There is also a diverse group of improvisers, for whom the boundaries between composition and realisation, theory and practice, are continually being collapsed together in the living moment. Some practitioners have emerged out of the post-Cageian experimental tradition, while others come from a jazz or popular music background. Others again would be equally at home within a milieu defined by film-making, performance art, the visual arts and sculpture. Collectively, while defining a huge range of stylistic and formal approaches, all these composers emphasise the need for the continuing development of contemporary music and, in some cases, in order to further this development, have embraced iconoclastic theoretical positions.
Although many composers in this book have been educated in universities and conservatoria, and have had pieces performed by conventional ensembles and in concert settings, others are self-taught and work more in the area of community arts, or have developed works specifically for unusual performance contexts. Most display a willingness to explore various contemporary media, including film and radio. An emphasis on cross- and inter-media work is also evident, as is a widespread collaboration with dancers, choreographers and electronics specialists. Some of the 22 composers in this book have devised their own electronic equipment specifically to realise musical ideas, while others have originated novel acoustic instruments for the same purpose or have designed new computer hardware and software or computer-controlled ensembles.
The socio-cultural and critical context of music production has been systematically explored and uncovered as much as new musical forms and formats have been generated. This cultural/critical focus is even the main concern of some work represented here.
Interestingly, four of the composers included gained their first experience of Australia at Bonegilla migrant camp, and all those represented here come from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds. In contrast to, or perhaps complementing this diversity, a significant proportion were connected with either La Trobe University or Melbourne's Clifton Hill Community Music Centre.
Most of the composers in this book are still in their 20s, 30s and early 40s; and their vigorous experimental approach, intellectual liveliness and commitment to innovation should ensure they continue to help set the agenda for Australian music for decades to come.
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