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24 June 2020

Living Music Report 2020 - Major Performing Arts organisations under scrutiny

Living Music Report 2020 - Major Performing Arts organisations under scrutiny

A new quantitative survey about music programming by Australia's major performing arts organisations in 2019 finds that Australia's diverse culture is not reflected in concert programs presented by our largest music organisations. The Living Music Report, written by composer and educator Ciaran Frame, found that, out of all flagship programming by the major orchestras and Musica Viva, 19% of works were written by living composers, 9% were written by Australian composers, and only 3% by female composers. The proportion of works written by CALD (culturally and linguistically diverse) and First Nations composers was 0.45% and 0.05% respectively.

Despite the growing awareness about female composers' work in general, the survey found that Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and Mozart all individually featured more times than all female composers combined. Living male composers featured more prominently, the average year of birth for a composer was still 1843, and the average year of composition for a work was 1885.

According to the report, governments invested $113.6 million in Australia's Major Performing Arts (MPA) Organisations during the 2018-19 financial year. They received 61% of the Australia Council's funding as well as a significant proportion of state government funding.

The report summary states:

While MPAs are guided by well-established musical traditions and audience preferences, a bigger conversation is needed about what role our Major Performing Arts Organisations play in advocating for and providing diverse experiences. The Living Music Report was created to spark dialogue and provide quantitative evidence for future discussions. It is the start of a conversation that continues with artists, performers, audience and communities. Where will these conversations take music next?

Data for the survey was manually collected, and the raw data is available for review and free use online. A musical work was 'counted' in this report every time it was played. Countable performances of music came from the MPA's main 2019 season, using program booklets and season brochures to individually document over two thousand performances across the calendar year.

The ensembles surveyed for the report were: Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, Australian Chamber Orchestra, Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Musica Viva, Queensland Symphony Orchestra, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra and West Australian Symphony Orchestra. Opera companies were not included in the survey even though they make up a large part of the MPA framework. The writer of the report states that the dataset to do with opera companies was too small to draw meaningful conclusions for the relatively short time period and the small number of works.

> The Living Music Report will be made available in its entirety on the website from Wednesday 24 June. See also an article in The Age (24 June 2020), including simple graphs with improved readability [article updated].

> For a longer perspective about the position of Australian music in concert programs, see for example composer, teacher and consultant Ian Whitney's Australian content website.


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