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Popular music


Pop music Influences in Australian Music

Boundaries between art and popular music have always been porous, producing Machaut motets, Haydn scherzos and Ravel concertos. The relationship depends on the temperament of individual composers and on prevailing fashions; doctrinaire mid-century modernists, for instance, had no use for references to any other kind of music, while in these more pluralist times, popular idioms have been used to assure conservative audiences that composers and musicians are on their side. It also offers a certain street cred: The Australian Chamber Orchestra, alone of all its peers, has a ‘lead violin’. Gerard Brophy and Michael Smetanin have explored samba and hard rock in some of their most important works; Ian Munro cultivates the tango while Elena Kats-Chernin has a thing for rags.

Other composers who cultivate contemporary popular idioms in works for the concert hall include Carl Vine, whose Knips Suite (originally a dance score for string quartet) parodies various things, including disco. Most of Graeme Koehne’s orchestral music from the 1980s on has had a close relationship with popular music from rhumba to Stevie Wonder. Younger composers have embraced more recent popular genres: Matthew Hindson likes techno for its ‘unpretentiousness’; Andrew Batterham and Stuart Greenbaum compose for ensembles that welcome instruments from the popular sphere.

Representative Works

  Work Notes
Homage to Metallica (1993) by Matthew Hindsonwas composed for the 1993 National Orchestral Composers’ School.
Oom pah pah (1996) by Martin Wesley-Smithwaltzes, grooves, slinks and meditates – cabaret-style.
Go! (1998) by Andrée Greenwellrefashions pop idioms for orchestra.
Drum and bass (1999) by Andrew Batterhamis an ‘exploration of techno/hip-hop drum and bass tracks, rendered acoustically for humans to play’.
Powerhouse (1993) by Graeme Koehneis an homage to Raymond Scott’s famous toon tune.
Shadows and light (2004) by John Petersonthis work for soloists, choir and orchestra channels several different popular musics.

Broader categories of Popular music