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12 March 2024

Robert McIntyre: Recipient of the Dorian le Gallienne Composition Award

Robert McIntyre Image: Robert McIntyre  
© Rudi Lorimer

Robert McIntyre has been named as the recipient of the 2023 Dorian Le Gallienne Composition Award, presented by the University of Melbourne.

The prize was awarded for Robert's 2023 work, Our Duty to Care, a song cycle for soprano and piano trio. The piece was inspired by a legal case, 'Sharma v Minister for the Environment [2021] FCA 560'. A composer and a legal student and practitioner, Robert shared with us significance and relevance of this case on his music and outlook:

"Prior to, but especially through studying my Juris Doctor, I knew I wanted to compose about legal moments, concepts and issues - so when the Sharma litigation occurred, it really captivated me. I also have always and continue to be inspired by nature and the climate crisis in my artistic practice, so the groundbreaking event of eight children and an octogenarian nun claiming a duty of care owed by the Minister for the Environment for future generations of Australians struck me and really got me thinking. This case was also the first time in legal history where all climate change data submitted remained uncontested by both sides, establishing it as legally real in the Courts. Making this fact spotlighted and more accessible to broad audiences (for both legal and non-legal minds) became my main mission, because despite its later appeal of the novel duty of care, this monumental Australian case sent ripples internationally, while also catalysing local proposed legislation by ACT Senator David Pocock and climate activist Anjali Sharma as we speak."

"Exploring three key facets of my identity, music, law and climate advocacy, in one composition was as thrilling as it was confronting," he continued, "as I felt I was putting a lot on the line. But my Wattle Fellowship and the incredible artists I collaborated with made this sort of risk-taking supported and possible, and enabled me to push my creative practice in new innovative ways that I now cannot wait to build upon. We often quickly move on from headlines in the news, but art creates a deeper legacy - so I wanted to use my fellowship, this composition, my regular collaborator Savanna Wegman's incredible text, and my two concert curations [so far], to ensure greater accessibility, visibility and continuation of what the Sharma litigation kindled."

The Award is named in memory of Dorian Le Gallienne, a Melbourne composer who taught music composititon at the Melbourne Conservatorium between 1954 and 1960, and is presented biennially. For Robert, the award came at a special time:

"The Dorian le Gallienne Composition Award is incredibly valuable to me, not only for its recognition and the commission provided by it, but also for the amazing legacy of composers I get to be a part of. Seeing previous composition teachers of mine, being the prolific Katy Abbott and Stuart Greenbaum, and inspiring colleagues such as Lisa Cheney, as past recipients, instils a great deal of gratitude and confidence in myself and the direction in which my compositional practice is going. I am incredibly grateful to the selection committee and especially being the 2023 recipient for Our Duty to Care is personally quite special to me."

The Award is presented as a commission to create a new chamber work. When asked about his plans for the new work, Robert outlined the creative decisions that lay ahead of him, hinting at a continuation of themes of the climate crisis:

"I am still pondering my options as the awarded commission's only criteria requires 'a substantial chamber work' within 18 months, but know that I want to compose for 4-6 instruments, such as a string quartet or mixed chamber ensemble, and have a few incredible ensembles in mind of who to hopefully collaborate with once I decide. Conceptually, I have recently been deeply thinking about a climate crisis related idea regarding the state of our skies when bushfires burn from a distance, and the naivety we might hold when viewing them. There is a cautionary, beautifully harrowing duality of a sunset-lit sky, painted with the textures and colours of a distant bushfire that I wish to musically explore - contemplating the emotions associated with my own dawning reality of what one meant after I took many 'aesthetic' photos at different stages of the night - before, during and after realising what they meant."

Find out more about Robert McIntyre.
Read more and find scores and parts for Our Duty to Care through the AMC catalogue.

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