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15 December 2016

Tilde New Music Festival & Academy 2017

Nikki Edgar (cello) and Mirren Strahen (violin) performing at the 2016 Tilde Festival Image: Nikki Edgar (cello) and Mirren Strahen (violin) performing at the 2016 Tilde Festival  

Tilde New Music Festival has been steadily growing in scope since we started in 2014 with the mini-festival. 2017 will be our biggest festival ever, which is partly made possible by the newly-revamped Testing Grounds in Melbourne's Southbank, which now includes multiple spaces and all kinds of great new infrastructure that we never had before. We will be running three stages for 12 hours on 21 January, so there will always be something to see and hear, and many of these performances are free.

The 2016 edition (the most recent) also included the very first Academy, in a partnership with the Channel at Arts Centre Melbourne. We are quite proud of the Academy as it is one of only a handful of such opportunities for emerging artists to have a week of intensive workshops, masterclasses, lectures, discussions, and performances on contemporary art music. In most cases one must travel to Europe, though it is great to see that this is slowly changing in Australia. While we are still limited by funds and space, we can offer composition, strings, brass, and woodwind. The 2017 Academy is building on what we had in 2016, and includes some tremendous mentors including Liza Lim and Chris Dench (composition), Mohamed Kubbara (NY, computer music), Paula Rae (flute), Ben Opie (oboe), Phoebe Green (viola), Brigid Burke (clarinets), and Gary Butler (improvisation), many of whom will be playing in, or have works performed in, the Festival on the 21 January.

When we started the Festival back in 2014, we had a firm idea of facilitating a friendly and communal space in which music making can take place with less of the potential barriers that may inhibit art music concert attendance, such as formal concert halls. Because the whole thing can be a little rough around the edges, it offers an especially interesting space in which to experience modern art music: the site is noisy (it backs on to one of Melbourne's busiest roads), it is often astoundingly warm due to Australian summer, and things can go awry. These aspects may seem inherently negative, but all of this, I and my co-founder Alice Bennett believe, invites a unique and rather idiosyncratic way of engaging with new works that is casual and not likely to be experienced in many other settings. It is the kind of space that invites site-specific works and programming by participating artists, and makes us remember those contributions experimental composers like John Cage and Pauline Oliveros made to our way of listening. We sincerely hope that, while this may not be the idealised way of experiencing these works, it encourages performers, composers, and audiences to listen with refreshed ears and take in all the sensory information available in a busy city and an incredibly big musical scene.

While Tilde is a recent beast, we have grown in other ways too. The 2014 festival was organised and run entirely by Alice and myself. The 2015 edition included composer & sound artist Kevan Atkins assisting me with technical stuff, and composer and sound artist Nat Grant (and some family and friends!) helping out with food. After the increase in scope of the 2016 Festival, we really were spread far too thin, and so for the 2017 Festival and beyond, we have started a committee. This is important to us for a couple of reasons: the first and most important is that we have always seen Tilde as belonging to the scene that it serves: modern art music and related disciplines, and having a committee made up of members of that community means that we better represent the needs of that scene in a grass-roots fashion, and it also means that those (many) skills that the four of us lack can be bolstered and spread out among many people. The second reason is that it sets Tilde up for longevity, and while we will always strive to obtain public (and private) funding for our endeavours, we want it to be self-sustaining in the long run, and a committee (and other organisational restructuring which will be solidified in 2017) will allow that to happen.

It really must be said, as a final note, that this whole affair would not be possible at all without the generous support of all the artists involved. As has been increasingly the case recently, public funding for these kinds of projects has been decreasing, and we have certainly been affected by this. If it weren't for the kindness of all the artists, we would not be able to afford to put this festival on at all, and we strongly believe that the ideals and presentation of the festival benefits not only the scene, but audiences both casual and serious.

Further links

Tilde New Music Festival 21 January 2017- event details in the AMC Calendar

Tilde Academy 15-21 January (https://tilde.net.au/academy/)

Tilde - new music and sound art - homepage (https://tilde.net.au/)


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