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18 September 2023

The Flowers Were Open to Me: an interview with Anne Boyd

Anne Boyd Image: Anne Boyd  
© Courtesy of the Olive Pink Botanic Garden

Composer Anne Boyd and the Olive Pink Botanic Garden and Desert Song Festival were named as a finalist for The Olive Pink Opera in the Award for Excellence in a Regional Area at the 2023 Art Music Awards, presented by APRA AMCOS and the Australian Music Centre. The Olive Pink Opera was premiered in Alice Springs on 7 and 8 October 2022. Inspired by the work, Liza Lim took the opportunity to interview Anne Boyd about the process of making the opera and some of the ideas carried through her distinguished 5-decades long career.

Liza Lim: I'm thrilled to be talking with Emerita Professor Anne Boyd AM, one of Australia's most distinguished composers with works spanning opera, song cycles, orchestral, chamber and solo works. In 1990, Professor Boyd became the first Australian and the first woman to be appointed to a Professorship in Music at the University of Sydney. Before that, she was the foundation head of the Department of Music at the University of Hong Kong. Many of her compositions reflect deep influences from the music of East Asia, particularly Japan and Indonesia. Anne, thank you so much for agreeing to this interview.

Anne Boyd: What a lovely introduction. Thank you, Liza. Actually, I remember meeting you in Hong Kong at one of the early ISCM festivals. I think it might've been the first time we met. Was it your first or second string quartet that was being performed on the occasion?

LL: Oh my goodness. I can't believe that you remember. That was 1988, the ISCM [International Society for Contemporary Music] Festival in Hong Kong. But you know, I grew up listening to your music and it was very influential for me as a teenager. In fact, I wrote a choral work after listening to your As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams, which was on high rotation on ABC radio in the '80s. I'm more familiar with those early pieces, you know, from that period in the late seventies… but now having heard your The Olive Pink Opera which was premiered just last year, I'm curious to hear more from you about that journey, the elements that you've carried through with you across this time in your music.

AB: Yes, Liza. Yes. Very interesting. In fact, just today I was sent a recording made by students at the University of York who'd revived a piece I wrote, I think back in 1974 or '75 called As All Waters Flow. And listening to that, I thought, oh my goodness, that really is a lifetime ago, nearly 50 years. It is a lifetime and so much has changed. 'As all waters flow'­ - it kind of describes this process rather well because that's, I suppose, how one grows as a composer. The early ideas flow into later works and metamorphosize into difference as indeed I've observed in your work. I mean, I regard you as just a fantastic composer and I'm really deeply honoured and touched that you should have found anything of use in my early work. I just listened recently to some of your recent pieces. I'm thinking in particular of Extinction Events and Dawn Chorus was just... astonished by your technical and imaginative scope… the sounds you produce are absolutely amazing. Even though it was a broadcast I was mesmerised and felt that I might be in the presence of an early performance of that earth shaker, Stravinsky's Rite of Spring.

LL: Thank you Anne, but I want to talk about your work. And maybe let's talk about your opera then, since that's so fresh. About the opening of the opera, which has the shakuhachi and the women's choir, you know, which seem to relate to those early pieces.

AB: Indeed, doesn't it just? I think, yes, that's exactly right… and how beautiful that the women's voices, the earthy Aboriginal women's voices are singing repertory from the ancient, the old traditions of Germany originally. The missionaries came out to Hermannsburg and brought the Lutheran chorales with them, translated them into Aranda, and we're talking what, about 150 years ago, a very long time ago. And the women have accepted that (there were women and men originally, but the men have dropped out of the choir so it's all women now) and they think of it as their music. Sometimes I get a bit worried by the ethnomusicologists who seem to think that somehow this repertory is undesirable, a facet of colonialism and not to be respected. Well, the women themselves would be rather horrified by that thought because their mothers, their grandmothers, sang this material, sang this music to them and they love it and they think of it as their music in the same sort of way.

Prelude- The Central Australian Aboriginal Women's Choir open The Olive Pink Opera from Olive Pink Botanic Garden.

Sometimes now when I go to Bali and I hear gamelan music, I think, 'Oh, they're playing my music', which is just ridiculous because of course it's their own traditional music which I've absorbed into my own being. But it just feels so… so much a unity, a connection, a sense of connection, of unity, of world music, a fusion, if you like.

Fusion is probably the best word. And similarly, with shakuhachi music, especially the old tradition, Honkyoku tradition of shakuhachi music, I've grown up loving this music. When I first discovered it, the flowers were open to me. That was in Peter Sculthorpe's ethnomusicology classes at the University of Sydney, way back in the mid-sixties. I have loved that [music] ever since that moment where I had an instant sense of recognition. And when I hear the music, particularly in those modes, I think, 'Oh, there's my music again'. I mean, of course it's not, but it feels like it.

LL: That's beautiful. I mean, to have that sense of recognition that you felt when you first heard Balinese music or Gagaku…

AB: Those early classes in ethnomusicology at the University of Sydney, were, let me think… 1964, '65. I think those are the exact years of those first classes and all we had to go on were UNESCO recordings. We had no scores. The Bill Malm book on Japanese traditional music (1959) was not long available. The Colin McPhee book [Music in Bali, 1966] hadn't yet come out. It was just about to come out on Balinese music. So we listened, we transcribed and Peter had this amazing, uh, educational idea, of getting us to write 'in the style of'.

LL: Like how you do pastiche exercises in the style of Bach in harmony and counterpoint classes?

AB: Yeah, pastiche. That really means style composition which was a large component of composition teaching in the 50s and 60s. Well, he decided that we would try to do Asian music pastiche. Drawing upon Gamelan or traditions of Japan, we were encouraged to try and adapt these styles into the music we composed writing for our own instruments. And we'd play them in class. I mean, they were probably rather strange, but it was a wonderful way of embodying unfamiliar traditions. I think these days, in a sense the access is almost too easy, because the access then to world music was so difficult, was so remote. I think that's really where my style, my love of Asian music and my absorption of Asian traditions really comes from.

LL: That's really interesting. And so as time went by, you mentioned that how we access that music has changed. And then you also collaborated with someone like Riley Lee on shakuhachi. Did you discover new things in that process?

AB: Did I discover? Oh, absolutely. But it was again, a very interesting coming together with Riley, because in a way the mediator there was Roger Woodward because Roger Woodward put on a concert for my 50th birthday [Seventh Sydney Spring Festival, 1996]. I was greatly honoured to be associated with Arvo Pärt in his visit to Sydney at that time-we loved each other. Absolutely loved each other. We loved each other's music, which was special, very special. Roger decided that he would program my early flute and piano works which were all written in the same Japanese mode and have Riley and Marshall McGuire perform them. He said, 'Anne, I'm sure that they can be easily adapted for shakuhachi and harp.'

I said, 'Well, yeah, I think they probably can'. You know, the harp doesn't even have to change any of its pedals! It's in one mode throughout. I'd always thought of the shakuhachi traditional music as my supreme, the supreme embodiment, the ideal aesthetic of melody. And flute was my way of mediating that because I was originally a flute player myself. So these early flute works aspired to be shakuhachi-like.

And so I thought, 'Well, this, this should really work'. And of course it did. That was how I really started working with Riley. I remember he came and gave a talk to our students in the department at the University of Sydney maybe some years after, or maybe around about the same time. I can't remember the exact dates. He said the thing that he noted with my work was that it was so shakuhachi-like. We didn't have to change anything. He could just breathe into it. But of course, when he did breathe into it, all the techniques and so on of the shakuhachi were there. That was very eye-opening for me too.

The shakuhachi was, is a deeply spiritual instrument to me. And it's an instrument of the outdoors. As, of course, The Olive Pink Opera was an opera designed to be performed outdoors with the Garden itself a significant participant. And again, that whole idea, that aesthetic of nature, the outdoors, of trying to bring music… you see, I think music was probably the original language. The original language was what we now call music. When I say original language, I mean the way in which humans, homo sapiens, and perhaps even pre-homo sapiens communicate. We see this in the bird kingdom, we see it with all different animal groups. And if you listen to the way we speak to each other, it is essentially music with pitch, rhythm, timbre, unique to each speaker. I suspect they had what we now call music, taking away specific meaning from words and sounds and making something more embodied, particularly of emotion, which is after all, like the water in our bodies, which is so close to the constitution of seawater.

Think of us emerging from the sea. When I now go and do ocean swims, I kind of feel that emotion going back into a sense of immense antiquity. We belong, belong in the sea. And so it is with sound.

LL: Well, apparently the oldest instrument is a bone flute. They've discovered a 60,000-year-old Neanderthal bone flute, talking about the ancient roots of music, which is kind of mind blowing, isn't it? I was going to say, at the beginning of your opera, you have the shakuhachi playing outdoors, which forms that elemental connection with nature in the desert. How was that for you when you heard your music in that place?

AB: Oh, I'll never forget it. That sound becomes the spirit of Olive Pink herself. It was quite spooky in a way because her gravesite is not far from the Olive Pink Botanic Garden in Alice Springs. I was in the back of the garden, and I heard this shakuhachi sound floating out. It was actually played by the flute but it was the line that Riley eventually played at the beginning of the opera. And it just felt, I just felt Olive there. I just felt… she's here… this is right.

I often sensed her spirit in the garden. When you walk up into the ridges around that garden, you see all these beautiful little rock shapes and forms that are very Zen like. They're very Japanese. You could almost be in a Zen garden amongst the rock formations. And I thought that was really interesting. But I sensed in her, the spirit of the land, of not owning the land, but the land owning us. This is the Aboriginal belief system that I've come to absorb and I'm sure that Olive Pink felt the same way.

So much of her later life was spent in the garden. She was socially isolated from most of the town's people in many ways. I mean, she was very difficult to get along with but she occupied her own space and she had a deep sense of commitment to her Aboriginal 'family' and treasured the Aboriginal stories that had been shared with her, as she wouldn't allow them to be published. Which was one of the things that put her offside with the grant-awarding powers of the day when her hard-won research funds dried up. That was one of the reasons why she was more or less forced into absolute penury, but she had a life in the garden where she was growing things all the time.

LL: So you spent a lot of time in the garden, right?

AB: Yeah, I wrote some of the opera in the garden. I mean, literally, I just had my little computer in the garden. It was good wi-fi in the garden itself and I'd find a little spot where there weren't too many visitors or tourists because there were often quite a lot of people coming into the garden, tourists, visitors and people from the local town. The Garden is a magnet for all sorts of cultural activity in Alice Springs. But I could usually find a little isolated spot where I could sit down at my computer and it was just lovely writing with the actual sounds of the garden all around me and at different times of the day. The mornings and the evenings were the best of all.

Very early morning and then later evening… Of course the garden would be quieter from the point of view of human activity, but all the nature was just everywhere: the birds, the insects, wind moving the leaves and branches. Most incredible was the variety of birds. I also loved the play of light everywhere around me.

LL: Amazing. I'm wondering whether you wouldn't mind just kind of giving a little summary about Olive Pink, she sounds completely extraordinary. How do you navigate her story in the opera?

AB: Well, this is it. I mean, the point was to show as much of Olive Pink as I possibly could in the opera itself. Not just her work with Indigenous communities-that was an incredibly important part of her life-but the sort of person she was, the character she was. So to get access to that narrative, I spent quite a lot of time talking to local people who'd known her and had wonderful stories to tell about her. From amongst those, I cherry-picked a few which seemed to be particularly vivid and would work in the context of this broader picture of Olive as a person.

And now just in a nutshell, she was born in Tasmania. Her first post-school education was actually as a painter. And then she came to Sydney. She spent some time in Perth. She came back to Sydney and importantly, she worked for the railways because her training as a painter meant that she was very good at draughtsmanship and she found a job working with the railways. And as a consequence, she was able to go on leave and, very cheaply, do long train journeys. And one of these train journeys took her out to Ooldea where she met Daisy Bates. Daisy Bates was the subject of my first opera [Daisy Bates at Ooldea, 2012] one of these exceptional women who worked so much of their lives with Aboriginal people.

After the Rudd Apology I wanted to explore more about the two ways of telling Australian stories from Indigenous and non-Indigenous perspectives. Taking into account Indigenous perspectives meant looking for subjects which could be shared with indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. These women stood out. Daisy Bates is quite a controversial character in many ways, but certainly one who is a shared subject with Indigenous people.

But anyway, to get back to Olive Pink, Olive Pink came out and she spent several weeks on her holiday painting desert flowers in Daisy Bates' camp at Ooldea which was amazing because Daisy Bates didn't entertain people very much and didn't get on with people very much either. So the fact that these two ladies clicked in the way that they did… I mean, Daisy was another generation older than Olive, but I think in lots of ways, Olive started to model herself on Daisy Bates. She'd always been interested in Indigenous people from a distance, but when she went to stay with Daisy, she saw firsthand the needs, the needs of Aboriginal people, but also the richness of their culture, the richness of their stories, their way of connecting to landscape, to the land.

And I think this then made her feel she needed to spend the rest of her life learning more and working with [these] people. So she went, and I think probably on Daisy's advice, to get a qualification in anthropology. She came and studied at the University of Sydney as a mature-age postgraduate student studying with Professor Elkin, who was the then recognized authority on Aboriginal people. She gave him a terribly hard time being an older student and very, uh, emotional and pretty opinionated. By then she'd had a lot of experience with Indigenous people and had already formed connections and had stories shared with her, and so when she encountered less experienced but equally opinionated postgraduate students she took their criticism and politically fashionable views very poorly. Anyway, long and short of it was, after lots of arguments, including many fallings out with her long-suffering supervisor, she finally submitted a thesis and got the qualification enabling her to apply successfully for some research funding (never enough money actually) which enabled her to work with Arrernte and later with the Warlpiri people.

Unfortunately for her, in Alice Springs another anthropologist was at work: TGH Strehlow, another very important local identity and whose life is also extraordinary, a worthy subject of another opera, perhaps for someone else, not me. Strehlow's Journey to Horseshoe Bend has already been embodied by Andrew Schultz in his wonderful cantata on that subject.

LL: Strehlow was very annoyed by Olive Pink's appearance. Actually, he's dismissive and deeply misogynistic. He's the nemesis, right? He's the 'enemy' in the opera.

AB: Yes, and his presence is dramatically important. People or one person's been rather critical of my doing that, saying, well, you know, there's more important things about Olive Pink than her problems with Strehlow. But there are many reasons for his inclusion not the least being that, when I first started work on the opera, I thought of structuring it upon a Noh play. I thought, maybe I should write this as a kind of woman play in the style of Noh. And then I thought, well actually, it would suit the opening dream scene which enables a special perspective on Olive's past life. And so, I'm sure you know the way in which Noh is structured with a shite and a waki, a principal and a secondary actor through whose interaction the drama unfolds. And usually it's the waki who appears first. And I thought, well now, who could be a waki in telling Olive's story?

LL: The ghost of Strehlow…

AB: Of course his unhelpful presence looms large in her life. It was a way of bringing tension and also, I hope, a little bit of humour into the first fairly lengthy scene. Because at the end of it all we learn, and it's kind of happened organically, that the opera was a day in the life of Olive Pink, in a fairly advanced stage of her life; a dream in which she revisits old haunts.

Olive's Dream - TGH Strehlow appears from Olive Pink Botanic Garden.

The dream is a wonderful theatrical device in permitting strange shifts in time. Shakespeare uses it in A Midsummer Night's Dream. The idea which Britten and Pears concentrated into a day and a night, basically, from Shakespeare's original time span, which was several days. And that idea of compressing time in opera is very important, very useful.

So the opera became a twenty-four hour span in the life of Olive Pink: a night when she dreams, a morning when she wakes up and plans the day with Johnny, her wonderful Warlpiri gardener. And then the naughty children, come down to play in the Todd River and playing a game of Cowboys and Indians, they round up a group of horses who stampede in the direction of Olive's garden and actually trample some of her newly planted garden beds, which of course she's furious about and she sets off in hot pursuit, her gun cocked. This is an absolutely true incident, one of the many unforgettable Olive Pink stories, told to me by Claire and Fran Kilgariff who were two of the 'very naughty children'.

Olive carried a little rifle to scare off the local kids who could be quite a nuisance to her in the garden. On this occasion she goes after the kids onto a neighbour's property who turns out to be the local solicitor, Mr Hargrave. He gives them some protection and actually perjures himself pretending to Olive he's not seen them knowing full well, as does Olive, they are hiding in his trees.

Olive returns to her garden and, you know, gets on with the day. In the afternoon, she is visited by a young couple, newly engaged. She knows them both and she's particularly interested in them because Des Nelson works in the agricultural part of the local council. He's a botanist. He knows lots about plants so they have lots to talk about and she admires him and his work.

And Des's fiancé, Pat Colley had worked in the cashier's office. Olive had frequently met with her trying to get some money for her Aboriginal friends and associates. So the fact that these two had come together was something that delighted her and she celebrates their engagement with an afternoon tea-party in the garden.

Now her garden parties were notorious for very lethal sherry, old sherry that she would offer to her guests and Madeira cake, which was probably procured from the local bakery. There was always Madeira cake and tea on offer. Wandering through the garden with them, we get further perspectives on her former life as she opens up and tells them things about herself. Well, that's quite a happy occasion. And then they go off and she walks to a special rock offering her a clear view to the sunset illuminating Mt Gillen where she reflects with some satisfaction upon her life's work before retiring for the evening. Now, at that point in the opera, I'd hoped that she would be visited by a group of women from Yuendumu performing yawulyu [Warlpiri women's songs] but it turned out to be so prohibitively expensive… we just couldn't afford it.

We just simply weren't well funded. We, you know, we scratched around everywhere and as I'm sure you're aware, putting on opera is extremely expensive and opera in the open air is even more expensive because we had to bring down everything from Darwin. We had to build everything. We had some wonderful private benefaction from Pamela Usher without which the opera could not have gone ahead. The costs for this extra scene were prohibitive and we simply didn't have enough, sadly, to bring the group into that part of the work. Also, the opera had got quite long and we didn't want an interval and the creative directors simply said 'no'.

LL: So is it something you might try and do in another production later?

AB: Oh, totally. Yes. Because subsequent to the performances in Alice Springs, there's been talk of making the opera a quinquennial linked with the Tourist board with performances every five years. And in the context of doing that, I realize I'll have to then revisit the work re-creating it as flexible modules. And I can go back to that scene because it's a beautiful opportunity in the structure of the work for that to happen then. And then Olive goes into her tent and passes into the afterlife, in this version of the opera… after farewelling the sunset. At the very end of the opera, the creative directors for this performance illuminated a figure dressed in white climbing up the rocky hillside which abuts the garden.

There were a couple of scenes that we had to leave out but I hope you can see how the structure works.

Opera Highlights Reel from Olive Pink Botanic Garden.

LL: It really brings together a lot of different communities, you have the kids singing and running from the gun, that part, and then the Central Australian Aboriginal Women's Choir, musicians and singers, locals - it kind of draws together a lot of groups.

AB: That's right. That has always been my greatest love as a composer. I love working with communities. I don't worry too much about performance standards. I mean, our performance standard was amateur, but with, you know, with a few exceptions. For instance, mezzo soprano, Kristina Kidd, who sang Olive Pink, wonderfully well, very hard, huge part and she did it so, so well. But, you know, the orchestra was mainly drawn from Alice Springs musicians and, like all community groups, you very rarely get a full rehearsal… people would be off doing things. And the COVID postponements were, of course, destabilising, but could have been much worse. It was a miracle that we got to do performances to standing ovations. Our music director Jonathan Tooby did an amazing job holding it together. And Claire Kilgariff, as Producer and Assistant Music Director, working constantly behind the scenes was amazing. Born and bred in Alice Springs, her family were part of the backbone of the town and they knew Olive Pink very well. Their father often visited Olive to discuss politics and the affairs of the day. She loved intelligent and informed conversation.

As composer, I had occasional tantrums as I had to accept the necessary changes and cuts wrought by the creative directors. Every now and then I think, 'Oh I'd love to hear this done as a studio production with fully professional performers.' And then I think, 'no, I wouldn't.' The roughness, the rawness of the sound… it's to do with the special community sound and feel for the opera. It has its own authenticity, a sense of the here and now. Once you've committed yourself, once it's done, the opera is no longer your individual cultural property. It belongs to the community. It belongs to the production team and the performers who then bring their own creative insights and imagination to bear in the work. And I always respect that. I mean, I'm quite happy to let the creative directors have their say and if they want to cut things, we'll cut things. And often, I just teach my students this: usually if you can cut things out of a work, you'll make stronger work. And I think I've learned that too. I keep learning that all the time.

LL: But you wrote the libretto for the opera rather than relying on someone else to provide that. You had a really strong hand in the overall structure of the work.

AB: Yes, totally. I mean, yes, if you do that, then you're not subservient to another aesthetic or creative bringing to life the subject. I think that's probably why Wagner ended up writing his own librettos. You don't have to have arguments with your librettist though of course I had to take into things into account if for example, the Indigenous people said, 'no, no, you can't say that. You can't have Indigenous people say that'. So I worked a lot with the community out at Hermannsburg/Ntaria to get some translations of the choir material into Arrarnta with the help of David Roennfeldt.1

LL: Yeah, I wondered about that, the use of language and what that process was.

AB: I got some material translated, but sadly, again, it was omitted in this production. It was a logistical problem. We couldn't get out into the community to teach this particular section of the work which takes place in the first scene in Olive's dream, which was really important. That's where the Aboriginal choir becomes integrated into the work as a whole. The choir are the pillars of the work, book-ending it and dividing the main scenes. Their material is intended as commentary and a reminder of their ageless presence, drawing upon their existing repertory. But there was an important moment two-thirds of the way through the first scene, where they join everybody else in singing in their own language of Olive's gratitude to their people for saving her life. She almost died on one of her field trips and she was carried to safety by her Warlpiri companions. And everybody joins in this acknowledgment. Only the Warlpiri Gardener, Johnny was able to sing in this section but the absence of the choir diminished the dramatic and musical effect.

They didn't have the time. Yeah, or the resources. You see, every time to bring the choir into town costs a minimum of $20,000. It just wasn't possible. So that ended up compromising the dream scene, which was a bit of a shame. I mean, for me, it was a shame, but I think the audience, they still got the narrative idea and they were moved as well as having a lot of fun. They clearly enjoyed getting these insights into Olive Pink as a local identity. The fact that yes, the opera was based upon local history, the events it depicts and comments upon. Some of the characters were in the audience. And that was really special and lovely.

LL: But there's an argument for bringing all these elements back in for the next production.

AB: Oh, very much so. And the other thing that we lost which was really sad, was we had a little Aboriginal drumming group, Drum Atweme, that had quite an important role to play in the kids' scene where the horses stampede the garden and so on. The drumming group was going to be used both there and in other sections of the work. But Peter, their mentor, had a serious heart attack and wasn't well enough to guide them, and no one else had his special skills and relationship with the children and their town camp homes, cultivated across twenty years. These are probably the least privileged kids in Australia. The town communities, set up on the fringes of the town harbour tremendous social problems as we know, sadly, from the current news reports about Alice Springs. These kids would run wild but if they got into the drumming group they had something to do that was really productive, they frequently performed for tourists and they loved it. Their concentration span was short and it took all Peter's skill and patience to handle them and no one else could really do it. And so when we lost him, we had to sadly say goodbye to the drumming group as well. And one would hope that, you know, in a future performance, there'd be a way of bringing that element back into the work.

LL: That would be really exciting to see the work continue to evolve and gradually incorporate more of that vision that you had from the beginning.

AB: Well, it's really a community project, you see. It's these big community pieces that have tremendous power in building social cohesion.

LL: It sounds like a marathon, which takes me to another aspect of what you do. Is composing like running, or it is completely different?

AB: No, it's not completely different. It's very much part of it. In running, there's rhythm, there's breathing. There's a sense of absorption into nature, especially the sort of running I do. I like distance. I'm not a fast runner, I'm a slow runner. And because I love to do marathons, that involves quite a lot of long, slow training runs, some of which will be up to six hours or so of continuous motion. Not all of it's running, but movement, continuous movement. And that allows me to move into a zone, a sort of state of consciousness, which is very akin to the same sort of space, I think we occupy when we compose music, which is releasing the conscious, somehow accessing the unconscious self.

The unconscious… is it 'self'? I don't think it's even self at that level. It's a sense of connection, tapping into a collective unconscious, a feeling of connection that operates at a spiritual level as well as a natural level. So yeah, composing and running for me are very, very similar.

And I swim too now. I'm swimming and running. I just started to get over my fear of ocean swimming. I'm doing a bit of that now as part of this Aquathlon discipline that my partner David and I have taken on. I have always loved swimming and I was swimming long before I was running, all my life really. And that again is similar in promoting a meditational state of being. Of setting aside rational thought, of absorption in the experiential moment itself.

LL: Yes, I love that. Thank you so much for sharing so many ideas, your vision, inspiration, expanded consciousness. It's been so great to have this chance to talk like this so thank you very much.

AB: It's a pleasure Liza. Anytime. Thank you. I'm very, very honoured that you have taken this time to share with me.

Editor's note: Anne Boyd's The Olive Pink Opera was a recipient of the APRA AMCOS Art Music Fund in 2019.


1. Roennfeldt, David (2021) Laakinha Rraatja: Western Arrarnta Literacy, 1877-2017. NT: Western Arrarntaka Yia Aboriginal Corporation.

Liza Lim (b. 1966, Australia) is a composer, educator and researcher whose music focusses on collaborative and transcultural practices. Beauty, rage and noise, ecological connection, and female spiritual lineages are at the heart of recent works. Her large-scale cycle Extinction Events and Dawn Chorus (2018) has found especially wide resonance internationally and highlights listening to more-than-human realms. Widely commissioned by some of the world’s pre-eminent orchestras and ensembles, Lim is Sculthorpe Chair of Australian Music at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and was a Fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin in 2021-22. Her music is published by Ricordi Berlin.


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