Category Archives: Discussion

Partial Durations is a Matthew Lorenzon/RealTime joint project.

Turbulence: Responses in poetry and video

In 2013, I reviewed Juliana Hodkinson’s new Living Room Opera Turbulence. Staged in a small apartment in Melbourne, the opera explored the claustrophobic magic of air travel and familial relationships. The compact work has since taken flight in the form of two artistic responses. Peter Humble and Linda Edorsson have produced a beautiful video based on the opera, which has been published in the digital magazine LIGE. Meanwhile, the poet David Maney has written a perceptive poetic response, which he has kindly allowed me to post below. Check out the video, read the response, and enjoy.


Did Opera die with Puccini? – Opera Australia’s New Season

The announcement of Opera Australia’s 2015 season a few weeks back was greeted with more yawning than outrage. The repertoire is obviously conservative, the productions staid (Moffatt Oxenbould’s Madama Butterfly again?), and the inclusion of Anything Goes was viewed as a cynical attempt to boost box-office revenue at the expense of opera performers (and orchestral musicians) who would otherwise be on the stage of the Joan Sutherland Theatre (1).

I thought it might be fun to compare 2015’s repertoire with Opera America’s list of the most performed operas in the world. Let’s compare this list with, say, the Lyric Opera of Chicago (with a budget twice that of Opera Australia). And let’s look at what the Nuremberg State Opera is offering:

Opera Australia World Ranking Chicago Ranking N.S. Opera Ranking
La Traviata 1 Tosca 5 La Traviata 1
La bohème 3 Don Giovanni 10 Magic Flute 4
Magic Flute 4 Il Trovatore 20 Marriage of Figaro 8
Tosca 5 Tannhäuser 50 Hansel and Gretel 15
Butterfly 6 Capriccio ? Turandot 17
Marriage of Figaro 8 Porgy and Bess ? Masked Ball 24
Aida 12 Anna Bolena ? Tristan 36
Elixir of Love 13 The Passenger ? Sigfried 42
Turandot 17 The Property Premiere Les Huguenots ?
Faust 34 El Pasado Nunca se Termina Premiere King Roger ?
Don Carlos 43 Carousel Musical Damnation of Faust ?
Anthing Goes Musical Quai Ouest Premiere
Singin’ in the Rain Musical
My Fair Lady Musical
Ritter Eisenfrass Operetta

This small sample tells us that while Nuremberg and Chicago have their fair share of standard repertory items in their seasons, there are always some curiosities (like King Roger or Anna Bolena), some premieres and some lighter fare. OA’s season presents neither curiosities nor premieres.

Why is OA’s season so conservative?

The federal public subsidy for opera in Australia is highly lopsided. Here is a summary of funding for the four major Australian companies for financial year 2012-2013 (2):

Company Government(s) ($millions) Other ($millions) Staff Productions
Opera Australia 25.2 (25%) 74.8 (75%)
State Opera of South Australia 2.95 (58%) 2.12 (42%) 4 4
West Australia Opera 2.29 (42%) 3.14 (58%) 14 4
Opera Queensland 3.02 (53%) 2.59 (47%) 17 4

The Federal Government has put all its operatic eggs in a single basket, granting Sydney the greatest access to professional opera in the nation.

Since the merger of the Victorian State Opera with the Australian Opera in 1996, the resultant Opera Australia has played a season in Melbourne each year; however, Melburnians generally only see half of the productions presented in Sydney.

It may seem that OA is merely responding to the wishes of its benefactors, who may demand to see the favourites. Yet the Chicago Lyric Opera has an annual revenue of roughly US$70 million, of which perhaps US$200,000 comes from government support – clearly, philanthropists are happy to fund new and/or interesting works. Instead, I believe the blame lies squarely with the company’s artistic director. Lyndon Terrancini seems to believe opera died in 1926 with Turandot – and the focus on glitzy events like Opera on the Harbour or South Pacific have turned the company into a tourist attraction rather than an opera company for the city. Here are a few quotes:

‘In all our research we find that if people come to a contemporary opera and they don’t like it, we can’t get them back. The biggest complaint they have is, and this is a quote, they “hated the music”.’

‘[New Music] has become so driven by academics and I mean this pompous academic attitude to making music, I mean it’s just mad’ (The Australian, 31 March, 2012).

The logic is simple: new music sounds awful and is difficult for people unfamiliar with opera to hear. But as readers of this blog would be well aware, consonance did not die with Puccini in 1926. Witness the extraordinary success of the meandering post-post-tonal works of Glass and Adams, the most-performed opera composers around today. Or the playful pastiche of Judith Weir, whose four operas received eight performances worldwide in the 2012/13 season. Indeed, one doesn’t have to return to the 19th century to find 20th and 21st century composers who wrote approachable music (it’s odd to see Janaček and Britten unrepresented this year or last). Even so-called ‘difficult’ works can be popular with audiences – Zimmermann’s Die Soldaten sold 5000 tickets at $250 each in 2008 in New York (New York Times, 7 July, 2008).

Since its inception, Opera Australia has presented thirteen premieres of varying quality (3). Commissioning is risky: witness the wide gap that exists between The Eighth Wonder and Bliss. And larger companies are poorly resourced to support the development of new works. Since rehearsal time is inherently more expensive for them, it is difficult to allocate enough time to really iron out new works’ teething problems. The mighty Metropolitan Opera began a commissioning programme in 2006 which was beset with many difficulties, not least being its equally mammoth resources which had difficulty adapting to works with requirements outside the usual repertory. The first fruits of this programme didn’t reach audiences until 2013 with Two Boys, only the fifth premiere at the Met in the previous forty years.

I believe that it is silly to expect OA to perform new Australian works. The risk-averse tenure of Lyndon Terrancini has ensured that only well-established composers will be represented – if at all. This is not necessarily a loss to Australian audiences. Companies such as the Victorian Opera are commissioning and performing new work, and presenting innovative productions of firm favourites (their production this year of La traviata was one the most thought-provoking I have ever seen). What needs to change is the disproportionate public subsidy afforded to OA. If wealthy tourists wish to see a dull production of a repertory staple at the Opera House, perhaps they should pay a greater share of the production costs in their ticket. Public subsidies for the arts should go some way to advancing that form – not just in the production of new work, but in the presentation and access to old works. A fairer distribution of the meager funding may allow some smaller state companies to advance their innovative fare, and respond to a younger opera audience who doesn’t wish to be condescended to.

Note: Kate Miller-Heidke’s The Rabbits, an hour-long children’s opera, will be presented in Melbourne for seven performances. The work was commissioned by the Melbourne Festival and the Perth International Arts Festival, and is not part of the subscription season. While the results may be intriguing, its brevity in both presentation and duration may prevent any serious critical interest.

(1) The inclusion of lighter fare is not unknown to opera companies, allowing a great degree of cross-subsidisation. In 1971, the Nuremberg State Opera bookended Luigi Nono’s noisy and highly-Marxist Intolleranza 1970 with Die Csádásfürstin and Kiss Me, Kate – an operetta and a Broadway musical respectively. But at least these choices were appropriate for an opera house – requiring large orchestras, choruses, larger voices and little dancing in comparison to Anything Goes, which has a relatively small cast yet requires a preponderance of triple-threats.

(2) There are few other major companies, the most prominent being Early Music-focused Pinchgut in Sydney, the omnivorous Victorian Opera and the Melbourne Opera. Finally, there are a great number of smaller companies who either regularly perform chamber or smaller works, or do not present an opera each year (CitiOpera, Chamber Made Opera, Harbour City Opera, etc.).

(3) The Little Mermaid by Anne Boyd (1985); Metamorphosis by Brian Howard (1985); Voss by Richard Meale (1986); Whitsunday by Howard (1988); Mer de glace by Richard Meale (1992); The Golem by Larry Sitsky (1993); The Eighth Wonder by Alan John (1995); Summer of the Seventeenth Doll by Richard Mills (1999); Batavia by Richard Mills (2001); Love in the Age of Therapy by Paul Grabowsky (OzOpera 2002); Lindy by Moya Henderson (2003); Madeline Lee by John Haddock (2004); Bliss (2010) by Brett Dean

-Alexander O’Sullivan


Partial Durations is a Matthew Lorenzon/RealTime joint project.

Liam Flenady on Darmstadt

Over at Usage and Continuation, composer Liam Flenady has been reflecting with his usual incisiveness upon his sojourn at Darmstadt, where a spate of works under the “New Conceptualist” moniker were garnering general disapproval. In Flenady’s words:

This movement seems to think music can be rescued by spectacle (going by the name, here, of ‘concept’ or even ‘Gehalt’). In general I found these pieces devoid of much musical interest or political worth. Where ‘politics’ has entered it has been negative and simplistic and centred on what could be called ‘middle class alienation’ (usually via technology).  seeking to repoliticise music through spectacle  sound decidedly worthless.

I can’t comment on the works myself, having not been there, but how much these works depart from previous outbursts of situationism, “stage-action,” or a good deal of the music theatre in Europe over the past forty years remains to be seen. I understand the movement received an implicit critique from Lachenmann during his lecture as a regression to musical “idiocy.” A discussion panel “New Conceptualism: A Dead End or a Way Out?” from 4 August can be streamed here. Flenady’s response sums up my own doubts:

Firstly, while I agree with Small that the essence of music is performance (and therefore participation), and that music needs to go beyond its alienated concert-hall-existence to deal with politics and to set bodies in motion, the essence of modern art music as alienated cannot be wished away. Moreover, Adorno was quite right, music must subtract itself as far as possible to gain some degree of truth. Attempts to go beyond art music’s abstraction in the modern context will more often than not lapse into semblance and spectacle – all the more insidious in that it feigns to be reappropriating its outside.

So I’m further convinced of the necessity of abstract chamber music.

12 reasons not to cut Australia Council funding for music

Though opposition leader Bill Shorten has announced his intention to oppose the proposed cuts to health, education and the pension, the $87.1m in cuts to the Australia Council for the Arts and Screen Australia appear to be flying through unopposed. The effect of these cuts on contemporary music in Australia could be absolutely devastating. As Tony Grybowski, chief executive of the Australia Council has announced, the cuts are likely to affect individual artist and project grants rather than major ensembles. Unfortunately, the programming of contemporary music by Australia’s major ensembles remains extremely limited. Australia Council grants are a vital part of the diverse range of funding sources that keep musicians playing contemporary compositions around Australia every month (indeed, every week and almost every day) of the year. Seeing as the budget announcement roughly coincides with the anniversary of Partial Durations, I have found twelve reasons why the funding of contemporary Australian artists and projects should not be affected. All of the ensembles, composers, small arts organisations and festivals mentioned below have received Australia Council funding at some point over the past six years. They are, of course, a small selection amongst many, many more excellent musicians and organisations around Australia.

Zephyr Quartet. Photo by Sam Oster
Zephyr Quartet. Photo by Sam Oster

1. April: The Zephyr Quartet

The Zephyr Quartet have been presenting some of the finest contemporary music in Adelaide for years now. In fact, I can count their concerts amongst my first experiences of contemporary music as a student. Part of their skill at communicating with audiences is a passion for diverse styles and settings, which sees them performing in bars as well as recital halls. In 2013 Zephyr released A Rain from the Shadows, a CD of works that have inspired and inspired by poetry.

2. May: Kupka’s Piano

The new Queensland-based ensemble Kupka’s Piano have proven themselves indefatigable champions of the post-war European avant-garde in its most challenging forms. More importantly, they think of these forms as living traditions crossing national boundaries. Every concert features works by contemporary European and Australian composers, often in collaboration with visiting ensembles. Kupka’s Piano’s concert series at the Judith Wright Centre in Brisbane kicked off with “Giants Behind Us,” a survey of contemporary German composition.

3. June: The Phonetic Ensemble

Melbourne’s Phonetic Ensemble is pushing the boundaries (just when you thought there were no more to be pushed!) of site-specific, semi-improvised music. This year sees them teaming up with some of Australia’s most respected contemporary musicians in a series of mentorships that will stretch these incredible musicians even further. In their first ever performances, The Phonetic Ensemble transformed Bus Projects into a dynamic musical performance.

Invenio Singers in Luminesce. Image courtesy of Gian Slater.
Invenio Singers in Luminesce. Image courtesy of Gian Slater.

4. July: Invenio

Composer and performer Gian Slater leads the Invenio Singers, an a cappella group bringing minimalist timbral improvisation and extended tonality to the masses. What’s more, they’re apt to tour and so you can be sure to hear them in a city near you. They’re great fun to see perform, especially when teaming up with an ace lighting or costume designer.

Decibel performing Alvin Curran, THNMF13 photo Brad Serls
Decibel performing Alvin Curran, THNMF13
photo Brad Serls

5. August: The Totally Huge New Music Festival/Decibel Ensemble

The East Coast has never seen anything like what happened in Perth last year with the combined International Computer Music Conference and Totally Huge New Music Festival. Every day and night over almost two weeks was saturated with orchestral, small ensemble and electroacoustic performances,

as well as some of the more lively discussion about contemporary music that one is lively to hear. The festival featured numerous performances by Perth’s own Decibel Ensemble, who commissioned new works by visiting composers David Toop and Alvin Curran.

6. September: The Bendigo International Festival of Exploratory Music

I must admit I was overseas when BIFEM was on last year, and more’s the pity. Composer David Chisholm has developed an utterly unique festival with an attention to programming not seen since the Domaine musical.

Speak Percussion, photo by Jeff Busby
Speak Percussion, photo by Jeff Busby

7. October: Speak Percussion

Speak Percussion have become Australia’s foremost percussion ensemble over the decade or so of their existence. As well as reviving large-scale works by the likes of Grisey and Xenakis, they are avid commissioners of new works by Australia’s most unique composers. To top it all off, the ensemble has a flair for presentation that makes each performance a unique and thrilling experience. Collaborating with SIAL studios for some truly magnificent sound projection, their performance of Le Noir de l’étoile at Deakin Edge was a highlight of contemporary percussion last year.

8. November: Annie Hui-Hsin Hsieh

Annie Hui-Hsin Hsieh is one of Australia’s finest composers, a fact made all too evident by the fact that she is rarely here any more. There is a discipline to her writing that refuses to slip into confusion, tempered by a lively musical imagination. In Icy Disintegration, already five years old, she has also produced a poignant work about the impending disasters associated with climate change.

Bodhasāra, Chronology Arts & New Music Network. Photo Hospital Hill
Bodhasāra, Chronology Arts & New Music Network.
Photo Hospital Hill

9. December: Chronology Arts

Enough can’t be said for the small contemporary music organisations like Tura New Music in Perth and Chronology Arts and the New Music Network in Sydney. These organisations provide an external impetus to the goings-on of composers and musicians, bringing new ideas and audiences into contact with new music. In December, Keith Gallasch reported on a Chronology Arts event involving new compositions inspired by the 18th century Sanskrit text Bodhasâra.

10. January: Ensemble Offspring

Ensemble Offspring, who have recently achieved “Key Organisation” status at the Australia Council, are doing more than anyone to break down barriers between classical and popular music audiences. Their concerts are fresh, lively and relaxed, with the ensemble taking frequent time out to explain what’s going on in the music to the audience. They also maintain significant relationships with composers and performers overseas, keeping their schedule stocked with commissions and tours.

11. February: James Rushford

James Rushford’s name and photograph have popped several times while writing the above blurbs. Rushford has made a name for himself both as an improvising musician, frequently performing alongside Joe Talia and touring internationally, and as a composer working along spectralist and experimental lines. In keeping with his explorations within relatively limited timbral worlds, his recent solo work for Speak Percussion Artistic Director Eugene Ughetti is an enigmatic study in metal percussion engaging every limb of the performer in an immense battery of chimes and bells.

12. March: Luke Paulding

Emerging composer Luke Paulding’s complexist aesthetic is coupled with a poetic sensitivity to produce dynamic compositions of unequalled charm in the Australian scene. Some highlights for me have been Her Sparkling Flesh in Saecular Ecstasy, and a fragment of an opera on Icarus and Daedalus commissioned by Chamber Made Opera. His recent works have become more spacious and consciously polyphonic. He has a well-stocked SoundCloud here where you can hear much of his music, including his latest efforts at the Royaumont Foundation.


Partial Durations is a RealTime/Matthew Lorenzon joint project.

The Montreal-New York Quartet Tour Australia

Tim Brady, photo courtesy of the artist
Tim Brady, courtesy of artist

The Montreal-New York Quartet will bring four of the finest improvisers and experimental musicians from Canada and the United States to Australia in April. I caught up with guitarist Tim Brady via Skype to talk about his super-group ensemble, commissioning works from antipodean composers and Julian Assange’s phrasing.

You’ve visited Australia periodically since 1990, but this time you’re bringing a bunch of people with you. Can you tell us about the ensemble?

Well, three is hardly a bunch, but yes, I am. From Montreal I’m bringing viola player Pemi Paull and bass-clarinettist Lori Freedman, whom I’ve worked with for about ten years. They are amazing players; they’re considered some of the best players on their instruments in Canada. Both have classical backgrounds and Lori is also an incredible improviser. Tom Buckner has been one of the mainstays of the New York experimental scene for about 25 years. He’s worked a lot with an American experimental composer called Robert Ashley and he’s also a great improviser. He has this great range: he can do lieder, he can do improvisation, experimental, extended vocal techniques. This whole project was initiated by Tom and his production company. We picked the musicians more on who we thought would be interesting to work with. The instrumentation is quite wonderful but quite exotic: Baritone voice, electric guitar, viola and bass clarinet.

So what have you found to play?

Pemi Paull, courtesy of artist
Pemi Paull, courtesy of artist

There’s a lot of interesting new music in Australia. We’ve commissioned new pieces by two Australian composers who we thought had a lot to say. They’re very different pieces. One is a text-based piece with a bit of improvisation, the other is more of a lieder, chamber music setting. Tom has been working with the New Zealand composer Annea Lockwood, who has been living in New York for a long time and who has done a lot of work in Australia (though I am well aware that Australia is not New Zealand and vice versa!).

I’ve got a couple of works in there, then we’ll be playing a piece by John Cage and Christian Wolf for two reasons: One is that Tom has a strong connection with the American experimental movement. He’s been doing that for 35–40 years. The other is that because our instrumentation is so peculiar there’s no off-the-rack music, so we’ve worked with open and graphic scores. Also, because we’re all quite comfortable with improvisation and active, spontaneous music-making.

How have the experimental and improvised music scenes changed over the past 15 or so years, since you were last performing here? What are you bringing that you couldn’t have back then?

Lori Lockwood, courtesy of artist
Lori Freedman, courtesy of artist

I don’t mean to sound blasé, but I’m not sure if music can sound remarkably different anymore. Nowadays, as you know, any sound is permitted. It is impossible to shock people with sound, apart from with the simplistic party trick of playing too fucking loud. That’s just painful and we don’t plan to do that. For me, two things are interesting: finding artists who have developed their own voice. It’s difficult to say where someone’s music stands in the flow of time these days, we’re too close to it, but at least people have something personal to say. The other thing is playing music, such as my own, which is very precisely notated, next to the Cage and the Wolf stuff, which is very imprecisely notated. The Australian music sits a little bit between them. The most interesting thing about this concert to me is that the people listening actually won’t care. If it’s a good performance, if it’s a great piece, whether it’s precisely or imprecisely notated won’t matter. We’re getting past the questions of “how is the music written down?” and more to “what is the music trying to say? What is it trying to portray on stage and give to the audience?”

And one of the pieces contains quotations from Julian Assange, is that right?

Tom Buckner, courtesy of the artist
Tom Buckner, courtesy of the artist

That’s the Griswold. That was Tom Buckner’s team’s idea. They thought it would be interesting for two reasons: One is that Julian Assange is Australian, the other is that he is an interesting and controversial figure at the moment. They asked me if I wanted to do it and, while I do find Julian Assange a very interesting figure and much of what he has written is very interesting, when I was reading these texts of his I didn’t hear any music. I have a very simple rule for when I set a text to music: I have to read the text and almost instantaneously hear some sort of music to go along with it. It may not be the final piece, but it has to create a sense of musical dialogue right away. The Assange texts were great, but I heard no music in them. I was very pleased that Erik could find some texts to make a piece. The texts are quite deconstructed, though you can still sometimes understand the sense. He also uses them as the basis for improvisations. Assange is talking about very serious issues and it boils down to the phrase structure. He writes long sentences with lots of subordinate clauses, which is entirely appropriate to the kind of thing he is trying to communicate. But when you’re trying to set text to music, subordinate clauses are a nightmare because you can’t sing them. So Erik came up with a way of cutting it up that sidesteps the whole problem in a very elegant manner.

The Montreal-New York Quartet will be touring Australia in April, including:

April 5, Presented by Tura New Music, Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, Perth, WA (concert will be broadcast by ABC Classic FM)
April 7–9, Elder Conservatorium of Music, Adelaide, SA
April 10, Monash University (Classes and workshops), Performing Arts Center, Clayton, VIC
April 14, The University of Melbourne, Melba Hall, Melbourne, VIC
April 16, Queensland Conservatorium, Clocked Out Series, Ian Hangar Recital Hall, Brisbane, QLD
April 17, University of Western Sydney, Playhouse Theatre, Sydney, NSW


Partial Durations is a Matthew Lorenzon/RealTime joint project.

Jon Rose kicks off RealTime’s new initiative RealTime Talk

Jon Rose. Photo by Hollis Taylor
Jon Rose. Photo by Hollis Taylor

It is hard to think of a contemporary Australian composer who has made as unique and sustained a contribution to Australian music as Jon Rose. As anyone who has seen him play live will know, he is also a great speaker. Who better to kick off RealTime’s new discussion blog RealTime Talk with a post about those issues of the day, the internet, technology and privacy?

Partial Durations is a Realtime/Matthew Lorenzon joint project.

3 Shades Black: Homophonic

Three Shades of Black.
3 Shades Black. Photo by Nick Moulton

3 Shades Black
La Mama Theatre, Carlton
Midsumma Festival
24–25 January, 2014

Melbourne-based ensemble 3 Shades Black are presenting Homophonic, a programme of music by queer composers as part of the Midsumma Festival. Now in its third year, director Miranda Hill and composer David Chisholm spoke to Partial Durations about the concert’s origins and inspirations.

After researching the history of LGBT composers, Hill was struck by the elision of queer identities in the classical canon. “I read a lot about Tchaikovsky, Poulenc, Britten and Copland, all of these big names that have been straight-washed by the establishment. You can’t go and hear Mahler’s Symphony No. 10—with those big chords because he found out his wife was cheating—without seeing a reference to Alma, but I’ve never seen a reference to the young boy to whom Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6 was dedicated to.”

From this historical base, 3 Shades Black struck out to discover living LGBT composers. “We have a policy of always including at least one local and one woman composer. The programme this year is a watershed for having so many fabulous local composers. We’ve had two new pieces written for the show by Wally Gunn and Naima Fine, who also wrote for us in the first concert. It’s nice to come back and build a relationship with composers.”

As well as building relationships with composers, the concerts have enabled 3 Shades Black to engage with a broader audience than the usual art music crowd. “The concerts are an ‘in’ for many people who wouldn’t normally go out of their way to hear New Music, but who come and love it. Who couldn’t love Luke Paulding’s quartet Her Sparkling Flesh in Saecular Ectstasy?”

If one isn’t immediately enraptured by Paulding’s rich timbral cascades, the lives and circumstances of the composers can help audiences relate to the music. 3 Shades Black will play The March of the Women by turn-of-the-century composer Ethel Smyth. “She was a suffragette rabble-rouser,” explains Hill. “She’s the only female composer to have had an opera performed at the Met. But we couldn’t find much of her music. I think you have to know someone who knows someone. We are performing March of the Women, a suffragette anthem, because it has a great story: She was arrested for smashing windows as part of a suffragette protest. The conductor Sir Thomas Beecham turned up to see how she was doing in prison. The warden said ‘Oh yes, she’s doing fine, go and have a look.’ All the suffragettes who were in the prison at the time were marching around the parade yard singing March of the Women and she was upstairs in her cell conducting them with her toothbrush. Everyone has stories like that. There are stories like that about Tchaikovsky and his letters to his brother Modest. Virgil Thomson once said something like ‘You can be a twelve-tone composer and you can be gay, but you can’t be both.'”

While the anecdotal lives of composers may appear a flippant or secondary interest, they dispel essentialist notions of a “queer” musical style. For instance, we can assume Thomson was being ironic when he said that you can’t be both a twelve-tone composer and gay, as he was speaking to Ben Weber, a gay twelve-tone composer. The “queerness” of a composition is understood, rather, by the way in which it affirms or contradicts gendered and sexualised tropes such as Thomson’s cliché about the straightness of twelve-tone music. The composer David Chisholm, who is also contributing to Homophonic, said as much in the comments of his interview published in the Australian Music Centre’s Resonate magazine in 2007. The composer Matthew Hindson pressed Chisholm to identify characteristics of “queer” and “postcolonial” music, presumably sensing the fallibility of any attempt to find musical universals that fall under either label. Chisholm clarified that “queer” and “postcolonial” were labels for strategies more than immutable musical qualities. At one point, for Chisholm, this meant introducing the music of the club scene into his “classical” compositions, though for many years Chisholm has been more interested in exploring the bonds of community in the face of death.

Chisholm’s The Arrival is a memorial piece commissioned by a member of the ensemble. “A lot of work I have done since very early on has been memorial-based, looking at requiem forms and the idea of memory, as well as remembering particular people. I lost my mum when I was twenty-three, followed by a string of deaths very close to me. You have to become adept at that in some way.”

While Chisholm explores the tropes and forms of memorial pieces, he reimagines them from a secular perspective. “I was struck that in all of the experiences I had with death, people were always commemorating with the vestiges of Catholicism or Christianity more broadly, but in very secular spaces like crematoriums. People modified and created their own rituals without really knowing the original rituals. These rituals were as much for the living as they were for the dead.”

Chisholm’s memorial will be only one sound among many, as Hill explains, “If you come to the concert you will find that every piece sounds different, from some things that are traditionally beautiful to some things that are quite hard to access. But one thing I can say is that there is a real sense of fun in a lot of this music and a sense maybe even of rebellion. There is a a sense of levity and thinking outside of the box. Wuorinen’s piece for double bass, violin and congas is crazy. It is extreme, contemporary music where my part changes clef four times every bar, but it has a real groove to it.”

Homophonic is on at La Mama, Carlton, at 7:30pm on the 24th and 25th of January.

Partial Durations is a RealTime/Matthew Lorenzon joint project.