31 July 2007
Some Musical and Sociological Aspects of Australian Experimental Music
© Warren Burt
Experimental music has played a huge role in shaping the history of Australian new music. Warren Burt’s comprehensive overview of Australian experimental music from 1963 to 1993 (originally published in Sounds Australian, No. 37 1993) provides enormous insight into the aesthetics, problems and political climate of this time. With artists continuously pushing the boundaries of music and sound, the genre has evolved significantly in the 14 years since Burt wrote this article. Yet practitioners – and the community as a whole – still seem to be battling with many of the issues that Burt discusses. And one can’t help notice that the current political climate isn’t exactly helping matters…
Introduction and definitions
That this article may largely be a litany of names needs no apology. This is the first attempt to survey a rather large field and, as such, I feel it should be as inclusive and as non-evaluative as possible in order to point the way for future researchers. Further, since much of the music I will discuss here has decisively broken with the notational traditions and conventions of Western music, conventions which imply as much sociologically as they do musically, it becomes doubly urgent that this music becomes documented as soon as possible. We no longer have the luxury of perusing scores at leisure. Scores, for the most part, if used at all in this music, form such a minor part of the activity that relying on them for either documentation or evaluation would be largely erroneous. Audio and video recordings form a more valuable form of documentation, but even these are subject to vagaries of time, space, and dislocations of context.
Experimental musicians...are intensely aware of the history and aesthetics of the field...and usually view their work as a conscious attempt to extend and redefine elements of that tradition.It is important to define carefully what is meant here by ‘experimental music’. Like all definitions, this one is heavily dependent on context. If I were a young black musician in Harlem in the early 1940s, would harmonies of the flattened 5th and incredible virtuosity with altered scale passages – bebop – constitute experimental music for me? I think they would. If I were to deal with these same materials in Australia today, could they be experimental? Probably not, but I’m waiting to be proved wrong. By looking at seven ideas of experimental music from different times we can perhaps get a clearer idea of what we can, and cannot consider as experimental activities.
One of the classic, and earliest, definitions of experimental music is, of course, Cage’s (Cage 1961). His idea of music the outcome of which cannot be predicted in advance dates from the early 1950s, and forms the basis for much experimental music activity up to the present day. Michael Nyman’s 1975 book Experimental Music, (Nyman 1975) takes a mostly Anglo-American look at the subject, and defines rather carefully the difference between two areas of activity he calls ‘avant-garde’, which he relates to Boulez’s beliefs, and ‘experimental,’ which he defines in relation to Cageian and post-Cageian practice. In New York at this time, this same distinction was referred to as the ‘uptown-downtown’ split, with ‘uptown’ denoting composers of the avant-garde and ‘downtown’ those of a more experimental bent. To some extent, Nyman’s distinction still holds, though some of the pastiche and quotational ideas he described as experimental have since become the basis for the contemporary reactionary neo-romantic style. A different tack is taken by Trevor Wishart in his 1985 book, On Sonic Art, (Wishart 1985) where he talks about the difference between scribal, i.e. written musics, and oral musics, which may or may not use notation, but where notation is not the principal means of realising or preserving the work. Wishart’s ideas are fascinating and important, and deserve much thought and discussion. Kenneth Gaburo, in his 1971 The Beauty of Irrelevant Music (Gaburo 1976) is more technical, and inclusive, when he says experimental music,
explores such phenomena as electronics, lasers, computers, kinetics, perception, notation, biological feed-back, linguistics, environments, meditation, timbre, acoustical resources, serious communication, artificial intelligence, sound-touch, awareness, and silence.
Experimental music today to a large extent still works in most of these fields, although not all work in these fields can be considered experimental. Much ‘new age’ music, for example, uses electronics, lasers, computers and environments, but in its attempts at producing a commercially usable, easy to listen to product, seems to depart significantly from what might be called the experimental attitude. This questioning, exploratory attitude is summed up by Herbert Brun when he says ‘We’re interested in the music we don’t like, yet,’ (Brun 1986) and is echoed by Chris Mann who says ‘experimental music is not a problem-solving environment (that’s commercial music), but a problem-seeking environment’ (Mann 1988). Larry Polansky, in notes to a 1986 concert, gives his idea of one kind of experimental attitude when he says of his music,
so it is difficult to perform (and perhaps to listen to) because it intentionally avoids anything we might traditionally associate with notions of drama, entertainment, or even artistic form. Those things which it does are very important to me for my own evolution, though occasionally I don’t understand the results of my own ideas (Polansky 1987)
However, some experimental music very clearly works with notions of ‘drama, entertainment, of even artistic form’, so Polansky’s thoughts can only partially cover the field.
In fact, to define a field which is as wide-ranging and sometimes conceptually anarchic as experimental music requires a similarly wide-ranging non-exclusive definition. A series of ANDs, if you will. One might say that experimental music is a combination of leading edge techniques and a certain exploratory attitude that places a high value on the integrity of the exploration of the idea as a good thing in itself. In this light, experimental music in 1993 could encompass such areas as Cageian influences and work with low technology and improvisation and sound poetry and linguistics and new instrumental building and multimedia and music theatre and work with high technology and community music, among others, when these activities are done with the aim of finding those musics ‘we don’t like, yet,’ in a ‘problem-seeking environment.’ To write a neo-romantic theatre piece using samplers for performance by amateurs in a community setting would probably not be an experimental music activity today, not because all the areas under consideration (neoromanticism, sampling, community music making) have already been fairly thoroughly explored, but rather because the attitudes of those involved would most likely be aimed at producing a pleasing product rather than producing problematic new knowledges and situations to deal with.
The Australian situation has given its experimental music certain characteristics. Three of these are
- Experimental music in Australia usually sets out to develop its own contexts, as opposed to working with already established musical contexts, and these new contexts are developed in such a way as to be appropriate to the ideas embodied in the music.
- Experimental music in Australia is socially and politically concerned. Experimental musicians tend to think carefully through implications of their placings of music into certain contexts, and tend to give their ideology a large role in the shaping of both the music and its environment.
- Experimental musicians in Australia are intensely aware of the history and aesthetics of the field, both locally and internationally, and usually view their work as a conscious attempt to extend and redefine elements of that tradition. It would be highly unlikely to find an experimental composer in Australia today who would refuse discussion with a rejoinder such as ‘Well, you know, I don’t think much about those things, I just write music.’
Grainger and Melbourne 1963-1972
The earliest musical experimentation by an Australian was probably done by Percy Grainger. Throughout his life, his work with ‘free music’ was frankly experimental, a delving into unknown and at the time, physically impractical, musical techniques. His work with engineer Burnett Cross in the late ‘40s and ‘50s probably forms the earliest coherent body of musical experiment undertaken by an Australian. However, Grainger’s experiments took place in the USA, mostly in his home in White Plains, NY, and dissemination of the results of his work in Australia have been extremely slow and piecemeal, such that composers who have been clearly extending some of the principles of Grainger’s work have, until recently, been largely unaware of his activities (Cross 1989).
Perhaps the earliest body of experimental musical work carried out in Australia took place in Melbourne between 1963-1972 with the activities of the Robert Rooney, Barry McKimm, Syd Clayton trio. The history of this group is more completely documented by John Whiteoak, in his history of Melbourne improvisation, and this summary of their activities is based on his work (Whiteoak 1989). In 1963 trumpeter Barry McKimm was a member of the Heinz Mendelson Quartet, a group heavily influenced by Ornette Coleman’s free improvisational work. Soon after this, McKimm was joined by Robert Rooney (piano) and Syd Clayton (bass), and occasionally by Peter Webster on reeds and Barry Quinn on drums in performances consisting largely of free improvisation. Rooney, a visual artist as well as a pianist, introduced the group to the ideas of John Cage and also to notions of graphic notation, and in 1964 the group performed his Synops, a graphic score. From 1966 to 1970 the group moved away from its jazz orientation and into work with large improvising ensembles. In 1969, for example, Jean-Charles François conducted an improvising orchestra in a graphically noted score of McKimm’s. Syd Clayton’s work assumed a more and more theatrical bent, and between 1969 and 1972 he produced fourteen theatrical works at La Mama theatre in Carlton, many of which showed heavy Cageian influence and which crossed boundaries between music, theatre, and ritual. Of the members of this group, only Clayton continues to be involved in experimental musical activities, in work which exhibits a striking and elegantly ‘minimal’ approach. The others have gone on to careers in the visual arts, education, or community music making.
Another notable event in Melbourne in this period was the return of composer, conductor, and pianist Keith Humble from Paris in 1966. Humble had run an alternative performance space, the Centre de Musique, in Paris, and brought back many ideas both of an avant-garde and an experimental nature from Europe. Through his work at Melbourne University, he was responsible for training a number of Australian composers, and his Society for the Private Performance of New Music at Melbourne University gave a number of performances of both avant-garde and experimental works (Whiteoak 1989). From 1974 to 1990, Humble was the Head of the Music Department at La Trobe University, which has continued to be a centre for training of Australian composers, even though in recent years the department has lost much of the experimental edge it had in its early days. [The music department at La Trobe University closed at the end of 1999 - Ed.] Humble’s own work spans the range from his Sonatas, expositions of classical avant-garde techniques, to his probing and exploratory work with electronics and improvisation in the group KIVA, which continues to the present day. Humble, in fact, disagrees with Nyman’s avant-garde/ experimental dichotomy, preferring his own belief that a ‘complete musician’ should fluently express himself in all of the currently used compositional idioms and modes of thought. Another member of Kiva is French percussionist Jean-Charles François, who was invited by Humble to join him at Melbourne University, and, from 1969-1972, taught there and was highly influential in the development of the next generation of experimental composers. As well, a number of other musicians in Melbourne were active in this period, principally working with electronic music. Four of these were the late Stephen Dunstan, who, in addition to his work in pop groups, produced wonderfully eccentric and fantastic sound sculptures using home-made electronics; Dr Val Stephen, a physician who composed electronic music as a hobby; Bruce Clarke, whose jingle workshop may have been the first user of musical electronics in Australian commercial music, and who improvised and performed in Felix Werder’s sometimes experimental ‘Australia Felix’ group for a number of years; and Ian Bonighton, who produced a number of striking works at the Melbourne University studios.
In Sydney, the start of an indigenous interest in experimental music was marked by the return of David Ahearn, fresh from working with Karlheinz Stockhausen and Cornelius Cardew, in 1969. I am indebted to Greg Schiemer and Ernie Gallagher for much of the information that follows (Gallagher 1989, Schiemer 1989).
In 1969, Ahearn approached Joseph Post, then head of the New South Wales Conservatorium, for permission to set up a series of experimental concerts and workshops under the auspices of the conservatorium. Extreme resistance from faculty members inside the conservatorium, however, resulted in Ahearn transferring the series to the Boilermaker’s Hall, under the auspices of the Workers’ Education Association, a Sydney adult education organisation. From 1969-1972, Ahearn was the co-ordinator of A-Z music, an organisation run along the anarchic lines of Cardew’s English Scratch Orchestra. A-Z music gave regular performances, and was a clearing house for many experimental ideas both within music and across media. Among the members were Ahearn, Robert Irving, Greg Schiemer, Ernie Gallagher, Peter Evans, Dierdre Evans, Phillip Ryan, Roger Frampton, Geoffrey Barnard, choreogapher Phillipa Cullen, video artist Ariel, flautist Geoffrey Collins and others. One notable performance of the group was the world premiere, in 1970, of Paragraph 4 of Cornelius Cardew’s magnum opus, The Great Learning. In 1972, Teletopa, a free improvisation quartet derived from the A-Z membership, performed at the International Carnival of Experimental Sound (ICES) in London. The personnel in this group were Ahearn, Collins, Frampton, and P. Evans. At this time, according to Schiemer, a rift developed between what he called the ‘professional’ and ‘amateur’ wings of the group. This led to its breakup over a two-year period between 1973-75, though, even in this period, the group continued to be influential, with young composers such as Carl Vine, Cameron Allan and Allan Holley joining its ranks in 1973, and regular performances of the community-based free-improvisation oriented Sunday Ensemble occurring throughout this period. By 1975, Ahearn’s personal problems resulted in the demise of the group. Ahearn publicly produced little more after this, and died early in 1988.
The scene in Melbourne between 1972-75 was marked by the emergence of several composers who would continue to play major roles in the emergence and acceptance of experimental music in Australia. Repelled by the continuous and bitter in-fighting that marked the Melbourne branch of the ISCM [International Society for Contemporary Music], a number of younger composers and performers banded together to form the New Music Centre. Instigated by Chris Mann, whose major interest was in the area between language and music, the early membership included such people as Dan Robinson, Ron Nagorcka, Peter Mumme, Simon Wettenall, and Jeremy Kellock. The group was to fare no better than the ISCM in terms of internal placidity. Despite this, it produced weekly concerts over a two-and-a-half year period in a variety of venues, and managed, briefly, to set up Melbourne’s first public access electronic music studio. Also active at this time was NIAGGRA, the New Improvisation Action Group for Gnostic and Rhythmic Awareness, which was active between 1972-74 and gave a number of performances mostly at La Mama theatre in Carlton. The personnel of the group consisted of Ian Wallace, Jeremy Kellock, Simon Wettnal, Bruce Woodcock, Dan Robinson, Steve Martin and occasionally Chris Mann. Of this group, Wallace, Kellock and Wettenal eventually abandoned experiment in favour of a bebop virtuosity of the most traditional kind. Woodcock continued along an experimental path, plagued by health problems, until his death in 1982, while Robinson and Mann remain as forces within the Australian compositional community. In 1974-5, Nagorcka, Mann, Wettenal, and Kellock all left Melbourne for various overseas destinations, and both the New Music Centre and NIAGGRA collapsed. By all accounts, this was a period of high energy and extreme rancour, and, one day, one of the participants should record its events. One of the more interesting outcomes of the era was the lessons it taught Ron Nagorcka about ways not to manage an alternative venue, and these were lessons he put into practice on his return to Australia in 1975 in setting up the highly successful Clifton Hill Community Music Centre (Althoff 1989).
In 1975, I arrived in Australia (on the same plane as Ron Nagorcka, who I had met and become good friends with in the US) to take up a teaching position in the Music Department of La Trobe University. At the University of California, San Diego, Nagorcka evolved the principles on which he, along with myself, bass player John Campbell, and others, would found the Clifton Hill Community Music Centre. The principles on which CHCMC was successfully run were:
- No money would ever be charged to an audience (thus they couldn’t say they hadn’t gotten their ‘money’s worth’); no money would ever be paid to composers or performers; no equipment would be supplied. (In the last few years of the centre this was modified – in order to cope with a nominal rent charge, an admission charge of $1 was requested). Advertising was to be mostly by word of mouth or by very inexpensively photocopied posters. The removal of economics from the music equation was viewed to be of supreme importance in setting up a space with a truly alternative set of values.
- Access to the space was to be completely open. Anyone who wanted to perform was welcome to. No restrictions were placed on style or content. All one had to do was phone up the co-ordinator and a date would be arranged.
- The centre was to be anarchically run. One person elected, or was elected to be the co-ordinator. They were responsible for allocating the performance times, opening and closing the building and allocating the minimal publicity jobs. When one person tired of the co-ordinator’s job, they passed it on to another person. In this way, a sense of continuity and adapting to changing needs was built into the Centre.
...the music critic has ceased to exist as a meaningful entity for the Australian experimental musician...The Centre ran for seven years, giving five or six seasons of six weekly concerts each year. It served as a training ground for many younger composers, and as a scene of focus and ferment for much of the experimental music activity in Melbourne. The co-ordinators of the Centre were, in chronological order, Ron Nagorcka, myself, David Chesworth, Robert Goodge, and Andrew Preston. A listing of composers who performed at the Centre would read like a who’s who of the younger generation of Melbourne composers, but out of this list, Ernie Althoff, Graeme Davis, Brophy and Chesworth could be selected as examples of four very different composers for whose development the Centre proved crucial. For all of its history, the Centre survived without government funding of any kind. It received its first grant for operating expenses in 1983, just after it had closed its doors. None of the participants in the Centre, who felt it had served its purpose and it was now time to move on to other activities, felt that receiving government funding was any reason to continue the existence of an organisation which had run its course, and the money was returned. This is perhaps an example which many other organisations in Australia could take to heart.
The period 1975-80 was a very active one in the Australian arts in general, and the Melbourne experimental music scene was filled with an extremely diverse range of activities. Although CHCMC was, in a very real sense, one centre of activity, it was only one of a number of venues. In early 1976, Barry Conyngham, Nagorcka, myself, Les Craythorn, Jim Sosnin, and John McCaughey produced the Gardens and Galleries international electronic music festival, a two-week event at the Why Not theatre and the Student’s Church, Carlton. Electronic and computer music continue, to the present, to be major areas of activity at both Melbourne and La Trobe Universities. In 1977, LIG, the La Trobe Improvisation Group, evolved out of music department improvisation workshops, and in 1978 the group evolved into LIME, Live Improvised Music Events, whose membership included Ros Bandt, Nicholas Tolhurst, Julie Doyle, Gavan McCarthy, and Carolyn Robb. LIME’s orientation was mostly minimalist, with occasional forays into theatre. Over ten years it gave a large number of performances both in Australia and overseas, and recorded several albums for the RASH and MOVE labels.
In 1977 John Campbell founded the New and Experimental Music Show on Community Radio Station 3CR. At the time, one of increasing Australian nationalism, 3CR had a policy of 50% Australian music content. Most Melbourne composers of new music of whatever persuasion (avant-garde, experimental, crossover pop, etc.) were broadcast on the show. This helped establish a higher public profile for new music in general, and helped to legitimise the activity of experimental musicians by placing their work within the broader context of new music activity.
A series of live radio forums were organised for the ABC at the Waverley Theatre, East Malvern, by Felix Werder. These featured performances by a group of musicians that later evolved into Werder’s own group, Australia Felix, a group which experimented with graphic notation, improvisation, and an often misunderstood radical reinterpreting of the role of the traditional score. Werder, like his generational colleagues Humble, Tristram Cary and James Penberthy, never really fully embraced the experimental aesthetic, but felt free to move in and out of it as his needs demanded. The full history of this remarkable musician, whose career has spanned most of the styles of the late 20th century, has yet to be written. Like Humble, Cary and Penberthy, he ain’t dead yet, and we can be sure of continuing evolution from these four composers, the only four senior Australian composers who have consistently maintained elements of an experimental outlook throughout every stage of their careers.
La Mama also remained a centre for new music performances in the late ‘70s. New music performances were given there by Chris Mann and myself (Syntactic Switches 1977); electronics and percussion performances by David Tolley, Dure Dara and friends; and multimedia events by Chris Knowles, James Calyden and David Wadelton; among others.
At the Victorian College of the Arts, British migrant Richard David Hames ran the Victorian Time Machine, a student-based new music ensemble which gave performances of many experimental works, and his work and the work of James Fulkerson, an American trombonist/composer, who was a frequent guest at the College, greatly influenced a number of younger composers, such as Sarah Hopkins, Les Gilbert and Herbert Jercher.
Some of the flavour of this era can be gained by looking at the three issues of the New Music Newspaper, (Burt & Gilbert 1977-78), a publication put out by Les Gilbert and myself in 1977-78 funded at first by La Trobe, and later by Melbourne University. A breezy, chatty publication, its aims were, again, to cover the new music scene across the board, exposing the variety of activity occurring with as little stylistic bias as possible. Of greatest value to the historian are the lists of events in each issue, which provide many details as to names of performers, venues and pieces performed.
Other senior figures and radio
Mention was made earlier of Adelaide composer Tristram Cary, a British migrant to Australia in the early ‘70s. Cary, even more than Humble or Werder, is the senior Australian composer who has been most consistently involved with experimental ideas and techniques for most of his life. One of the pioneers of electronic music from the 1940s up until the present day, his work has spanned the gamut from work with closed groove phonograph loops and test oscillators in the ‘40s, up to working with mainframe and personal computer systems in the 1980s. As well, a number of his instrumental works result from experimental methods. A notable example of this is his orchestral work Contour and Densities at First Hill, which is based on tracing salient elements of photographs of the landscape of the Flinders’ Ranges onto score paper, and then orchestrating the results.
The computer work of James Penberthy must also be mentioned here. Penberthy’s experiments with computer assisted composition in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s mark the first use of computers in Australian composition. Penberthy’s work, like Werder’s, deserves a study of its own.
During this period as well, experimental music began to make its first significant impact on national Australian radio with the setting up of the nationwide ABC-FM network. In its first years of operation, ABC-FM was incredibly adventurous. One of the leaders of this spirit of adventure was Andrew McLennan, whose weekly show, 360 Shift, not only gave wide exposure to overseas experimental music, but also commissioned works from a number of Australians as well. Soon after its opening, ABC-FM became much more conservative, but producers such as McLennan, Jaroslav Kovaricek, and others, fought an heroic battle against stiff management opposition, usually with some degree of success, in keeping experimental drama, music and radio work very much alive on Australian radio.
Much of the energy, and many of the new developments in Australian music seem to be the result of migrant musicians, or of Australians returning home after extended periods overseas. In this regard, the activities in Sydney in this period are no exception. The arrival in Sydney of American composer Bill Fontana in 1976 marks just such a turning point. Fontana, at the time married to Australian choreographer Nannette Hassall, plunged into his new life in Sydney with incredible energy, organising events and stimulating performance of all kinds. In late 1976, for five months, he ran a Sunday afternoon performance series at the Recording Hall of the Sydney Opera House. Music, dance, performance art events all took place on this series, with both local and interstate performers. After the series proved too adventurous for the Opera House management, it was moved for a while to the Institute of Contemporary Art, at 1 Central Street, a private gallery run by Paul McGillick. Fontana’s Small Spiral, for Japanese rin gongs, was premiered during this series of events, as was my own music theatre piece, Stalin, for reader and three cassette recorders, as well as works by Greg Schiemer and a number of other composers. As well, the Central Street Gallery played host to a number of international performers, among them John Cage. Fontana’s work included a number of sound sculpture installations in most of the Australian State Galleries, and a number of live and taped radio events. It is largely due to his efforts, in fact, that sound sculpture has the profile it does in Australia today. By the time of his leaving Australia in 1979-80, his activities had very thoroughly planted conceptual art based thinking into the centre of the Australian experimental tradition.
Other composers were also very active in Sydney at this time. Rising from the ashes of A-Z, Greg Schiemer emerged as an organiser of events of great vision and energy (Schiemer 1977 and 1989). His Ashes of Sydney Festival, in 1977, was an afternoon and evening long event that took place on a ferry boat and at selected locations all around Sydney Harbour. The mix of events included folk and experimental musics, dance, performance art, magic, and various other environmental events. Schiemer’s own description of the event in the New Music Newspaper shows very clearly the sprit of diversity and just plain fun that marked the event. Again, the event was put on without funding of any sort. Schiemer has continued to be a central figure in the Sydney music scene to the present.
Another figure who has been central to Sydney music is Martin Wesley-Smith. His work, frequently with Ian Fredericks, in the group WATT, has provided an ongoing focus for their own and others’ work in electronics and multimedia. Of special interest are the environmental events Wesley-Smith staged with sculptor/film-maker George Gittoes at Wattamolla Beach in the Royal National Park. Wesley-Smith’s work has not always been experimental. A large part of his work consists of very traditional musical theatre, but it is his experimental work, along with his teaching at the New South Wales Conservatorium (where Schiemer also teaches) that has probably had the biggest impact on the Sydney scene.
Another migrant who had an enormous impact, first in Sydney, then later in all of Australia, was British violinist, improviser, composer and instrument builder Jon Rose. Rose’s indefatigable energy established free improvisation as a major component of Australian experimental music. His enormous impact on the scene is as great, if not greater than Fontana’s. Over a ten year period (1977-86), he organised numerous performances, several national and international tours with both local and overseas musicians as part of his ‘Relative Band,’ founded and kept going Fringe Benefit Recordings (now defunct), whose catalogue forms an invaluable document of Australian improvisation in those years, and gave encouragement to many younger Australian musicians. Worn down by economic pressures, and a consistent lack of what he regarded as adequate response to his efforts, Rose left Australia for Holland in 1986, where the economic climate and the level of artistic feedback were more conducive for him.
Also of note in this period are the early activities of Flederman, a group founded by Carl Vine and trombonist, composer and improviser Simone de Haan. The early Flederman events always had a very careful mix of avant-garde virtuosity and experimental performance but they evolved into a mainstream avant-garde virtuoso group until their disbanding in the late ‘80s (De Haan 1989).
Experimental music activities since 1980
By 1980, experimental music was firmly entrenched as a major part of Australian composition. In the period from 1980-85, activity was so widespread and consistent that a city by city approach would prove fruitless. Indeed, experimental music had left its Melbourne/Sydney origins and now was occurring in every capital city, and a number of country centres. Despite the lack of official support, experimentalism, as a musical way of life, had established itself.
In Melbourne, the evolution of CHCMC continued. Leading figures in this period were Brophy, Chesworth, Preston and film critic Adrian Martin. Under Brophy’s and Chesworth's leadership, the magazine New Music (Brophy & Chesworth 1980-82) attempted to extend the principles of CHCMC to the print media.
The magazines form an indispensable document of the period, with a number of Melbourne writers and composers joining in Brophy’s ‘have a go’ attitude, to produce a variety of kinds of dialogue.
Two events in the early ‘80s were indicative of experimental music’s increasing recognition by the mainstream Australian musical establishment. These were the 1981 Victorian Ministry of the Arts sponsored International Music and Technology Conference, held at Melbourne University, with auxiliary events at the Victorian College of the Arts and CHCMC, and the 1983 Paris Autumn Festival, which featured performances by nine Australian composers. The IMIC had many performances, papers and presentations, but the events which had the greatest impact were the experimental ones. Sound sculptures by Stephen Dunstan, Dan Senn, myself, Ros Bandt and Les Gilbert; performances of Love is a Beautiful Song by Graham Davis and Ernie Althoff; Way Back Beyond by Herbert Jercher; Seven Rare Dreamings by Ron Nagorcka and Ernie Althoff; and Snodger Lip Lap by Chris Mann and myself proved to be the most memorable events of the conference and served notice to the musical establishment that here was a new generation of composers with a unique and forceful identity.
Recognition of the achievements of this group was made internationally by the Paris Autumn Festival in 1983, when, at the invitation of Festival Organiser Josephine Markovits, a crew consisting of Chris Mann, Ron Nagorcka, David Chesworth, Ros Bandt, Sarah Hopkins, Leigh Hobba (an Adelaide-based composer now living in Hobart, known for the elegance of his environmentally based works), Jon Rose, Martin Wesley-Smith and myself travelled to Paris and performed at the Centre Pompidou, and later, in smaller groups, in a number of other locations in Europe and America. In addition, Philip Brophy’s work was included in the multimedia section of the visual arts component of the Festival.
This was also a time of increased presence for experimental music on radio. In Sydney, Alessio Cavallaro and Rik Rue produced major experimental radio performance series for 2SER and 2MBS. Cavallaro’s cntmprr ydtns series provided a major forum for live radio work, and the publication of tapes of these programs, in the sets Men of Ridiculous Patience and Lunkhod, served to distribute the work around Australia and internationally.
Perhaps the major effort in commissioning original works for radio in this period came from the Public Broadcasting Association of Australia’s 1983 ‘Composing for Radio’ and 1986 ‘Hear/Now’ series. Instigated by me, these series involved commissioning original works for radio from fourteen composers or groups, eight in 1983, and six in ’86. Funded by the Music Board of the Australia Council and produced in ’83 by myself and Simon Britton, and in ’86 by Britton alone, the series resulted in new works by Vineta Lagzdina, Les Gilbert, ‘tsk, tsk, tsk’ (Philip Brophy 1980-82), IDA (Nagorcka, Althoff and Davis), Ros Bandt, David Chesworth, visual artist Aleks Danko and myself in 1983; and Elwyn Dennis, Rainer Linz, Sue Blakey, Peter Mumme, Alistair Riddell, and Herbert Jercher in 1986. These works were then broadcast Australia-wide on the PBAA network of stations.
Experimental music will continue to remain peculiarly resistant to absorption by the musical establishment.Also of great importance during this period was the founding of NMA Publications by Rainer Linz and Richard Vella. Vella’s later very important work in experimental music theatre took him to Sydney, where he became a major influence, leaving Linz to be the prime mover behind the organisation which has become the major source for writing and recordings of Australian experimental music. The journal, NMA (New Music Articles) (Linz 1981), the NMA tapes label, and occasional other publishing, such as Chris Mann’s The Rationales and John Jenkins’s definitive book 22 Contemporary Australian Composers (Jenkins 1988) has made Linz and NMA an indispensable part of Australian contemporary music.
Experimental music is (musically) in a very healthy state. The amount of activity happening across the country is too much for any one individual to track. Some small funding opportunities have also emerged, and, more and more, the music seems to be finding recognition and a series of small places in society. The following is a brief mentioning of some recent pieces I regard as among the most significant results of the current work.
Some of the most interesting ideas have been presented in recent creative uses of radio. Among these might be mentioned Chris Mann’s The Blue Moon Project. Blue Moon involved soliciting over 100 versions of that hoary old standard from pop, folk, amateur, art, and experimental musicians and then having them broadcast, one each day, at the same time each morning, on the light entertainment channel of the ABC. The project provided a framework for a day by day comparison of musical evolution that was quite hilarious, surreal and bizarre by turns. It also played quite outrageously with the idea of ‘radio formats’ and upset not a few people in radio management with its frequent violations of their sacred ideas of ‘radio entertainment’.
Time and time again, during this period, the ABC proved itself malleable to new ideas, if problematic in their implementation, realisation and continuity. Currently the ABC is once again encouraging experimental work. Producers such as McLennan, John Crawford, Paul Petran, Stephen Snelleman and Roz Cheney are commissioning and producing a number of extremely interesting and innovative radio compositions, such as the 1989 Prix Italia winner, Jim Denley’s Collaborations.
Another extremely creative use of radio as a performance medium was the Concert on Bicycles staged by Greg Schiemer in Canberra in 1983. A concert of monophonic electric tape pieces was prepared for broadcast on Canberra community station 2XX. This was broadcast on a pleasant afternoon, while members of the public were invited to join in a bicycle ride around Lake Burley Griffin, each carrying a transistor radio on their bicycle. The phase shiftings and multiple doppler effects that resulted from the many single mobile sound sources, which were heard differently by every single participant in the event, whether mobile or stationary, formed an essential part of the music.
Rainer Linz’s PBAA – commissioned radio piece The Opera Crossed Purposes, was also one of the major works produced during this period. He wrote it in the form of a documentary radio program, where the announcer described the action of an opera with a revolutionary political libretto and played examples from it. The difference here was that the ‘opera’ did not ‘really exist’ except as this radio show. All the arias were elegant ‘fakes’, made by having two singer friends improvise in operatic style with found opera texts to tape loops taken from the existing orchestral repertoire. That this form of artistic production is indeed as ‘real’ as any other is not to be denied, but what is charming about Linz’s piece is the way it challenges the conventions of operatic thinking, singing, writing and presentation.
Central to experimental musical thinking has been the search for new vehicles of presentation for this music. New ways of musical thinking demand new instruments, new modes of presentation. Composers were extremely active in the field of instrument building during this time, and Issue 9 of the Australian Music Centre Journal had a large article by me surveying the field as of 1985 (Burt 1985). Described in the article were the music machines of Ernie Althoff, percussive devices activated by turntables; the Alemba, a set of tuned bass triangles made by Moya Henderson; Colin Offord’s gigantic mouth bows; Ros Bandt’s clay and glass instruments; Herbert Jercher’s educational sound sculptures; Greg Schiemer’s Tupperware Gamelan, community electronic instruments; Sarah Hopkins’s work with cut tube Whirlies (Hopkins 1990); Rodney Berry’s work with electronically resonated tube instruments; Jon Rose’s many fantastic violin and cello like instruments; and my own work with constructing oversize tuning forks and semi-intelligent electronic performing instruments. Of the work that continues in this field, two current examples might be mentioned which continue, almost directly, the line of investigation begun by Percy Grainger in the early ‘50s; Rodney Berry’s Percy’s Laundry Organ and Ernie Althoff’s Bamboo Orchestra. Berry’s sculpture involves a washing machine, homemade organ pipes, a vacuum cleaner, and the wringer of the washing machine used as a drive for a thick sheet rubber loop used as a player piano type roll. The washing machine is partially filled with water, such that the ends of the organ pipes are submerged. When placed into operation, the vacuum cleaner provides air for the pipes, which are activated by the rotating rubber roll, and the sloshing of the water in the machine tunes the pipes, providing the gliding tones Grainger was so fond of. A wonderfully madcap contraption, Berry’s sculpture provides a loving and smiling tribute to Grainger’s work. The elegance and timbral refinement of Althoff’s Bamboo Orchestra brings a new level of sophistication to musical sculpture in Australia. The form the sculptures take is similar to Althoff’s other turntable and cassette recorder driven designs, but the choice of using only one sounding material, bamboo, and the numerous clever and sophisticated ways this material is used, place this work of Althoff’s clearly into the front rank of musical sculpture, worldwide.
Just as not all experimental music does not involve electronics, so, too, not all electronic music is experimental. Among those composers whose recent work with electronics does partake, to a greater or lesser degree, of an experimental aesthetic, are Rik Rue, who has emerged as a major force in the Sydney compositional scene over the past few years; sculptor, environmental activist and composer Elwyn Dennis; Schiemer, whose work with interactive computer-based performance devices continues; David Worrall, who is investigating the applications of fractal mathematics and chaos to computer music, and whose ‘Dome Project’ is providing a portable unique performing environment for electroacoustic music and multimedia; Ian Fredericks, Martin Wesley-Smith and Graeme Gerrard, who are all investigating high-end synthesis on personal computers; Alastair Riddell, whose work with algorithmic composition and computer controlled pianos is clearly among the most interesting work being done in Australia today; Ernie Althoff and Rainer Linz, who continue to produce elegant work using very low budget technology; and my own electronic work, which explores interesting nether grounds between algorithmic composing, interactive processes, improvisation, timbral and polyrhythmic investigation and good-natured bad taste. My 84-minute long Samples III for Computer Processed Orchestral Sounds which I write about in NMA number 6 (Burt 1989), is a good example of recent Australian work involving electronics.
Recent efforts in music theatre worth mentioning are Brothers, a play and music by Syd Clayton, which continues Clayton’s extremely refined and minimalistic theatrical work of the early ‘70s; the many theatrical productions of Richard Vella; David Chesworth’s video opera, Insatiable, made up almost completely of musical found objects; the theatrical presentations of the Pipeline ensemble, founded by Simone de Haan, which became an extremely important part of contemporary music making in Australia in the 1987-89 seasons; the dance/music presentation Skysong by composers Sarah Hopkins and Alan Lamb, choreographer Beth Shelton, and dancer Ian Ferguson; Dialogue of the Angels, a dance/music collaboration between composer Caroline Wilkins and choreographer Susie Fraser; and the 1988 Arena theatre production of The Rainbow Warrior which featured music and dance collaborations between Andrée Greenwell and Darrell Pellizzer.
Environmental musical interaction is, of course, one major field of experimental music, and some of the more interesting efforts in this field have been Leigh Hobba’s video compositions of Tasmanian rivers; Les Gilbert’s installations of environmental sounds and images; Alan Lamb’s continuing investigations of aeolian music produced using very long wires; Syd Clayton’s nine-hour keyboard composition, Lucky Number (a gradual deceleration to one short note every three minutes and back again, where the notes become ripples spreading through the environmental sounds) performed in February ’88 at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art Melbourne; Ros Bandt’s Aeolian Harps project for the Red Cliffs, Victorian community; Ron Nagorcka’s recent elegant tape compositions using environmental sounds, Lovregana and Soundscapes from Wilderness; my own Responses and Compressions, a radio work commissioned by the ABC involving members of Pipeline interacting with various environments; and the collaborative radio Bicentennial-commissioned radio soundscape Words and Sounds in the Australian Landscape composed by Les Gilbert, Walter Billeter, Kris Hemensley, Chris Mann and myself.
Chris Mann’s recent works in compositional linguistics are an extremely important contribution to world contemporary music. His 1988 of course is a major work, a merciless harangue of the bankruptcy of contemporary business ideology, set electronically by him and myself. Two other figures who continue to make unique and powerful voice-based poetic musics are Jas H. Duke and Amanda Stewart. Duke, in his early 50s, is one of Australia’s major poets, and his sound poetry performances form a direct historical link with the Dada performances of Kurt Schwitters and Raoul Hausmann. Stewart, in her early 30s, has refined performance poetry techniques to a point of musical refinement equalled by few.
Improvisation continues to form a major part of experimental music in Australia. Some of the leading practitioners of this art are Jim Denley and Rik Rue, both individually and as part of the group Mind/Body/Split in Sydney; vocalist, composer, and improviser Josephine Truman; Colin Offord, whose folk-based improvisations on unique instruments have great charm; the work of the Evos music group in Perth, including composer/improvisers Ross Bolleter, Nathan Crotty and Tos Mahoney; and, in Melbourne, a number of groups of younger performers, such as the Melbourne Improvisers Association, GongHouse, and the Shrieking Divas are trying out a variety of improvisational practices in a number of different venues.
Interactivity is a term very much in vogue in arts criticism these days. Two recent Australian experimental music projects which exemplified this were Fair Exchanges-Hear the Dance-See the Music, a five-way collaborative music-dance project involving composers Ros Bandt and myself, and choreographers Sylvia Staehli, Jane Refshauge and Shona Innes, using inventor Simon Veitch’s 3DIS video-to-MIDI interface (Burt 1990); and the performances at the 1989 Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, Austria, which featured specially commissioned interactive works from Rik Rue, Jim Denley, Amanda Stewart, electronic sculptor Joan Brassil, Chris Mann, David Chesworth, Les Gilbert, Alan Lamb, Ross Bolleter and myself (Bechtloff, ed. 1989).
In Melbourne, currently, the three leading arenas for the presentation of experimental music are the Linden concerts, presented at the Linden Gallery, the St Kilda City Arts Centre, by Brigid Burke and myself; the concerts of the Melbourne Improvisers Association, which has evolved into one of the major presenters of improvised music in the country; and the events of the Australian Computer Music Association, led, until 1992, by Graeme Gerrard. In Sydney, two events of note are the founding of the Tall Poppies CD label by Belinda Webster, which has featured experimental work by Roger Frampton, Roger Dean, Jim Denley and others; and the activities of the group Machine for Making Sense, with Chris Mann and Amanda Stewart, voices, Jim Denley, winds, Stevie Wishart, strings, and Rik Rue, electronics. In Perth, the Evos group has evolved to become one of the major presenters of new music in the country, presenting a wide-ranging program of concerts and events. A higher public profile for experimental music has been recently given in a number of festivals of experimental art, such as the 1991 Sounds Culture festival in Sydney, the 1992 Third International Symposium on Electronic Art (TISEA), Sydney; and the 1990 and 1992 Experimenta festivals in Melbourne, sponsored by the Modern Image Makers’ Association. Internationally, Australian experimental music was represented by The White Room a ten-day-long installation at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Warsaw, as part of the 1992 ISCM World Music Days. This installation was by Vineta Lagzdina, Ros Bandt, Ernie Althoff, Alan Lamb and myself. Finally, we note with sadness the death of Melbourne sound poet and improviser Jas H. Duke, in 1992, one of the truly outstanding voices in contemporary Australian sound arts.
In all of this activity spanning a quarter of a century, one notices several things. First, there is always a sense of ‘do-it-yourself’ about the music and the composers. There is also a sense of being outsiders to the musical establishment. Of all the wings of the Australian establishment and media, only radio seems to have recognised the continuing existence of the experimental side of Australian composition and consistently supported it. Most of the music has also been done, until recently, on either no, or a very restricted, budget. This has profoundly affected its aesthetic. In addition to fostering an ethic of affordability in the material used to make the music, it has also fostered an identification with the problems of poverty in the composers. The experimental aesthetic in Australia has evolved a position where, largely, its composers feel the music should be democratically available to both poor and rich alike. The idea of a new music concert as an $18 a ticket middle class amusement would be repellent to most of the composers included in this survey. The sense of being outsiders is also fostered by those institutions which have been receptive to the music. Since the time of Rooney, McKimm and Clayton, visual arts institutions have generally been more receptive to experimental music than have musical institutions, although this acceptance has generally occurred when having sound events in galleries suited the purposes and fashion consciousness of the current curators. More than once, a change of curatorial interest has meant the exclusion of one group of composers or another from gallery performances. These outsider conditions have fostered a social and sometimes overtly political conception of musicians and their role and an analysis of how social conditions affect one’s role and how one reacts to those conditions. For experimental musicians here, the question has not been ‘how does one fit oneself to the existing institutions,’ but rather, ‘how does one try to change the institutions to fit one’s needs’, or even, ‘how does one make one’s own institution?’
This, despite the sustained high level of activity, also highlights many of the difficulties currently faced by Australian experimental music. It is largely ignored by the press. Faced with a lack of any critic in Australia who has both an understanding and a sympathy with the aesthetic, the music critic has ceased to exist, by and large, as a meaningful entity for the Australian experimental musician. The same can also be said of the musicological community. Nearly all the historical writings on Australian experimental music are by the composers themselves, or by sympathetic non-musicians, such as John Jenkins. The efforts of Australian musicology are largely irrelevant to the concerns or the issues raised by their experimental colleagues. The commissioning policies of the various incarnations of the Australia Council have consistently shown themselves uncomprehending of the nature of musical experiment. What assistance there has been has largely had to be obtained by showing how the music conformed to the ‘Gebrauchsmusik’ ethic of the various and changing commissioning policies. Promotional bodies, such as Sounds Australian (formerly the Australian Music Centre) have often been bewildered as to how to promote this music, which often does not produce the hard copy of scores and hi-fi recordings they are best equipped to deal with. Experimental musics proposing that each piece proposes its own context and its own modes of judgement has largely been misunderstood, when not rejected outright, by the gatekeepers of the musical bureaucracy. Then too, the attrition rate among experimental musicians has been enormously high. This is perhaps understandable when one considers that Australian society is extremely conformist and materialist. Producing a non-conformist music for very little material gain in such a society has often been too difficult a task for those initially attracted to it.
One should not be overly pessimistic, however. The situation, at least in some cases, is slowly improving. Whether these improvements are permanent or temporary remains to be seen. In summary, I would like to make four speculations on the future of Australian experimental music.
- I believe that experimental music today is the leading edge of Australian musical thinking, and will probably remain in that position for a number of years. It pushes ideas, both new and old, farther and examines the social implications of musical acts in a way that other groups of Australian composers are just not willing or able to do.
- Experimental music will continue to remain peculiarly resistant to absorption by the musical establishment. Quite simply, if one makes work which questions the viability of an institution, usually that institution will be little inclined to show the work. And this lack of absorbability may be one of the music’s strong points. A recent cautionary tale might be the decline of the adventurousness in the New York postmodern dance scene which occurred in almost direct relation to the absorption of the work by the American and European dance establishments.
- Paradoxically, much experimental music has become, and will continue to be a bit of a popular artform. Consider the extremely experimental work presented on the popular ABC-FM Andrew McLennan/Roz Cheney produced Listening Room program, or the approximately eight million visitors who participated in assembling my computer-music interactive sound sculpture in the Sensus technological playground at Expo 88 in Brisbane, or the many composers in the community projects that have involved experimental composers such as Herbert Jercher, Ros Bandt and Sarah Hopkins as cases in point. This mode of public interaction may indeed prove to be a more fruitful avenue for exploration than the established musical institutions, which are yearly becoming less and less relevant to the needs of the society around them.
- However, the very nature of musical experiment will mean that it will always, to some degree, remain an outsider’s music. Consider the careers of the four composers over the age of 60 discussed in this paper, Keith Humble, Felix Werder, Tristram Cary, and James Penberthy. They remain the four senior composers in Australia whose work has been least absorbed in the current bout of Australian nationalism, and this lack of absorption has been in direct proportion to their involvements in experimental thinking. Other factors can also account for this, of course, but the linking of working with experimental ideas and a lack of establishment acceptance, even for composers such as these, is strikingly clear.
The recent rise of various conservative styles and performing groups shows very clearly that there are still plenty of composers who are willing to not challenge sociologies of musical behaviour and continue the line of conservative academic 20th century musics. But Australian experimental music continues to develop its own identity – more politicised than its North American counterpart, and less accepted as a part of a ‘fringe’ than in Europe. A concept of historical parallelism is developing in Western classical music, of which experimental music is forming both one of the branch streams and one of the major sources.
Althoff, E. 1989, ‘The Clifton Hill Community Music Centre: 1976-1983’ New Music Articles, vol. 7 pp. 39-43.
Bechtloff, D. (ed.) 1989, Kunstforum International 103 which contains articles by Warren Burt, Andrew McLennan, Amanda Stewart, David Chesworth, Heidi Grundmann, Jon Rose, Allan Lamb, Jim Denley/ Rik Rue, Sally Couacaud, Joan Brassil, and Peter Callas about Australian participation in the 1989 Ars Electronica.
Brophy, P. (ed.) 1980-82, New Music (5 issues), tsk, tsk, tsk, Melbourne.
Brun, H. 1986, The quote is from a conversation with the author. More of Brun’s writing can be found in Brun: My Words and Where I Want Them. London: Princelet Editions, 1986.
Burt, W. 1985,‘Instrumental Composition’ Australian Music Centre Journal, vol. 9 pp. 3-5, 14-15.
_____ 1989, ‘Sample III for Computer Processed Orchestral Sounds’ New Music Articles, vol. 6 pp. 7-14.
_____ 1990, ‘Fair exchanges’ Writings on Dance, vol. 5 pp. 38-44
Burt, W. & Gilbert, L. 1977-78, The New Music Newspaper (3 issues), La Trobe University and Melbourne University Unions, Melbourne.
Cage, J. 1961, Silence, Wesleyan University Press, Middletown.
Cross B. 1989, ‘Collaborating with Percy Grainger’ New Music Articles, vol. 7 pp. 3-4.
de Haan, S. 1989, ‘Flederman - a retrospective assessment’ New Music Articles vol. 7 p. 27-29.
Gaburo, K. 1976, The Beauty of Irrelevant Music, Lingua Press, Iowa City.
Gallagher, E. 1989, ‘AZ Music’ New Music Articles, vol. 7 pp. 9-14.
Hopkins, S. 1990, ‘Whirly Instruments’ Experimental Musical Instruments, vol. VI,3 pp. 11-13.
Jenkins, J. 1988, 22 Contemporary Australian Composers, NMA Publications, Melbourne.
Linz, R. (ed.) 1981, New Music Articles (10 issues to date), NMA Publications, Melbourne. Issue no 7 of this journal is entirely devoted to an oral history of Australian Experimental Music with articles by Burnett Cross, Helen Gifford, Ernie Gallagher, Geoffrey Barnard, Jon Rose (as Igor Lipinski), John Whiteoak, Simone de Haan, Greg Schiemer, Ernie Althoff, Ron Nagorcka, and Caroline Wilkins.
Mann, C. 1989, Conversation with the author. See also The Rationales, NMA Publications, Melbourne.
Nyman, M. 1975, Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond, Dutton, London.
Polansky, L. 1987, Buy One for Spare Parts, Frog Peak, Oakland.
Schiemer, G. 1977, ‘The Ashes of Sydney present The Ashes of Sydney Festival’ The New Music Newspaper, vol. 2 pp. 14-16.
_____ 1989, ‘Towards a Living Tradition’ New Music Articles, vol. 7 pp. 21-26.
Whiteoak, J. 1989, ‘Interview with Keith Humble’ New Music Articles, vol. 7 pp. 21-26.
Wishart, T. 1985, On Sonic Art, Imagineering Press, York.
John Jenkins’s 22 Contemporary Australian Composers has excellent discographies covering much Australian experimental music up to 1988. The following is a selected discography of some Australian experimental recordings released since then.
Althoff, E. 1990, Music for Seven Metal Machines. Cassette. Pedestrian Tapes (Sydney) PX037.
Althoff, E. 1992, Thirty More. Cassette. Ernie Althoff (Burnley).
Anthology of Australian Music on Disc vols 4,5,6,13. One compact disc each volume. Canberra School of Music CSM: 4,5,6,13. 1989 (volume 4 has among others, works by Riddell and Gerrard; volume 5, Worrall, Tahourdin, Cary and others; volume 6, Burt, Milsom, Althoff, Mann, Mumme, Chesworth; volume 13, de Haan, Schiemer, Wesley-Smith and others).
Austral Voices. Compact disc and cassette. New Albion Records (San Francisco) NA028. 1990. (works by Bandt, Burt, Hopkins, Riddell, Bolleter, Pressing, and Lamb)
Bandt, R. 1989, Stargazer. Compact disc. Move Records ( Melbourne) MD 3075 and Vox Australis VAST 0042.
Best Seats in the House! Cassette. NMA Publications (Brunswick) 1991. (with improvisations by Salmon Chanted Evening, Hazeldine, Freeboppers, Rose, Shrieking Divas, Bent Metal, Johnson, Campbell and Leak, Puppenspiel, Back to Back Zithers, Althoff, Committee Band, Musiikki-oy, Beavitt and Dargaville, Cogan and Everleigh, Burt and Lagzdina, Kim Farbach Quartet and Zocchi).
Bolleter R & Ratajczak, R. 1990, Jinx. Cassette. Pica Press (Perth) Audio 1.
Burke, B. & Zocchi, R. 1992, My Favourite Sonata. Cassette. Sounds and Visions (Elsternwick).
Burt, W. 1990, Chaotic Research Music. Cassette. Scarlet Aardvark (St Kilda).
Burt W. 1992, Some Kind of Seasoning (The Demo Tape). Cassette Scarlet Aardvark (St Kilda).
Coates, B. 1991, 31 Note Music3 Cassettes. Bill Coates (Blackheath).
Contemporary Australian Piano, Larry Sitsky. Compact disc. Move Records (Melbourne) MD 3066. 1988. (has recordings of Humble Sonatas 1 and 2.)
Denley, J. 1992, Dark Matter, Compact disc. Tall Poppies (Sydney).
Denley, J. & Vennonen, K. 1989, Time of Non Duration. Compact disc. Split Records (Sydney) 002.
From the Pages of Experimental Musical Instruments, vol.5. Cassette. Experimental Musical Instruments (Nicasio) Vol V.
Gilbert, L. 1991, Kakadu Billabong. Compact disc. Natural Symphonies (Camden).
Hazeldine, R. 1992, Alter. Cassette. Red House (Burnley).
Hopkins, S. & Lamb, A. 1990, Sky Song, Compact Disk and Cassette. ABC Records (Sydney) 838-503-4.
Jackson, R. 1992, Marine Lives. Cassette. Robert Jackson (Burnely).
© Australian Music Centre (2007) — Permission must be obtained from the AMC if you wish to reproduce this article either online or in print.
Subjects discussed by this article:
- Ros Bandt
- Percy Grainger
- Robert Rooney
- Barry McKimm
- Syd Clayton
- Keith Humble
- Ian Bonighton
- Stephen Dunstan
- David Ahern
- Geoffrey Collins
- Roger Frampton
- Greg Schiemer
- Chris Mann
- Ron Nagorcka
- Bruce Woodcock
- Dan Robinson
- David Chesworth
- Felix Werder
- Richard David Hames
- Tristram Cary
- James Penberthy
- Bill Fontana
- Martin Wesley-Smith
- Jon Rose
- Carl Vine
- Simone De Haan
- Philip Brophy
- Ernie Althoff
- Sarah Hopkins
- Richard Vella
- Rainer Linz
- Rodney Berry
- David Worrall
- Rik Rue
- Elwyn Dennis
- Alistair Riddell
- Alan Lamb
- Amanda Stewart
- Jas H. Duke
- Jim Denley
- Warren Burt
Warren Burt is a composer, performer, instrument builder, video artist, sound poet, and writer. After almost 30 years in Melbourne, he moved to Wollongong in 2004, where he is now a research fellow at the University of Wollongong and also teaches audio engineering at the Illawarra Institute of TAFE.
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