The annual Peggy Glanville-Hicks Address was delivered in Sydney on Monday 14 November, presented in conjunction with the announcement of the Paul Lowin Prizes. Presented live, this year’s speakers were the pre-eminent didgeridoo player, composer, instrumentalist and vocalist William Barton and music educator and researcher Dr Anita Collins who spoke of the importance of First Nations culture and music education as central topics in Australian new music discourse.
William Barton’s address was grounded in his Kalkadunga heritage and the importance of country in his music-making. Barton pointed to new music as a reinterpretation of the lullaby of the land as inclusivity and collaboration with First Nations musicians increases in contemporary classical music communities,
“At the very pure and organic heart of our Australian landscape, we too have our own symphonies of this land and existence of the land and songlines of our ancestors and our bloodlines, which flow through the veins of our rivers and waterways. Whether it’s dry or full, the spirit is always there in that river hole, you know? So, it’s up to us to connect to country, to become in tune and to sing it up,” Barton said.
With a diverse career across classical and contemporary music, Barton acknowledged the influence of First Nations cultures and songlines in his practice, as well as musicians such as Slim Dusty, AC/DC, and Swedish electric guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen.
Dr Anita Collins’s Address was a powerful testament to the impact of living Australian composers on the education and learning for young people. She recounted inspiring stories of working with composers Sean O’Boyle and Dan Walker in delivering meaningful music learning experiences by putting young students at the forefront of the compositional process.
From these experiences, Dr Collins said, “I learned that there is no one path, but many. I learned that in the same way that I help my students create their own selves, new music creates our collective selves. I learned that education is ultimately experience and that the educational process of bringing new works to life is actually the most important thing that I can do for my students.”
Dr Collins emphasised the parallel roles of living composers and music educators on the learning, livelihood, and community for young Australian students.
The Peggy Glanville-Hicks Address is an annual forum for ideas relating to the creation and performance of Australian music. Established in 1999 by the New Music Network in honour of one of Australia’s great international composers, each year, an outstanding advocate of Australian music delivers the address, challenging the status quo and raising issues of importance in new music. Since its founding, the address has developed into a landmark event in the Australian new music scene. The Australian Music Centre took on the custodianship of this important event in 2018.
Image credit Maria Boyadgis.