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Australian Music in the 2000s

There are countless ways to start exploring our extensive website. This brief overview presents two different perspectives on some significant works and people in the Australian music scene in the 2000s.The first looks at Australian notated music during this period and the second discusses Australian experimental music.

Australian Composition in the 2000s

The inclusive optimism, with which Ross Edwards’s Dawn Mantras greeted the year 2000 and Australia later celebrated the Olympics, was soon dispelled by the realities of September 11, the Madrid, London and Bali bombings. A retreat into types of political and cultural conservatism was probably inevitable, at least institutionally; as the decade has progressed and the economic boom subsided, there has been a notable reluctance on the part of some organisations to take artistic risks.

Nevertheless, many composers continue to produce a variety of work that has an increasingly international reach. Some explore those  concerns – with national identity, Aboriginality, Asian culture and so on – established in the music of earlier decades, but in ways which reflect current musical languages and aesthetic ideas. There is also, however, a broader exploration of past and future, of individual and cosmos.

Significant Works

  Work Notes
Sonetos del amor oscuro (2004) by Rosà Lind Pageis an award-winning song cycle to poems of García Lorca for soprano, lutes (including theorbo and baroque guitar), percussion and tape.
The lost art of letter writing (2006) by Brett Deanthis violin concerto won its composer the Grawemeyer Award – the world’s most prestigious – further underlining his position as one of the most important composers working anywhere today.
Digital sheet music sample Akhmatova requiem (2000) by Christopher Willcockuses DM Thomas’s translations of the Russian poet’s excoriating account of Stalinist terror in this orchestral song cycle for soprano.
Fantasia on a theme of Vaughan Williams (2003) by Paul Stanhopewon the Tōru Takemitsu prize that year, showing how new music has overcome its Oedipal struggle with the past.
Mysterium cosmographicum (2005) by Michael Smetaninproves that late modernism has nothing to prove beyond its elegant rigour and glitteringly beautiful sound-world.
The Beginning & the end of the snow (2007) by David Chisholmis a large scale song cycle for soprano and mixed ensemble which finds both delicacy and humour in Yves Bonnefoy’s poetry.


Australian Experimental music in the 2000s

By Peter Blamey

Given its history, it is no surprise that the current state of experimental music in Australia is characterised by diversity, adaptability and innovation. Artists operate free of the constraints of genre, instrumentation or technique, happy to adopt, combine or discard elements as they see fit. While it is possible to identify trends within current practices, the demonstrated ability of experimental artists to hybridise, to make connections between genres and techniques, means that these distinctions can serve as guidelines only.

Improvisation remains a crucial tactic for breaking new musical ground. Important regular events such as the Make It Up Club and the NOWnow have provided a forum for established and emerging musicians to meet, collaborate and engage with an audience. Tim Catlin, Dave Brown, Clayton Thomas, Clare Cooper, Jim Denley, the Splinter Orchestra, Tony Buck, Jon Rose, Will Guthrie, Sean Baxter and Natasha Anderson are just some of the artists defining new and original approaches to real-time musical construction. Many, such as Dale Gorfinkel, Rod Cooper and noise duo Faber Castell, perform on instruments of their own design.

Controversies surrounding the use of laptop computers in performance in the early part of the decade have dispersed as they have found a place with artists that focus on the vernacular, rather than exclusive, use of electronics within experimental music. Employing both improvised and compositional strategies, musicians such as Joel Stern, Minit, Shannon O’Neill, Thembi Soddell, Philip Samartzis, Robin Fox, Stasis Duo, Lawrence English, Anthony Pateras and Ben Byrne develop and deploy software, or reconfigure and reroute electronic devises to achieve their ends.

2001 saw the launch of the Australian Sound Design Project, overseen by artists Ros Bandt and Iain Mott at the University of Melbourne, which aims to provide a comprehensive database of audio activity across the country.

Festivals have become a crucial element of the experimental audio landscape. Capitalising on the successes of What is Music?, festivals such as Liquid Architecture, Totally Huge New Music festival, Open Frame, the NOWnow festival, Unsound and Sounds Unusual have provided platforms for the performance and exhibition of sound art and experimental music around the country. Electrofringe (part of the broader This Is Not Art festival) extends this ambit to include seminars and workshops aimed at introducing participants to both concepts and practices in contemporary audio arts. These festivals perform an important social function, allowing for connections between artists and audience members. This sense of connection has also been fostered by regular weekly or monthly events around the country, such as the Make It Up Club, ¼ Inch, Impermanent.Audio, the NOWnow, Fabrique, Small Black Box, Club Zho, Stutter, and Audiopollen Social Club – all of which serve to invigorate and vivify experimental music in Australia.


Significant Works

  Work Notes
 Hammer and Tongs (CD) by Stasis Duohttp://www.impermanent.info/recordings/releases/stasis.html
 Iland (CD) by Anthea Caddy & Thembi Soddellhttp://cajid.com/CDs/iland.html
 Outdoor Bowers (CD) by Joel Stern & Anthony Guerrahttp://www.pseudoarcana.com/
 Spore (CD) by Natasha Andersonhttp://cajid.com/CDs/spore.html
 The Splinter Orchestra (CD) by The Splinter Orchestrahttp://www.splitrec.com/index.php?go=thesplinterorchestra
 Gauticle (CD) by Pateras / Baxter / Brownhttp://www.myspace.com/synaesthesiarecords
 Kiri No Oto (CD) by Lawrence Englishhttp://www.touchmusic.org.uk/catalogue/tone_31_lawrence_english_kiri.html
 Mutant theatre (CD) by Anthony Paterashttp://www.tzadik.com/
 Substation (CD) by Robin Fox & Clayton Thomashttps://www.discogs.com/Robin-Fox-2-Clayton-Thomas-Substation/release/638245
 Soft and Loud (CD) by Philip Samartzishttps://www.discogs.com/Philip-Samartzis-Soft-And-Loud/release/602075