Interview with Keith Humble

John Whiteoak

This article first appeared in NMA 7 magazine.

In 1989, the year of Keith Humble's retirement as Founding Professor of Music at Latrobe University , many of the younger generation of contemporary Australian composers probably perceive him to be a relatively conservative institutionally based composer. Yet Humble's own peers would argue that the notion he brought back to Australia in 1966 regarding composition, performance, music education and the role of the composer in society were very radical, particularly in a context where, to quote Felix Werder, "...neither the composer, the critic, nor the listener [knew] the difference between Webern and Weber [1] . Werder and others consider that Humble's arrival represented a major turning point for contemporary music in Melbourne; but more significantly, Humble also believes these views were radical at the time. He continues to hold these views and believes they are still radical.

The following sketch is intended to provide a context for the interview, which centres on one aspect of Humble's often controversial role in Australian contemporary music: the educational/music making activities he initiated at the Grainger Museum during 1966/7. Of these activities, I place particular emphasis on the Society For The Private Performance Of New Music (SPPNM) [2] .

In 1956, the year that the Olympic games were held in Melbourne, Humble returned from a successful period of study in France (1951-) to take up a position at the Melbourne Conservatorium. He returned to Paris the following year deeply disturbed that, while he may have had the knowledge, he lacked the practical experience to "...make any contribution whatsoever to a pioneer situation". He was also concerned by the low status of music making and education in Australia, and the conservatism and `cultural cringe' implied by the social isolation imposed on Percy Grainger at Melbourne University. Humble's suggestion that Grainger, the most radical and significant musician Australia had ever produced, be asked to write a piece for the opening for the Olympic Games was treated with scorn.

After his return to Paris in 1957, Humble began to explore the notion of a cultural centre which could host workshop performances with a particular emphasis on artistic interaction. By 1959 he had establish the Le Centre De Musique , which very soon gained an international reputation for the presentation of contemporary repertoire. The centre also became involved in a range of music and music/theatre projects, including Marc`O's improvised theatre group. By observing Marc`O's working methods, Humble discovered how, through repeated improvisations, intuitive group response will eventually draw more or less random elements together to define structure. The end product of this process is one aspect of the `frozen improvisation' that Humble refers to in the interview.

Although Humble's arrival in Melbourne in March 1966 has been described as a major turning point for contemporary music in Melbourne, a local contemporary movement was already established here and was gaining momentum. Until 1965, this activity centred around a small coterie of fairly established local composers including George Dreyfus, whose New Music Ensemble often presented works by local composers. Parallel to this activity jazz musicians, notably Bruce Clarke, Barry McKimm, Robert Rooney and Syd Clayton had begun to experiment with contemporary music concepts in their improvisations, including tone-rows and later, graphic scores.

Humble had visited Melbourne in late `64 and conducted a workshop at the Conservatorium, where he demonstrated some aspects of the approach used at the Centre de Musique. A Melbourne branch of the ISCM was formed soon after, and throughout `65 it presented concerts and seminars, including a lecture demonstration of electronic and tape techniques by Bruce Clarke. Richard Meale had also begun to broadcast `recordings and tapes of modern and experimental music' on his ABC radio program First Time Here .

There is some evidence that by 1966, more conservative elements within the ISCM wished to distance themselves from the activities of the younger composers who favoured a more experimental, or exploratory approach. At an ISCM open forum on `The Direction of Australian Composition' in late `65, McKimm, Rooney and Clayton, who had recently performed at an ISCM concert, were referred to obliquely as "charlatans", and more directly as "angry young men". They were told: "you may as well go outside and listen to the sounds in Bourke Street", to which Clayton replied "maybe you should, it might open your ears!" [3] In a slightly `tongue in cheek' review of the concert in question, Adrian Rawlins complains bitterly that "...a work by Clive O'Connell, one of Melbourne's most vigorous young composers and...the hippest..." was omitted from the program. He refers to the ISCM as the "Insensitive Society For the Censure of Creative Musicians" [4] . Richards Meale's broadcasts had also apparently fallen out of favour with the `angry young men', because he was perceived to be unenthusiastic about Cage and other more exploratory composers [5] .

In March 1966 Humble arrived back in Melbourne to again take up a position at the Conservatorium and, soon after, established the Society for the Private Performance of New Music. The SPPNM, amongst other things, provided an important outlet for the more exploratory of Melbourne's young composers, including O'Connell, McKimm, Rooney and Clayton. The SPPNM usually functioned in the following manner: Society members arranged the basic preparation of their pieces amongst themselves and would all meet at the Grainger Museum on the day of the (monthly) concert. These `concerts' were in fact performance workshops directed by Humble, or sometimes by the composer of the work. SPPNM programs indicate that most of the initial influx of young composers had drifted away from the Society by mid 1967.

The SPPNM and other activities which Humble established at the Grainger Museum during 1966/7 were a demonstration of important concepts he had developed since his first unsuccessful period at the Conservatorium in 1956, in particular the concept of the interactive workshop. The resurrection and use of the disgracefully neglected Grainger Museum for these activities was an explicit gesture towards the self-effacing attitude that Australia has to its own musical past. Finally, as with most of Humble's musical projects, the Grainger Museum activities were all ongoing experiments.

J.W. In James Murdoch's biography [6] , he mentions that when you returned to Paris in 1957 it was with a notion of the performance workshop concept. Where did that come from?

K.H. It came from my observations in Australia during the fifties. I had a certain amount of experience on the European circuit and quite obviously even the great artists did not play just in Paris, Rome and London, they gave concerts in provincial towns and small centres - often very small centres. It seemed to me a question of how we could duplicate that environment, given the Australian situation. After all, you play in Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne - and that's it! You do it the second year and where else do you go? - obviously you have to go away. So it wasn't viable to give three concerts a year, you have to give many more concerts. And so, the notional idea of the Centre de Musique was born out of what I considered to be a necessity with regard to development of music in Australia. I think it's still applicable to have workshops or small cultural centres in regional areas that are active musically in the local environment, and therefore create an environment for visiting artists, and a place for them to perform. This was the model for the Centre de Musique. What is interesting is that its success has never been duplicated to this day [7] .

J.W. So the type of music workshopped at the centre - was the thrust always towards contemporary music or was it broadly based, musically?

K.H. It was always a broad spectrum. It was contemporary, in that all `music making' is contemporary, as distinct from music repetition. By that, I mean that we were not trying to repeat something that was currently popular - the flavour of the month. We played operas like The Reformed Drunkard and other pieces that were no longer in the repertoire. This had nothing to do with the value of the music, but had everything to do with the fact that, if you've got a large opera house where you have to seat six or seven hundred people, you can hardly put on an opera where you need the resources of about 12 or 13 people. It seemed to me that a lot of music was being played, not because it was good or bad music, but just because it was music that was economically viable. In contrast, we could dip into any period of music, simply because we were not involved with the economics of music. From the contemporary music point of view, this was extremely important - because we were consequently not politically involved [8] .

J.W. So the main thrust of the centre was not towards - I won't use the word experimental - towards exploratory music?

K.H. Everything that we did was experimental! - and everything we did in our productions - or whatever - was `music now'!

J.W. You arrived back here in roughly March `66, and it seems that in late `64 you were in Melbourne briefly, and were invited by George Dreyfus to give a `composers workshop' where you conducted several pieces. It has also been mentioned that this was likely to have been the catalyst for the formation of a Melbourne branch of the ISCM [9] .

K.H. Yes.

J.W. You didn't come back to a musical vacuum - there was something happening in new music; but that would have only been happening since mid `64 at the earliest?

K.H. Certainly in `64 there was a desire on the part of George Dreyfus, Jamie Murdoch and others in Melbourne, to put musical life onto a more positive footing. George, amongst others, had organised this workshop kind of thing - this `platform'. I was delighted about that, because everything I'd been doing in Paris previously, as I said, had come from a notional idea I'd had with regard to Australian music. It was nice to come back, not so much to demonstrate what I had been doing in Europe, but to say: "Look, this is what I have been doing in Europe - see how pertinent it is to Australia". If that assisted in the creation of a climate which helped these musicians, then that's great! And yet, when I came back in 1966, the nucleus of a contemporary music movement was already formed. Trying to find what the potentials and possibilities were took some time, but there was obviously lots more happening at this stage, than in 1964.

J.W. Nevertheless, I still get the impression from interviews and reviews that there was a sense of frustration among younger composers - that there still wasn't a suitable context for them.

K.H. I would say, not just among younger composers, among composers in general. There was not the format, there was not the platform. I don't necessarily think a composer needs a platform for something, but if you don't have a platform then you can't be against something! There was a kind of `drift' of events, and the idea of establishing the ISCM was a good idea because it, at least, produced the idea of a society, something that provided a focus.

J.W. Well, just to step back to your arrival in Melbourne to take a position at Melbourne University. Laughton Harris describes your return as a "veritable hypodermic" for Australian music in general [10] . But, the thing that I want to approach today is the idea of you coming back as a `radical' into this environment and expressing your radicalism by trying to educate.

K.H. Yes, I think I was a radical and I think I still am a radical - and I don't think my radicalism has changed whatsoever since then. I think that what has changed is people's expectations of what a radical should be and particularly from what Australians thought was radical at the time [11] . The type of radicalism I was accused of, such as neo Dadaism, was included in what I had in mind, but it was only included - it was not the thing I had in mind. Also it must be remembered that for the whole period of time that I have worked in Australia, I assumed an academic position. I have always felt a responsibility which was basically: as I believed that all education was subversive, then subversion had to be treated in such a way that I always took the responsibility for the student. The student should be encouraged to find - live her life, rather than have me just put across my own particular preference. Whether that tempered my musical output or not, others will judge; my personal opinion is that it didn't. Although, throughout my whole academic life I have paid the penalty for that approach - and I have suffered.

J.W. To go into that in a bit more detail: two of the things you did on arriving back to Australia was first: setting up the Society for the Private Performance of New Music (SPPNM), and, secondly, setting up an Electronic workshop - and they were both based at the Grainger Museum. Now the SPPNM has been described as extension of your classes, but obviously it was more than that. There were people taking part in that activity who were not students - and some of these played a prominent part in, and had their pieces performed frequently in these concerts[10] .

K.H. Well, let me put it to you this way. Just as it has been said of the Domaine Musicale under Boulez and also the Centre de Musique under my own direction: both were considered to be educational programs to the environment that they were set in. My attitude to education, and particularly if I wanted to give my students a model was: since there was no model in the Australian music scene, I had to develop one to put before them, so that they would see that education was not just in the classroom, but went into the community, and the community at large. And so, the way of doing that was, in the first place, the Society for the Private Performance of New Music. This was not meant to be an imitation of the Society for the Private Performance of New Music that Schoenberg had established in the twenties, or of the Society for the Performance of New Music which was a contemporary music platform in London. The Melbourne SPPNM was to be a platform for young musicians, or for musicians generally who wanted to become involved, and to consider whatever music they were playing not just as a repetitive exercise, or as something to be reproduced, but as a living and live musical experience - the direct experience of a musical event - that was what the SPPNM was about. You're right also that it had another aim, likewise with the Electronic workshop. The aim was that it would be based in the Grainger Museum. I was adamant that the Percy Grainger Museum should be opened, even if this meant holding classes in the Grainger Museum - which we did, with those orchestration classes we had at the time. It was cold - freezing, but I wanted the place to be used! All of these things were, as much as anything, to draw attention to the fact that music in Australia did not begin in 1966, it had a tradition which also involved Percy Grainger - and Grainger was not just some kind of crazy crackpot or extrovert. I wanted to draw attention, via the Grainger Museum, that we have a musical tradition.

J.W. Well, considering that the Grainger Museum hadn't been operating for some time, and when you consider the content of the SPPNM programs, I can't help but wonder whether this action would have been fully supported by the established Faculty.

K.H. I don't think it was! The point was that I'd learnt a lesson in France which served me very well in Australia - when you think about it, I learnt it from Percy Grainger himself. Years ago, in an interview, Percy was asked about his relationship with his publishers. He said: "I have a perfect relationship with my publishers". When pressed further, he said: "Well I didn't ask them to do anything, I paid for everything." Now there's the whole point - that's exactly what I did. I mean, paying for it doesn't necessarily mean with money - I paid for it in kind. That's another story, because it had its repercussions later on.

J.W. One of the problems you would have encountered arriving in 1966 were those people who were on the one hand interested in composition, very enthusiastic, but also lacking performance skills and fundamental musical knowledge - you were dealing with quite a few of these people with the SPPNM. Now, considering that you came back as an established composer and performer, with very high standards and a reputation, did this present a problem: trying to deal with a relatively low level of performance - a high level of enthusiasm - at the same time trying to maintain your reputation for maintaining high standards?

K.H. I was lucky in the sense that I had a young colleague, Jean-Charles Francois in France who had a more radical platform than myself in relation to the composition/performance of contemporary music. He particularly wanted to go to the United States, but I said: "Don't go to the United States straight away, come to Australia?" So he did come to Australia. He had a platform which was basically: it really didn't matter how much talent you had, it was a question of getting the work done. He persisted, and he worked very very hard while he was here. He also had to realise that there was, culturally, a difference between that French idea of: it didn't matter if you were professional or not, you learnt mechanically to play an instrument, and you learnt in life to be efficient, whereas in Australia we're not very efficient. The process of discovering this hurt. So, to answer your question: yes, it was a particular problem. You can make compromises and you can get things done, and you can get things done very well because people want to do it. They care and they've got talent - they mightn't have ability but they have talent. Australians think talent is everything, or they did in those days, so you have to make a compromise. In the short run it doesn't matter - in the long run you lose credibility.

J.W. That's what I was thinking - did you have to draw away from those people eventually?

K.H. No no no! On the contrary, they drew away from me - I had lost my credibility - and it's perfectly reasonable. The situation has changed and I am compromised - as I said earlier I am remembered for the compromises I made.

J.W. Jean-Charles didn't arrive until 1969. How about the early period, with the relatively inexperienced young performers and composers of the SPPNM?

K.H. But also they were bright talents, and I was pleased the Jean-Charles came out to share in these things. On the one hand, you had Barry McKimm's bunch, who were great in their work. They might have seemed to me a little bit - not `off the planet' but not quite aware of what had been accomplished - as if they'd read the book but not heard the music, which is probably true; but the product was really very enjoyable and it was refreshing, and there it was! This is the whole thing: talent. God, you had `talent au go-go'. You had young Ian Bonighton, who really was a talent but also as pedantic as hell, writing fake Hindemith fugues, but this is just one side of the story. Given the opportunity to exploit his talent, he became something really interesting. Gerald Lester, Stuart Challender, Graham Abbott, each in their own particular way responded to a gesture - fundamentally it was talent. Who else was there? Anyway, there were many others with a similar degree of talent. The point was to try and give an example which illustrated that: talent is not enough, work a little harder! In a way, each of them did somehow respond to that. It was not exactly an avant garde approach, but I put it forward as a challenge to get them to do things. I was then able to complain that their shortcomings were technical, therefore there was really no excuse for their shortcomings as these had nothing to do with talent. Talent will develop providing that you've got it.

J.W. You mentioned your function in relation to that group in a previous conversation - the fact that you had to encourage them, but at the same time repel them from your own ideas - from becoming clones.

K.H. Yes, because the temptation was always there to imitate. Even at the Centre de Musique there was exactly the same attitude. If there is a difference between Boulez and I, between the thrust of the Centre de Musique and that of the Domaine Musicale, it's that he projected his own personality, his own aesthetic and his own point of view. I decided that I would never do that, and I didn't do it in France - remember that the Centre de Musique was based on an Australian idea - and I've never done it as far as Australia is concerned. What I believe in, and what is extremely close and pertinent to me in my association with Australian musicians, particularly young musicians, is to give them every opportunity to discover themselves and not become an impediment to their progress, or something they could copy. Perhaps it would have been better to have been more positive - certainly, again, there's a cost. I had a model, that great teacher called Arnold Schoenberg, who at no time ever laid upon his students the twelve tone technique or his own aesthetic; and when you think of the composition students that he had - from Eisler and John Cage through to Webern - the results are proof in themselves. So I tried to emulate, if you like, the teaching approach of Arnold Schoenberg.

One must also put into the perspective certain very personal things. There were many in France with the Centre de Musique, through my personal involvement with students; but, one thing that I did not expect when I came back to Australia was to find that same kind of general committment and enthusiasm to that particular degree. When I came back from France at the beginning of `67 to continue with the position at Melbourne University, on reaching the apartment in St. Kilda, there, standing in the doorway was Stuart Challender and Graham Abbott. Both of them said: "and what are we going to do now?" - that's impressive! Those were the times, yes it was a marvelous time to come back and it was that kind of committment that made it so.

J.W. You mentioned in a 1969 interview with Andrew McIntyre that there was no concept of `the group' in Australia.

K.H. Yes - and I think that was important because, consequently, when we established something like the SPPNM it didn't imply a political entity - it didn't mean that there would be insiders and outsiders or whatever. You've alluded to the fact that, if you look at the musicians who were involved in the SPPNM the complement changes. That's exactly the point, it wasn't like an `in group' of the same sort of people doing the same sort of thing - it was not a `them vs. us' situation at any time - it was based on a desire to develop a musical experiment. Look at the music that we played, just look at the programs and I think that will be self explanatory. It was not that those programs were all contemporary music, but they were all played in a `discovery' kind of way, with a committment made individually toward a musical event - a `composition'.

J.W. In the very early years, `66 and `67, did you ever introduce a free approach to improvisation - was part of your interest to get spontaneous improvisational interaction?

K.H. There was, for the most part, a reticence and we were able to analyse and discover what that reticence was. People tended to improvise to what they were capable of doing, and there is a particular problem with improvisation. Improvisation demands that you are a very equipped musician so that you can be free to do what you want to do; whereas the improvisation that was often seen with these musicians was improvising within their capacity - they were not free from technical limitations. Therefore the type of improvisation we subsequently developed in Australia, particularly with Jean-Charles, was not just to demonstrate, but to encourage people to discover that if they wanted to fulfil their musical ideas they had to be free from the technical limitations and they had to know and understand lots of music. You had to be `up with it' otherwise you were limited [12] .

J.W. Now the Electronic workshop: you began to set that up shortly after - that must have been a relatively radical step.

K.H. It certainly was. The best way that I can explain it is that the Vice Chancellor at Melbourne University in those days had, I gather, a tradition that they would always invite you to afternoon tea when you were first appointed. Anyway, during the course of afternoon tea, the Vice Chancellor said: "I believe you came here to develop an `electronic studio'" and I said "Yes!". He said: "I've got one at home and they're very good, aren't they?" I realised that what he was talking about and what he was thinking of, was a hi-fi set! I don't think we would even call it a hi-fi set anymore. So it became a battle which was years later repeated at Latrobe: educating people that - no! You didn't want one thousand dollars, but you wanted one hundred and fifty thousand dollars! We eventually achieved that one way or another, but in both cases it wasn't easy and it wasn't achieved overnight. What was important was: by opening the Grainger Museum, one already had a tradition in electronic music to build upon. I could say: "here is the man, now if that has already been accomplished you have to put up" - that was a way of illustrating it.

J.W. So the nature of the workshops with electronic music - was it an experimental approach, or was it more a situation of teaching students the fundamentals so they could go ahead and work independently?

K.H. No, you didn't have the resources to teach so much - it was experimental, using the material we had on hand. From this point, it was a question of creating the environment, numbers of people and events. So, the electronic workshop, the SPPNM, the educational program with regard to the students in the Faculty, and the Saturday morning children's programs were all ingredients of a pot-pourri: the development of a program of enthusiasm, utilising the available material in a positive and a direct way - instead of taking an academic approach. I am not that sort of person anyway, but even if I had wanted to approach it that way it would not have worked out, because I did not have the resources. It grew like topsy out of an inevitable event, but I don't think that was a bad thing - it accumulated very quickly.

J.W. The children's workshops were also held at the Grainger Museum - I think it was in 1967, your second year there. The aim of those workshops was educational, plus a way of gathering raw sonic material for musique concrete . For example, your Music for Monuments (1967, for instruments and/or voices and prepared tape).

K.H. Yes, well that just became an outlet, if you like, for Music for Monuments. If you think about it, it's one aspect of my `frozen improvisations' which people call compositions, because it's an accumulation of various types of events, under various sorts of improvised situations that come together to make a `frozen' piece [13] . I think it's the only example in which things come together in that particular way. But, as I've mentioned previously, I've always looked upon music, or composition as being a creative process , as distinct from a product . If I have criticism of a lot of the composers today, it's because they make products, and I don't think of composition as being a product. I think of composition as being a process, and exchange of concepts, and an exchange of ideas - you can see we're already talking about improvisation. Improvisation is really composition. A lot of the music I hear today, a lot of so-called compositions, I look at them as `products' - they're for sale.

J.W. There are a lot of problems with the term experimental and some composers don't like their work being described as such. Of course every composer experiments, but this term seems to imply to them that they don't really know what they are doing in advance. You don't seem to be disturbed about the use of the word experimental.

K.H. If you were to say to me that the term means "I don't know what I am doing", I would argue that this was a prerequisite of composition: if I know what I am doing in advance I am just dealing with a product. It's rather like a cook - I'm not a cook but I can read a recipe, and I'm very good at cooking from recipes, but a cook, or the equivalent as a musician, would be someone who `throws the book away' - and `makes up' something. That's what it's about, you know.

J.W. Thinking about the early Australian performances in the Nuniques series (Monash 1968-70's), and the radical nature of these works overall, it seems fortuitous that you arrived back in Australia at the time or just previous to the time that Australia would go through political, social and cultural foment - really coming to a head in 1968. You made the decision to return after your brief visit in 1964: did you sense things were going to change?

K.H. Yes I believed so. Superficially, if I look back on it now, I would say politically and from every point of view - this is only my personal observation - I thought that Gorton was a very fine Prime Minister, and I think that he laid the foundation for the development of the arts. I think that from about `72 on, we have seen a general betrayal. The point was that I was delighted to be on the scene when the rocket went off. It's true that another political party got the benefit. The particular political party that I was speaking of, and was very much for, and was very much involved in at the time, betrayed the arts and has continued to do so. Not that the other group would be any better now.

I remember because I served on the beginnings of all these things, and I said to them: "You're going to give money and you're going to create mediocrity" - and there had to be mediocrity. You see, art is subversive. But when I came back, and there was Barry McKimm and the others, just the gesture of writing music was subversive. Now music is a commodity! That's what it is - everyone gets paid and so it's a commodity. There's a lot of Muzak! And if you remember what the director of Muzak said when he was selling music, he said: "I'm not selling music, I'm selling a product". And that's the point.

J.W. So if you look at the present day and the situation as it is in Melbourne: you have composers who are getting plenty of commissions - established composers - and then on the periphery you have groupings of unestablished people, similar in some ways to the people you were dealing with in 1966 with the SPPNM. How do you view the activities of the people who presently form this fringe? They are doing something similar to what McKimm and the others were doing in 1966, often dealing with the same types of concepts.

K.H. Well that's right! I mean we're into the repetitive society, we're into the `silent' society, we're into music not being music any more. People often say about our society that music has lost its way with the public. Well, I reckon there has probably never been a time in the whole history of music when musicians haven't tried desperately to communicate with the public. I'm thinking about all music now, pop as much as anything else. God alone knows what they are trying to communicate, but everyone's trying to communicate. And what's interesting about it is that there isn't that much difference between those terrible `pops' that are saying "I love you close the door" and those `eggheads' at the other end who are systematising themselves out of their gourds.

What is really involved? What is involved is self-aggrandisement! What is involved is: "look I'm a composer". This is the term that doesn't sound so bad in French, but which I am embarrassed about in English. Composer - a `poser' -that's the point, pretending to be a creator! And so all of this activity is irrelevant, it's just a question of: "We will have these events, we will do these things", and there will be silence, and people won't do anything! And people won't rock the boat, and people will just shut up, and we'll have art, and we'll be neutered, and so it's soul destroying, and there it is. That's what's happened [14] .

At the moment you haven't got the environment. Maybe we'll get the environment by stimulating it, but you're not going to get the environment by any of these other means, because it's got nothing to do with music making. You're not going to get a good piece of music out of that stuff. It's not possible because it's repetitive. As you know with pop songs, they're not even concerned with making popular tunes any more, they're concerned about standing up there and stating: "look, I'm a Pop Star". There's no musical content and there's no gesture towards what music has been since the beginning of time: subversive. This is not subversive music. Even when they stand up there and yell obscenities it's not subversive anymore. The violence of today is created because music is `silent' - if music was `noisy' there wouldn't be violence - think about it!

Yes, the period when we started off the SPPNM with Barry McKimm and the others was great and all that has happened is that this type of music has lost its radicalism by repetition.


  1. Werder, F. "Humble, The Complete Musician" the Age 22.10.1968 return
  2. For more detailed biography see Laughton Harris: "Keith Humble" in Callaway & Tunley (eds), Australian Composition in the Twentieth Century OUP Melbourne 1978. See also James Murdoch (ed), "Keith Humble" in Australia's Contemporary Composers Macmillan, Melbourne 1972 return
  3. From the transcription of a 1988 interview with Robert Rooney during 1988. return
  4. Rawlins, A. "As Modern as Debussy Darling!" in Lot' Wife 27.7.65, p17 return
  5. From the transcription of a 1988 interview with Robert Rooney during 1988. return
  6. Murdoch op.cit p123 return
  7. Murdoch p123-4 return
  8. Humble's use of the terms `music repetition' and `economics of music' relate directly to an (untaped) discussion we had just concluded regarding the book Noise by political economist, Jacques Attali. Humble believes that Attali articulates many of his own long held views on the relationship between economics and music. See: Jacques Attali, Noise: The Political Economy of Music , Theory and History of Literature vol16, Manchester University Press, Manchester 1985 (transl) return
  9. Murdoch op.cit p124 return
  10. Harris op.cit p117 return
  11. For further discussion of some of these views see Andrew McIntyre, "An Interview with Keith Humble" Lot's Wife 1.10.68. p18 return
  12. For further discussion of the SPPNM see Murdoch, op.cit p125 return
  13. The comments regarding `frozen improvisation' were made in the context of various discussions we have had regarding the relationship of improvisation to composition. return
  14. This part of the interview also has to be seen in the context of the above mentioned discussion of Jacques Attali's Noise . One part of Attali's thesis which Humble agrees with is that music produced as a commodity for repeated use has no power to subvert. Repetition supports political oppression (political `silence'), and only music making which is detached from the economic system and arrives unheralded, such as `exploratory' music, can subvert and create change (political `noise'). return
Note . For various reasons this interview contains some omissions and small alterations. These were indicated but later removed, with Keith Humble's permission.
© 2003 NMA Publications and John Whiteoak. Back to NMA magazine index.