Fine Music to Air New HSC Program

(This article first appeared in the January 2016 edition of Fine Music magazine.)

In a new initiative by Fine Music, students, teachers and listeners will have the opportunity to hear and learn about the latest in Australian music.

With Jason Noble at the helm, listeners will discover concepts have their aural diet expanded, as new music is explored from both the performers’ and composers’ perspective.

Jason NobleDesigned to add to the study of the HSC Senior Music topic, Music of the Last 25 Years, the programmes will assist young audiences, their teachers, and hopefully will find some new converts in older generations as well.

“I see the development of this radio programme as being a valuable resource for music teachers and students, as well as the general public. As a performer specialising in modern repertoire and as a teacher of my instrument, I still find it difficult to direct students in the right direction when it comes to selecting a piece to perform for the compulsory core topic as set by the NSW Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards (BOSTES),” said broadcaster, Jason Noble.

In league with key players in the area of new music, Noble has had the benefit of the Australian Music Centre.

“The AMC does a great job collating potential material for students and their teachers, but sometimes sifting through the vast repertoire can be time consuming, “ Noble said.

The initial broadcasts in February will be an introductory series. Fine Music will present an hour length program each on wind and brass, strings, piano, and percussion. Programmes will feature discussions with composers, HSC markers, and teachers.

Later in the year (Term 4), we will work towards a half hour show on each instrument, with about 6 to 8 works featured.

A series like this will excite all those listeners who believe in life long learning. The opportunity to hear new music, and find meaning will be paramount for the success of the series.

As senior Music student from across the state know, the compulsory core topic for the HSC subject, Music 2, is Music of the Last 25 years, and thus will form the main focus of this project. Works chosen for broadcast must have been composed in the last 25years by an Australian composer. The focus is therefore on solo and duo works. Students selecting the Music 1 course could also find some interesting pieces to select should they choose the Australian Music elective, or even the other topic – An Instrument and its Repertoire. There should be works presented to cater for a range of student abilities.

Making this programme digital will give access to those who live in the country too. Many teachers will admit that they tend to fall back on the same tried and tested pieces, but there is so much more music out there virtually undiscovered.

Jason Noble, a bass clarinetist, believes that our music tells us much about the diversity of Australia.

“The listener doesn’t have to enjoy every piece; they are short enough to get a good cross-section of what is going on with Australian composition, while listening to some of Australia’s finest performers. We need to keep supporting new ways of making music, while reflecting on the great legacy of Western Art Music,” said Noble.

Some of the more established composers, such as Ross Edwards, Elena Kats-Chernin will be heard alongside lesser-known ones. Variety is the common theme, and an attempt to get students to become aware that there is an abundance of new works written for their instrument will be a prime objective.

Whilst many students focus heavily on their performances skills, there is also an important part for composition in the study of HSC Music.

“I think there is naturally some co-relation with the composition elective, in that students will be able to hear a lot of Australian works, which could influence their own composition skills. A teacher could easily use the programme to focus on compositional techniques in a couple of the works after purchasing a score. Most scores will be available from the Australian Music Centre, or websites of the composers. In the future, we may be able to extend the program to do a feature on successful HSC compositions. I think this would be really interesting, as there is some great work and teaching being done,” Noble said.

Being a performing musician, Noble is keen to link in with the many organisations with which he already works.

“As a member of Ensemble Offspring, I have lots of links with composers and performers specialising in this new music,” said Noble.

Ensemble Offspring and the Acacia Quartet, along with pianist Sally Whitwell, worked alongside Richard Gill and Karen Carey earlier this year for a successful HSC composition workshop at Santa Sabina. The waters were tested here, with about 100 students and their teachers attending. There is certainly a hungry audience for this new music.

Noble believes that there is need for more access to events like these, to show students that they are not working alone, and to inspire each other to improve their performing and compositional skills.

“The advantage of this radio programme is really that students across the state can access the show without leaving their home. It is great as it will provide equal access for everyone,” Noble said.

Acacia Quartet Performs Moya Henderson

Whilst always knowing of the name, Moya Henderson, I first came in contact with the Australian composer’s work when her major commission, Lindy – the opera, was premiered in the Sydney Opera House by Opera Australia. Having followed the story of the Chamberlains since 1980, this work had a special and personal resonance for me. Here was an opera in the modern guise about a contemporary Australian story that had international curiosity and currency.

LiNDY-opera-music-CD-coverIn putting that story to the stage, Henderson created a seminal work of distinction, the likes of which may not be repeated for a very long time, I should imagine (considering the paucity of Australian composition for large scale opera companies).

Moving on from the operatic, Henderson has been described as a “composer who has devoted much of her career to exploring the soul and culture of Australia’s 40,000 year history, and bringing it to life in her works”.

A self-produced CD of three works for String Quartet, played with intelligence here by the Acacia Quartet, shows Henderson’s skill in writing for such a genre. The style is accessible yet showing influences of her international experience.

The three pieces here all have spiritual significance. The first, Kudikynah Cave, composed in 1987, is reflective and at times dramatic. Employing a sonorous full tone that contrasts with the use of harmonics, it also gives rise to quite a glorious melody for the first violin. This is perhaps the most serious of the three, as it conjures an indigenous geographic location, whilst the other two works have meaning originally within a wedding context.

Moya HendersonThe Beloved Awaits: Wedding Recessional, written in 2008 was originally written for Brass Quintet, but this re-arrangement works splendidly. Its natural lilt has a joyous and quite delightful momentum. This was a commission from the music critic, John Carmody, as a wedding gift to his nephew.

Showing an easy gift for writing for voice, Henderson’s Ave Maria for Treble Voice and String Quartet was composed in 2013 for the marriage of Elizabeth Henderson to Warren Mundine. Beautifully lyrical with well-shaped phrases, and changing metres, this piece deserves a wider audience. A real delight, I can only imagine the joy it must have brought to the happy nuptials on first hearing.

It has been said that Henderson’s “compositions unite the high art of classical music composition with the heart of Australia”. Her work can boast of its international appeal, whilst pursuing a uniquely Australian soundscape. In Henderson, Australia has a composer of considerable skill, not only in producing works that are interesting, engaging and at times, challenging, but works that underline substantial ideas.

Her music is available via her website: http://moyahenderson.com