16 May 2019
50 years of Move Records
Move Records has been producing recordings by Australian artists, often of Australian work, since the late 1960s. Debra Herman covers some of the label's colourful history in this article. The impressive Move catalogue is available via the AMC Shop, as is the new MOVE 50 album - please follow links in the article for details about individual albums.
Move Records was created with the idea that there is a very real need for Australian performers and composers to be recognised through the recording process. From its inception in 1968, Move has provided the means for Australia's best classical and innovative musicians to have their work recorded, published, and exposed to the public. The studio was built in response to a need for a pleasant, airy, light-filled, resonant acoustic space not troubled by traffic noise and air conditioners which plague many on-location venues.
In 50 years, Move Records has released around 500 titles, most of which are still available on compact disc, iTunes and Apple Music. To celebrate the milestone, Move invited a wide array of Australian composers from its back catalogue to create a short work. The CD, entitled MOVE 50, features 24 new works performed by various talented artists, most especially pianist Michael Kieran Harvey. A consummate artist with a generous nature, Michael has contributed to well over 30 Move titles as a composer and performer!
In 50 years there have been many memorable musical moments and many great works by Australian classical and jazz artists. Here are just a few highlights:
In 1968, at the Bill Armstrong Studios in Albert Road, South Melbourne, fresh-faced English migrant Roger Savage (direct from work on a Rolling Stones LP) negotiated the final mix-down for an LP of modern church music by Jim Minchin. The title was Move Two Mix, the producer was Martin Wright and the lead singer was Margaret Haggart, a rising star in the Victorian Opera Company. Directing the music was Nick Alexander - a friend of Jim Minchin's from Trinity College. The record was a hit, and Martin and Nick decided to form Move Records. The business name was registered on 24 December 1968. From these humble beginnings 50 years of great Australian music was born.
In 1973, organist Douglas Lawrence blazed away on the St Patrick's Cathedral organ in the dead of night whilst recording the first-ever LP of Australian organ music. Reverberations contains tremendously exciting contemporary music from Keith Humble, Felix Werder, Ron Nagorcka and Ian Bonighton and includes a brass quartet in one piece and electronic tape in another. In 1976 Move made the first recording of Ormond College's new mechanical-action organ built by Ronald Sharp. At the keyboard was Douglas Lawrence, one of Australia's most widely travelled concert organists. The record, The Best of Pachelbel, was a hit with the critics, and it sold well enough for a couple of re-pressings.
A controversial cover designed in 1977 featured a daring painting by Mirka Mora, and Ronald and Rosslyn Farren-Price's four hands version of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring was banned from display in one of Melbourne's leading retailers. You can see the design on the Move website.
In 1978 Move turned to jazz and recorded an album with pianist/composer Tony Gould. Gould plays Gould was recorded in Sydney at EMI's Studio 301 with John Sangster on vibraphone and conducting a string orchestra. Tony has since recorded over 20 CDs of his own with Move, and appeared on at least as many other Move artists' titles.
In 1981 Move broke sound barriers as environmental 'free form' composer Ros Bandt climbed into an empty wheat silo with a collection of instruments. Move released the intriguing results on Improvisations in Acoustic Chambers. In 1989 Stargazer was Ros Bandt's new epic. This one was recorded deep below Collins Place, one of Melbourne's tallest buildings. The architect, Peter Mills, must have designed the car park's spiral ramp around a hollow cylinder especially for Ros. The massive cylinder has a reverberation time of around 12 seconds, twice that of St Patrick's Cathedral
The 1980s saw huge changes in the way music was recorded, produced and manufactured. The newly formed Choir of Ormond College directed by Douglas Lawrence was recorded on Move's new digital recording equipment, but, with no digital editing available, everything had to be recorded perfectly in one take. The LP was almost dead and Move's catalogue of 60 or 70 black vinyl records was rapidly becoming obsolete - 18 years worth of back catalogue ready for the junk heap. The new compact disc format took over the classical market, but CDs were still too expensive for a small label and none were being manufactured in Australia. In 1987 Australia's first CD factory opened, and this was the new beginning. Two Gentlemen of Verona, the music of Giovanni da Firenze and Jacopo da Bologna was one of Move's first CDs. Finally, in 1988, digital recording equipment got smaller with the arrival of DAT tape which made remote location recording possible.
In 1989 there was another thriller in Manila... and Melbourne. Douglas Lawrence persuaded Martin Wright to go Manila to record the world's one and only bamboo organ. The event was the annual Bamboo Organ Festival, and in spite of being held up and getting robbed on the streets of Manila (robbed only of money, not the vital recording equipment!), Martin managed to get enough recorded to make a CD. Only one recording session was possible for the solo items late one night, with bats flying across the ceiling, noisy motorbikes outside, and complaints from nearby residents about our noise. Bamboo Organ still garners fans around the world!
Recording Melbourne Windpower in the Melbourne Concert Hall was full of surprises during the sessions - tour groups were parading through, noise from the lifts, trams, electrical circuits and backstage hydraulic pumps, cleaners, light bulb changers could all be heard and there was even a bomb scare! Designing and photographing the cover for the Melbourne Windpower CD was great fun. The cover photo was shot at the first windmill on the left going north on the Hume Highway. To get into that paddock the musicians climbed ladders over high fences and ended up standing in the mud up to their ankles. The wind was howling and it was freezing - but the cover was a success and overseas people always remarked that it 'looks Australian'. In New York City's Tower Records, Richard Runnels asked for a CD by Melbourne Windpower. The salesman was sorry - they had some but were sold out. We probably sold more in New York than Sydney.
In 1992 excellent sounds emerged. Brilliant young organist Thomas Heywood spent months preparing to record on Melbourne Town Hall's Grand Organ. The result, Melbourne Sounds Grand, brought special praise locally and internationally for performance and recording quality. The same year Move built a studio in order to achieve a recording space with friendly resonant acoustics, free from traffic noise. The first recordings took place in a hot December.
After the death of pianist Geoffrey Tozer (1954-2009), one hundred manuscripts of compositions were found - never recorded, and almost never heard. In 2018 a documentary film The Eulogy was produced about the tragic loss of the immensely talented artist. Coinciding with the film, Move released Pieces After Childhood, with Lachlan Redd at the keyboard.
In 2015 Michael Kieran Harvey recorded Julian Yu's epic set of 126 variations on Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Understandably, the variations encompass almost every imaginable style. In 2015 he managed to add 70 More Variations, this time by composers from around the world!
Across so many years, so much music, and so many musicians - Move would like to say a thank you to those artists and friends who have chosen to record and release music through our label.
© Australian Music Centre (2019) — Permission must be obtained from the AMC if you wish to reproduce this article either online or in print.
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