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Ngarra-Burria Piyanna

Digital Audio Album

Ngarra-Burria Piyanna : Indigenous composers make an old piano sing / Rhyan Clapham, Elizabeth Sheppard, Tim Gray and Nardi Simpson.

Featured Australian works

  Work Composer PerformersDuration
1770 (2020) for voice with piano
Rhyan Clapham Rhyan Clapham 5 mins, 25 sec.
Lupe's Waltz (2020) for soprano voice with piano
Tim Gray Taryn Fiebig, Scott Davie 4 mins, 53 sec.
Kalgoorli Silky Pear (2020) — solo piano

Recorded on a 1770 square piano.
Elizabeth Sheppard Scott Davie 6 mins, 18 sec.
The Binary (2020) — solo piano
Nardi Simpson Scott Davie 4 mins, 53 sec.

Product details

As part of the ABC's Fresh Start program, ABC Classic and ABC Jazz in 2020 commissioned 25 new works from Australian musicians and composers, to be debuted on air in 2021, as well as being released commercially on digital platforms.

Launching this exciting new series of digital releases is a project in which four First Nations composers bring their perspectives to 250 years of shared Indigenous and European history through music for a 250-year-old square piano. This historic instrument - akin to the first piano to arrive in Australia in 1788 - is housed in the Canberra School of Music's Historic Keyboard Collection. Through these four works it is brought to new life, singing tunes, telling stories, sounding challenges, and accumulating into a sonic landscape of memory.

Rhyan Clapham's work 1770 is 'a documentation of our history from the time Henri Henrion made this square piano (circa 1770) to the moment I play it. Although I managed to somehow talk to 250 years of history in five and a half minutes, please consider it as a glimpse.'

Elizabeth Sheppard has based her piece Kalgoorli Silky Pear on her grandparents' experience of life in Kalgoorlie in the early 1900s, where they built a cottage and were very active in the community life of the time. 'My grandfather Gus worked as the Head Gardener of the Boulder-Kalgoorlie Council, and he designed and maintained the public gardens of Kalgoorlie at a time when water was very scarce. The Silky Pear grows in the Kalgoorli area. It has woody fruits with hard cases, that are designed to survive fire. Gus and his wife Emma bravely and cheerfully endured hard times in Kalgoorli, and like the strong Silky Pear, they passed on a beautiful legacy to their children and grandchildren.'

Tim Gray describes his work Lupe's Waltz as 'music for a ballroom scene in a film I'm writing about an alcoholic werewolf called Lupe. People are dancing in this big hall a couple of hundred years ago. It starts off with them just meeting each other on the dancefloor, and they're about to go into a waltz. I added a soprano voice and gave her a couple of words to sing. I imagine the singer as a witch, and the piano player as a vampire. The witch is singing to Lupe, telling her what she needs to do. She needs to look at herself, look within, and forgive herself, and others.'

The digital EP finishes with Nardi Simpson's piece The Binary, which emerged from reflections on the Black Lives Matter protests and the situation of being a First Nations woman in Australia in the 2020s. 'In conversations around colonisation, reconciliation, deaths in custody, treaty, the Statement from the Heart, and other initiatives and campaigns, the black voice is oftentimes reduced to statistics, the health and wellbeing of our communities converted to data. For The Binary, I translated eight sayings chanted by Aboriginal people in protest marches into binary code: Always Was Always Will Be; Sovereignty Never Ceded; Treaty Now; Pay the Rent; No Justice No Peace; They Say Justice We Say Murder; Too Many Coppers, Not Enough Justice; Black Lives Matter. These sentences reflect the realities of First Nations people in Australia, they are our cross-cultural truths, raised and rallied against the systems of power and control. I used the code from these sayings to create eight musical layers. My hope for the piece was to create an Indigenised sonic environment, composing a relational landscape for the listener in which the aspirations and frustrations of First Nations protest overflow.'

The project was coordinated by pianist Scott Davie, who plays on three of the tracks, and mentored by Christopher Sainsbury, founder and director of the Ngarra-Burria First Peoples Composers program. 'Ngarra-Burria' means 'To listen - to sing' in the Sydney language (Dharug / Eora).

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