Peggy Glanville-Hicks Address
Peggy Glanville-Hicks Address is an annual forum for ideas relating to the creation and performance of Australian music. Named after the Australian composer Peggy Glanville-Hicks, it has been igniting debate and highlighting crucial issues since its establishment in 1999.
The 2021 annual Peggy Glanville-Hicks Address was presented on Thursday 4 November as a live-streamed panel event, featuring three musically diverse artists: ethno-jazz pianist and composer Zela Margossian, unconventional, tradition-challenging composer and percussionist Bree van Reyk, and singer, composer and improviser Sia Ahmad. The conversation was Auslan interpreted and moderated by ABC Classic's Vanessa Hughes. Listen/download audio of the whole event (MP3 file) and watch a 33-minute video of artists' opening statements on YouTube. Transcripts of these statements are available on this subpage.
2021 Peggy Glanville-Hicks panel: towards a sustainable future for artists
The annual Peggy Glanville-Hicks Address was presented on Thursday 4 November as a live-stream panel discussion with pianist-composer Zela Margossian, composer-percussionist Bree van Reyk, and singer, composer and improviser Sia Ahmad. Moderated by ABC Classic's Vanessa Hughes, the event took place at an important moment for musicians, with the challenging and stagnant pandemic existence slowly making way for a more open, yet largely uncertain reality. The reflections of the three panellists provide a stocktake of what the pandemic has meant for artists, and how they want to shape their creative futures. Listen/download audio of the whole event (MP3 file).
The panel had been given a broad brief to explore the diversity of our Australian music community through the lens of their own practice as creative musicians. Each artist gave an introductory speech which revealed that, while coming from very different parts of the art music community, the three had a lot in common and shared many formative experiences growing up as musicians. In Bree van Reyk and Sia Ahmad's case, these experiences even included growing up in the same geographical area and gravitating towards punk music and culture.
"My creative life is 100% tied to the DIY punk ethos and it's intrinsic to me as a human being too. I left that childhood bedroom to graft all over the continent, then the world, in the way that fits me best. I've spent years making the music that speaks closest to my heart and, through this process, I've been so lucky to find myself sitting within a community that finds equal space for myself, those who I looked up to and those still finding their feet in the creative world, all who I am lucky to call a friend", Sia Ahmad reflected.
In their introductory remarks, all artists touched on their experience of the pandemic period, acknowledging it as a greatly challenging time for the music industry and its practitioners. But they also saw it as a time for reflection, a possibility to step back and evaluate their own own work, to realise long-term projects - and, importantly, as a time for slowing down. This need to step back and slow down formed the central theme of Bree van Reyk's statement in particular.
"It's been a really difficult time for everybody, and when I think about what I want to do with music, it's what I want to do with myself and with my life - I need to be able to nourish myself, and others. And I'm trying to find more and more ways to do that through music, rather than just ploughing ahead with music - trying to nourish myself in other ways."
She quoted at length a blog article by Adrienne Maree Brown, taken by one of its central ideas of looking way beyond the busy present day:
"That question is, for me, how we'll make it through the rest of our lives. That's what I've been certainly thinking about it a lot. This time has shown me that I miss people, I miss making sound with and for people. I want to be slow and sustainable, I don't want to be busy any more."
This echoed the words Sia Ahmad had uttered some minutes earlier:
"Even before COVID lockdowns took hold, I had been taking a step back from the notion of 'career' to retrace my steps and arrive back at those formative discoveries and innocent dreams to guide me once again through my practice as a maker, facilitator, and mentor", Sia Ahmad said.
For Ahmad, the pandemic has in many respects been an active period:
"Through all the lockdowns and restrictions, I've been lucky to be working with stability in the arts sector while continuing to make and release albums during this time but, more importantly, I've been able to use my privileged position to continue engaging with those who inhabit this community and support them the best I can, be it through performance opportunities, professional development conversations or simple messages of reassurance that things will be better soon and better for the future as a whole", she continued.
Zela Margossian's experience of the COVID-19 pandemic had another, deeply personal dimension.
"Last year, also, in August, amidst the global pandemic, I witnessed my beloved Beirut, where I was born and raised, experience one of the most horrific explosions ever recorded in modern history. A month later, a part of my ancestral homeland, Artsakh, spiralled into a gruesome war. I was heavily burdened by extreme emotions of sadness, and I shared the sorrow of the Lebanese and Armenian people. However, through those difficult emotional times, I gained an important perspective. This, compounded by the COVID-19 situation globally, gave me a new outlook to deal with issues that I was facing. And through that realisation, I felt an immense gratitude; a gratitude of living in a country where I feel safe, where I never have to search for clean water, face food shortages and have access to a functioning health system, to name a few."
"This gave me the strength to continue and create. I realised that it wasn't only a matter of endurance but a time to reconnect with our passions behind our impulses to create, to appreciate what we took for granted and strengthen the relationships with musicians fostered during the challenging times", she said.
In her statement, and later as part of the panel conversation, Margossian analysed her own experience as an immigrant artist with a classical background, seeking to find a new direction through jazz, and the encouragement and acceptance she found in the Australian music community.
"Touching back upon gratitude, I would like to say thank you to each and every individual in the music industry who accepted me, who cared about me, taught me, supported me, and appreciated my music. That's why I consider myself lucky that I am a visitor on this exceptional land, my third home, and I am thankful and grateful for the beauty it offers me."
The ensuing panel conversation returned to these themes as well as discussing artists' careers, building blocks of an artist's identity, strategies for balancing work and life, making art and making a living, and mental health in a profession that requires a degree of solitude.
In her welcome words at the start of the panel event, Australian Music Centre CEO Catherine Haridy reaffirmed a commitment to continue building on the AMC's long legacy, while also finding new ways to engage with and support the art music community:
"Since March 2020, it's been an uncertain time, but indeed the pursuit of art has always been challenging and uncertain. I want to acknowledge our brave, wonderful Australian creators and the inspiration and comfort their music gives us all. I want to thank our members who have continued to support the organisation and the work our team undertakes every day with great pride. The AMC is a one-of-a-kind Australian not-for-profit advocating for all in the art music community. We hope to continue to do this, and more, as we traverse a new transformed creative space. And moving forward does not mean letting go of our history. We will build on our legacy of commitment to our vital, living Australian Music collection, and the artists that create it", she said.
The Peggy Glanville-Hicks Address is an annual forum for ideas relating to the creation and performance of Australian music. Named after the Australian composer Peggy Glanville-Hicks, it has been igniting debate and highlighting crucial issues since its establishment in 1999.
> You can listen/download an MP3 file of the full event.
With a rich and extensive background in Australian music, Sia Ahmad has been creating idiosyncratic sounds over the last decade and more. Using guitar, keyboard, voice and electronics, she works both as singer/composer and improviser, when performing solo, as Shoeb Ahmad, as well as collaborative projects. She has released a diverse range of original music while also working on sound design for dance/theatre, installation pieces and contemporary chamber composition, inspired by 20th-century avant-classical works, Indian raga form and minimalist electronic music. Her latest release, Facade, was released in early October 2021 on Provenance Collective label. She has performed throughout Australia, Japan, New Zealand, the UK and South Eastern Asia as a solo artist, and with acclaimed groups such as Sensaround, Spartak, Tangents and the Australian Art Orchestra. Parallel to her practice, Sia currently sits on the boards for Girls Rock! Canberra (as Chair) and the Australian Art Orchestra (as Director), and chaired judging panels for the 2021 APRA AMCOS/AMC Art Music Awards. Between 2018-2021, Sia was a member of both the Ministers’ Creative Council and LGTBIQ Ministerial Advisory Council for the ACT.
Born in Beirut, of Armenian heritage, Zela Margossian is a Sydney-based pianist, composer and ARIA-nominated musician who fuses the rhythms and harmonies of jazz and the discipline of classical with the beautiful melodies of Armenian and Middle Eastern folk music. Her debut album Transition, realised digitally on the Australian Art As Catharsis label, garnered favourable reviews, with the influential US magazine Downbeat calling it ‘…an entrancing and dazzlingly unique kaleidoscopic niche’, and Jazzwise (UK) referring to it as an 'exemplary album that is simultaneously heartfelt, authentic and wholly absorbing'. Zela was the AMC's inaugurual Artistic Associate in 2019, as part of a market development strategy for jazz, which allowed her the opportunity to travel to Jazzahead to expanding her horizons, leading to a connection to the international label Ropeadope, who will release Zela’s next album in 2022. In 2020, Zela’s quintet made its debut at the Sydney Opera House, and she was awarded an ABC commission for a collaboration with Sydney-based saxophonist Jeremy Rose, resulting in Visions of Nar, a project that premiered at the Joan Sutherland Centre. Zelea Margossian was selected, from a competitive international field, as one of the Creative Armenia Fellows – an opportunity from the Creative Armenia Foundation which led to a mentorship with extraordinary Armenian pianist and composer Tigran Hamasyan – an invaluable relationship as she prepares music for her quintet and the forthcoming release.
Bree van Reyk is a drummer, percussionist, composer and sound artist who makes unconventional and tradition-challenging performance works. Her music resides in the intersection between contemporary classical, indie-rock and performance art and is equally warm-hearted, celebratory, and focussed on issues of equality. Bree has been commissioned by Sydney Festival, Sydney Chamber Opera, Ensemble Offspring, Canberra International Music Festival, Marrugeku, Urban Theatre Projects, Performance Space, Sydney Dance Company, The Letter String Quartet, Shaun Parker Company, fashion designer Bianca Spender, AGNSW, GOMA and the MCA. Her performance career includes tours and recordings with artists such as Gurrumul, Paul Kelly, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Synergy Percussion, Ensemble Offspring, Holly Throsby, Sarah Blasko, Marcus Whale, Laura Jean, Sally Seltmann, Toby Martin, Darren Hanlon, Grand Salvo, Katie Noonan, Oren Ambarchi + Martin Ng, and Anthony Pateras. See also www.breevanreyk.com.
About the Peggy Glanville-Hicks Address
The New Music Network established The Peggy Glanville-Hicks Address in 1999 in honour of one of Australia's great international composers. In the spirit of Glanville-Hicks, an outstanding advocate of Australian music delivers the address each year, challenging the status quo and raising issues of importance in new music.
Managed by New Music Network from 1999 until 2018, the annual Address is now presented by the Australian Music Centre.
'We welcome the New Music Network handing custodianship of the Peggy Glanville Hicks Address to the Australian Music Centre, and take on this responsibility with great respect to the tradition established over the 20 Addresses delivered to date. Since its founding in 1999 (under the leadership of then NMN President Marshall McGuire), the Address has developed into a landmark event in the Australian new music scene. Peggy's return to Australia in the 1970s was facilitated by then AMC Director James Murdoch, who provided a role for her at AMC in developing a collection of music by Asian composers, so it is most fitting that the AMC's association with her can continue in this way', commented the AMC's CEO John Davis.
Speakers over the years have included leading Australian composers, performing artists, arts leaders and intellectuals from James Murdoch, Barry Conyngham and Liza Lim, to Julian Burnside, Jon Rose, Robyn Archer, Simone Young, Richard Gill, Kim Williams and Cat Hope. For a full list of speakers, please see below.
The Peggy Glanville-Hicks address is the single most important national forum for contemporary music discourse, which honours one of Australia’s great international composers and provides a platform to discuss important issues facing contemporary music today. The event is free and, in the recent years, has also included the announcement of the winner of the Peggy Glanville-Hicks Residency managed by the Australia Council for the Arts.
Peggy Glanville-Hicks Addresses to date
1999 James Murdoch
2000 Barry Conyngham
2001 Liza Lim
2002 Roland Peelman
2003 John Davis
2004 Julian Burnside
2005 Richard Mills
2006 Daryl Buckley
2007 Jon Rose
2008 Sandy Evans
2009 Robyn Archer
2010 Simone Young
2011 Lyndon Terracini
2012 Michael Kieran Harvey
2013 Genevieve Lacey
2014 Warren Burt
2015 Richard Gill
2016 Nicole Canham
2017 Kim Williams
2018 Cat Hope
2019 Deborah Cheetham
2020 Madeleine Flynn & Tim Humphrey
2020 Sunny Kim
A panel event featuring three artists: Zela Margossian, Sia Ahmad and Bree van Reyk
'To Dance with Our Others in Embrace'
By Sunny Kim
By Madeleine Flynn & Tim Humphrey
'All Music for Everyone: Working Towards Gender Equality and Empowerment in Australian Music Culture'
By Cat Hope
'I wonder as I wander
(The Digital Paradox: Paradise or Purgatory)'
By Kim Williams
'The Poetry of the Present'
By Nicole Canham
'A Case for New Music'
By Richard Gill
'Learning to Listen'
By Genevieve Lacey