's own work and her background, then focuses on her recent initiative, the new music ensemble Decibel: 'I'd been working in the university environment for a few years, and I felt quite marginalised as an improviser and a noise musician, I suppose, so I decided to build a group which drew together all my interests, and lots of different styles of work', Hope explains in the interview. 'So the membership of Decibel was really important. So my idea about music that kind of supercedes an idea of genre was really important, but I also wanted people in the group that had different kinds of backgrounds...'. Decibel's activities in April include involvement in the 'The Cage in Us' John Cage festival in Brisbane, as well as three further concerts in 2012. For more information, see the ensemble's website.

Jazz-planet.com has talked to Mike Nock about his recent Trio Plus CD Hear and Know, in which his trio with James and Ben Waples has been expanded with the addition of a trumpet and a saxophone. 'Having two horn players allows me to think orchestrally but still enables me to play with the flexibility I so enjoy with the trio format, particularly with these two exceptional musicians, as both Ken [Allars] and Karl [Laskowski] hear and respond to everything that is going on in the music.'

Stephen Crittenden revisits Lyndon Terracini's Peggy Glanville-Hicks Address in his second article for the Global Mail on the subject of 'What is opera, anyhow?' (26 March). He writes: 'But it's all very well to blame Australian composers when new works fail to gain a permanent place in the repertoire. Perhaps it's closer to the truth to say that Opera Australia isn't a notable supporter of Australian composers, nor has it done much to promote an appreciation for contemporary music, so it's hardly surprising that audiences are turned off on the rare occasions when they are presented with something new and challenging.' Read also: 'What is opera, anyhow, part 1' (29 February).

Qantas has relented in the face of criticism by musicians, according to the Australian (29 February). The new 'musician-friendly policy' allows touring musicians to check in an additional item of luggage free and share luggage among band members. Meanwhile, in the United States, the lobbying of the American Federation of Musicians has resulted in the Congress passing legislation that creates a national policy regarding musical instruments on aeroplanes. See also Jon Rose's earlier jeremiad on Resonate blog, and the Musicians Union's reaction in the UK.

The Australian Music Centre connects people around the world to Australian composers and sound artists. By facilitating the performance, awareness and appreciation of music by these creative artists, it aims to increase their profile and the sustainability of their art form. Established in 1974, the AMC is now the leading provider of information, resources, materials and products relating to Australian new music.


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