Author's Preface

The 22 composers represented in this book, while in no sense constituting a school or movement, belong to a generation which has emerged since the 1960s and, collectively, they have been connected with most of the major breakthroughs in New Music that have taken place in this country for the past two decades. Within this period, their work has arguably been amongst the most exciting, and certainly amongst the most innovative, within Australian music as a whole. Although their various compositional aims are extremely diverse and their work is best seen in terms of intersecting or divergent streams and tendencies, they remain united in their commitment to new ideas and willingness to explore both a wide range of musical sources and a repertoire of contemporary techniques. Their sources range all the way from non-Western and Early Music, to music theatre and electronic and computer music. Some composers have embraced a vigorous ad-hocism, exploring the possibilities of low-tech tape recorders, found sounds, collage and surreptitious quotation. Many have incorporated environmental sounds into the composition of both urban and non-urban soundscapes, or have employed everyday objects, toy instruments and inexpensive mechanical and electronic devices as sound sources.

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.

A note on the text:

This book is based on written responses to letters originally sent to the 22 composers represented; and on detailed questionnaires these responses were subsequently used to generate. The information thus obtained was supplemented, in some cases, with additional material gathered from face-to-face or telephone interviews and/or from tape and record catalogues, program notes, magazine articles and concert and record reviews. Pains have been taken to preserve an individual emphasis for each composer and to approach compositions in the composer's own terms. Wherever dates for compositions were available they have been included and, while all care has been taken to ensure accuracy, if inaccuracies exist then I take responsibility for them. Finally, this book is not definitive, and some important younger contemporary Australian composers have not been included. Even so, enough details have been supplied for the reader to gain a general overview of the broad area of musical practice this book highlights.

John Jenkins John Jenkins

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