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22 August 2018

2018 Art Music Awards - comments by judging panels

Percussionist Matthew Duvall (Eighth Blackbird) and composer Holly Harrison Image: Percussionist Matthew Duvall (Eighth Blackbird) and composer Holly Harrison  
© APRA AMCOS / Tegan Louise

It's the day after the 2018 Art Music Awards, and now that all winners have returned home to polish their gongs, it's a good time to take another look at all shortlisted works through the eyes of our judging panels. The following summaries have been provided by the judging panels for each category.

This year, we'd like to thank the following people for their time in judging the nominations: Adam Yee, Alexander Hunter, Andrew Ford, Ben Northey, Chris Williams, Dan Thorpe, Ellen Kirkwood, Gian Slater, Hannah Reardon-Smith, Helen Lancaster, Jessica Nicholas, Joel Crotty, Jonathan Zwartz, Jula Szuster, Karlin Love, Kate Lidbetter, Margaret Moore, Marshall McGuire, Matthew Lorenzon, Nick Shimmin, Nick Vines, Nicole Canham, Peta Williams, Peter McCallum, Phoebe Green, Raff Wilson, Rebecca Erin Smith, Rhod McNeill, Roz Cheney, Sarah Penicka-Smith, Sean Foran, Stephen Leek, and Vanessa Tomlinson. A special thank you goes to Siobhan Lenihan for chairing the Awards panels.

Jazz Work of the Year

Overall comment: A strikingly diverse field, stylistically broad with inventive use of instruments and exceptional playing. Each work was different and a pleasure to listen to. A demonstration that the concept of jazz is wide and the creative landscape for composers is in good shape. Small word, big umbrella.

Sandy Evans: rockpoolmirror. A masterful undertaking of music and musicians, with striking instrumentation. Evocative, varied, engaging, personal and hugely impressive.

Ellen Kirkwood: [A]part. Inventive and intricate writing, imaginative playing with varied textures and subtle harmonic shifts. The impressive line-up nailed this bold and complex work in live performance.

Johannes Luebbers: Opioid. The rhythmic interplay, sense of layering, incorporation of minimalism and thoughtful approach to use of featured instruments - special mention here for the oboe - contribute to this distinctive and successful work.

Matthew Sheens: American Counterpoint (winner). An original, beautiful work with outstanding collaborators. Matthew uses the inspiration of a horrific event to create art that is heartfelt, sincere and musically original.

Instrumental Work of the Year

Overall comment: The finalists emerged from a wide field, showing diversity of compositional aesthetic, a strength of Australian music. The panel applauds the many distinctive voices branching out from the mainstream of chamber and ensemble composition and instrumentation, communicating with clarity and strength. The panel was pleased with the strong showing by women composers.

Corrina Bonshek: Up in the Clouds. The composer imaginatively exploits the tone-colour combinations of the ensemble and uses extended techniques, sound decay and silence with striking effect. A strong command of the ensemble, both timbrally and formally.

Lisa Cheney: When We Speak. A strong piece from an emerging voice, a gorgeous exploration of colour and sound, seamlessly blending electro-acoustic elements, gesture, texture, line and text.

Lisa Illean: Cantor (after Willa Cather) (winner). The work shows extraordinary sensitivity to colour and timbre and creates an absorbing sound-world which lingers after listening. The writing is thoughtful, use of the ensemble and connection with the voice exquisite and the composer's assured and individual voice evident in the clear notation and direction for the performers.

Jakub Jankowski: Aspects of Return. A pocket rocket: creative and original sound, technically accomplished and refined, superbly written for ensemble and demonstrating a mature handling of the form.

Orchestral Work of the Year

Overall comment: The panel was pleased with the number of entries commissioned by Australian symphony orchestras, and to see youth and community orchestras among the performers. The panel commended the West Australian Symphony Orchestra and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra for their sustained relationships with local composers. A strong field, showing the development and international standing of younger and emerging composers whose work is stylistically broad. The panel would welcome higher representation of women composers.

Maria Grenfell: Spirals for clarinet, bassoon and chamber orchestra. The composer produces a full sound with smaller resources in this clear, well-written piece with great rhythmic drive - a welcome addition to the short concerto form. The panel enjoyed listening to the beautiful performance provided in support of the nomination.

Andrián Pertout: Entropia for symphony orchestra, no. 441. A beautifully crafted, well-notated, technically complex sound-world. The work uses strong, original musical language and its length suits the material. An enjoyable sonic experience.

Paul Stanhope: Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra (winner). A major concerto, with depth, outstanding technique and strong melodic sense. The use of the solo instrument and the way the piece is written sustain the listener's interest. The orchestration was excellent and the notation laid out in a way that assisted a successful performance. A serious addition to the repertoire, which deserves to be taken up in Australia and overseas.

Lachlan Skipworth: Spiritus. The composer's continued development is clear in his masterful use of texture, engaging sound-world, colours - especially in the string writing - structure and contrast. The orchestration, use of solo instruments and dynamic and tempo variation merit repeated performances.

Vocal/Choral Work of the Year

Overall comment: Each work in this diverse group inhabited a distinct and consistent harmonic world and showed skill in writing for the voice. Although there were fewer large-scale works this year, the panel was pleased with the breadth of composers, the variety of styles and of contexts - commissions from amateur and professional bodies - and the strong relationships between composers and performers. The panel was delighted that half the entries were by women.

Anne Cawrse: On Earth as in Heaven. Great writing for a cappella choir, demonstrating the composer's sophisticated understanding of the medium, as well as an individual compositional voice. The text setting is effective and the work is well written for singers who clearly enjoyed performing it.

Alice Chance: Fiat Lux: The Light Cycle. The work embodies the youthful vitality of an emerging voice. The composer balances the diverse vocal forces across the expansive length with great effect. A major piece at this stage of her career.

Mary Finsterer: Biographica (winner). The stark dramaticism of the vocal writing underlaid by vibrant orchestration made this the stand-out entry. The composer seamlessly integrates the worlds of baroque and contemporary music into a cohesive whole.

Andrew Ford: Comeclose and Sleepnow. This unusual and striking work contains clear markers of the composer's aesthetic in a jazz idiom. Although the work was clearly - and expertly - written for a particular voice, the flexibility in the vocal writing will allow performance by other singers. The text is foregrounded in a successful marriage of words and music.

Excellence in Experimental Music

Overall comment: The panel noted that the standard of entries overall was high with interesting work submitted from several parts of Australia. The panel was pleased to see interdisciplinary activities and artists from mainstream backgrounds extending their practice through new creative collaborations.

Chamber Made: Between 8 and 9 (Chengdu Teahouse Project) with lead artists Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey (winner). A particularly well-realised, intellectually and musically rigorous collaborative, contemporary performance installation. The work considers possible futures for Chinese music and opera. It demonstrated effective and sophisticated audience immersion.

Splinter Orchestra: new work, performances, exhibitions, concerts. This combination of serious, well-trained musicians engages with a particularly Australian low-tech aesthetic of found objects and made instruments. The ensemble emphasises site-specific performances and its membership shifts according to its context. It prefers collaboration to hierarchy.

Vanessa Tomlinson, Leah Barclay, John Ferguson: 100 Ways to Listen. A lovely initiative, documenting decades of music-making at the Queensland Conservatorium, exploring new technologies and examining the link between science and music. The panel applauded the project for engaging a new audience.

Eugene Ughetti: Assembly Operation. Well structured and musically very interesting. This is another work that speaks to a connection with Chinese culture, in this case starting with the one Yuan note. The work's visual component is strong but, even so, the sound stands on its own merits.

Excellence in Jazz

Overall comment: The field varied in its diversity, style, instrumentation and imagination, making the panel's job hard. The panel applauds the depth of collaboration with musicians from other countries and cultures; the pooling of skill sets and ideas places Australia internationally. The field presented established musicians tirelessly contributing to new Australian jazz music, re-imagining what jazz is and who plays it.

Barney McAll: Hearing the Blood. This well-produced album featuring world-class musicians and composition embodies Barney's innovation and diversity.

Sandy Evans: rockpoolmirror (winner). Sandy once again throws herself into innovative territory, making music in different and collaborative ways while stretching the definition of jazz. As with the best musical experimentation, this suite requires the listener to engage with and interrogate the material.

Jeremy Rose: recording, performance, composition, and promotion of contemporary jazz through Earshift Music. Creating a new label for new music these days is impressive. The panel commends Jeremy and Earshift for supporting excellent jazz and promoting adventurous albums by cutting-edge projects.

Alister Spence Trio: Not Everything but Enough. A strong concept exploring the blurry line between jazz and art music, and demonstrating the amazing creativity and communication among this trio.

Excellence by an Individual

Overall comment: The panel appreciated the diversity of activities demonstrated by the surprisingly small field, which included artists producing independently and with the support of an organisation. The panel was encouraged by the presence of emerging and early-career artists.

Connor D'Netto for outstanding artistic direction of ARGO during 2017. An impressive project in its entrepreneurship and vision. The panel applauds Connor's use of artists and ensembles from the Brisbane community and exploration of metropolitan spaces for the presentation of art music.

Keyna Wilkins for activities in original art music throughout 2017 as a composer-musician, including releasing three original albums. This imaginative and diverse range of performance and recording activities spanning musical genres demonstrate Keyna's collaborative approach to making art.

Carl Vine AO for 2017 activities (winner). High-profile activities nationally and internationally and through Musica Viva contributed to a stellar year for Carl Vine the composer, whose contribution to Australian music extends far beyond a single year.

Excellence in Music Education

Overall comment: The panel noted that the entries overall demonstrate how music education can encourage collaboration and connect meaningfully with the profession and the community in which it's situated.

Australian Art Orchestra for Creative Music Intensive and related symposium and concerts. An important Australian institution, epitomising innovative, professional and sensational cross-cultural involvement, providing high-quality mentors for young musicians and committed to authentic engagement with divergent cultures and pedagogy of the art of improvisation.

Melbourne Conservatorium of Music Wind Symphony for MCM Wind Symphony Performances. For promoting the exploration of Australian repertoire in symphonic wind music alongside the preservation of core repertoire through performing and touring activities.

MLC School, Sydney for MLC School Sydney Opera House Concert 2017 and associated learning. A model for schools nationwide considering serious engagement with composers and composition supported by excellent curriculum.

Young Music Society Inc for 50 years community youth music activity (winner). The Society embodies inclusivity, being accessible to anyone interested in music regardless of demographic, age or taste and ensuring everyone has an opportunity for a quality musical experience. The panel applauded the Society's sustained and valuable endeavours and the tremendous access and engagement afforded in a rural area.

Excellence by an Organisation

Overall comment: The entries provided an overview of the role organisations play in Australian musical life. The panel was impressed by the quality and diversity of the activities and noted many new and established organisations have built strong relationships with communities. The panel was excited by the ideas, passion and energy displayed by the field.

Australian Art Orchestra for collaboration, touring, mentorship and innovative programming. The diversity and breadth of the Art Orchestra's activities and international partnerships, particularly with artists in Asia, demonstrate the organisation's quality and creativity.

Gondwana Choirs for 'Songs of My Country'. A unique organisation of bold vision which changes the lives of the many young participants and fosters their lifelong involvement in music. This Gondwana project embodies quality collaboration and expands the possibilities of collaboration with Indigenous communities and traditional Western classical tradition.

Move Records for 50 years of recording and release of new music. A long-term achievement of tremendous significance to Australian culture. Martin Wright and Move have enabled artists to reach new audiences and, with modest resources and much personal effort, have taken Australian voices to the world.

Tura New Music for 30 years of presenting, producing, commissioning, exhibiting, publishing, advocating, and supporting Australian art music (winner). The panel celebrates Tura's collaboration with its communities, overcoming geographical boundaries to serve the entire state of WA. Outstanding engagement with Indigenous music and musicians, contemporary focus and evolution over decades are summed up by the words of Paul Grabowsky: 'This brave organisation represents an investment of infinite returns.'

Excellence in a Regional Area

Overall comment: A strong and diverse field, demonstrating quality and enduring impact. The panel was pleased to see a mix of emerging individuals making significant contributions, organisations embedded in their locality and city-based bodies sustaining relationships with a regional community.

Big hART for Acoustic Life of Sheds (winner). A broad-ranging, innovative program epitomising impact through depth and longevity of local engagement and thoughtful presentation of new music.

Moorambilla Voices for Moorambilla Voices 2017 Season. The integrity of the engagement with Indigenous artists and Indigenous language and use of locally made taiko embody the ethos of this impressive organisation.

The Orpheus Club String Quartet (Arts Central Queensland Inc) for the Orpheus Club 'Festival in a String Quartet' tour of Central Queensland 2017. A model for small organisations in impact on its local region and far beyond, collaboration, linking students, teachers and other organisations and high musical standards.

Tyalgum Festival for Tyalgum Festival 2017. A remarkable demonstration of the benefit of building a sustained partnership with the community. The panel recognises the commitment to Australian work, notable in regional programming.

Performance of the Year

Overall comment: The panel was challenged by the high standard and breadth of entries and the many innovative concepts displayed. The panel said how great it is to see such care going into Australian music from many national and international performers here and overseas.

Australian String Quartet and Pieter Wispelwey for String Quintet No. 2 by Gordon Kerry. A sensitive and cogent performance of an exceptional work, beautifully realising the introspection and reflection in the composer's intent.

Eighth Blackbird for Lobster Tales and Turtle Soup by Holly Harrison (winner). The rhythmic and technical demands of this delightful work are amply met in this performance of panache and flair with precision and wit.

Matthew Horsley for A Book of Migrations by Liam Flenady. The precision of rhythm and tuning in this remarkable performance communicate subtleties of connection between traditional content and more modern material.

West Australian Symphony Orchestra and soloists for Maali, op. 101: concerto for oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn by Andrew Schultz. An excellent, polished and virtuosic performance by soloists and orchestra, prepared and conducted with great empathy for the artistic aims of the work.

> 2018 Art Music Awards - winners (Resonate 21 August 2018)

[Updated 5 September 2018 - more detail in the 'Excellence in Experimental Music' category.]


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