Answers on a postcard


Last month the first anniversary of Peter Sculthorpe’s passing quietly slipped by. Some of you may remember back in 2012 when Peter accepted my commission to write a collection of miniatures for my chamber orchestra Ruthless Jabiru. Although Postcards from Jabiru was never completed, Peter’s sketches for the piece still leave us with something rich – his own impression of where we should go from here.

Peter spoke to me years ago of the gentle jabiru and its mesmeric leggy gait but through this project I think he wanted me to see the duality of Jabiru – as equally a pin in the map, a land, a people, a place from which postcards are sent – and a conversation starter about open pit uranium mining within Kakadu.

I often think we could do worse than to reconnect with some of our words. A wise friend taught me this year that the job of the humanities is to communicate the specific humanity of a place; to create the space of humility abandoned by politics and that true contextualisation is to find empathy with both sides. 

For me, a culture is a living cell we hothouse under the microscope. Currency is a tender of presentness. To play is to improvise on ritual. And cultural Activism is a creative genre: a projection, an alternative, an Active reimagining of a landscape to light a firecracker under its audience. My programmes are about exploring these stories, using the music of today’s composers to trigger the ideas, struggles and victories relevant to us here and now. Peter’s sketches leave us with glimpses of the truths of Jabiru’s land and life that he thought we should stand up and fight for. Recast from a bird’s eye view, trailing off into empty bars, the ear leads our imagination.

I’ve launched a crowdfunder to support a unique realisation of Postcards from Jabiru here in London in late 2015. My programme will reflect Sculthorpe’s palette and his quiet engagement as a cultural Activist in music of Kaija Saariaho, Liza Lim, Eugene Birman and John Luther Adams. I appeal to your generosity in bringing this project to fruition in Peter’s memory – no contribution too small!

From Ruthless Jabiru: Postcards from the New World – Eugene Birman

Originally posted at The Sampler:

Much like two distant branches of a very large family, Australia and the United States (the latter, in which I grew up) don’t know enough about each other – at least, when it comes to their continually emerging classical music traditions, they don’t. As the British Empire’s more distant outposts, historically speaking, and both defined just as much by their Anglo-Saxon origins as their burgeoning immigrant communities, the two nations’ cultural identities developed in parallel: similar objectives, yet rarely meeting.

The most superficial and common discourse on the nations’ cultural life takes up exactly such questions but rarely discusses the cultural identity of the continents before the arrival of Western Europe colonists, yet it is exactly this “native” identity that is primary in understanding where we – and they – are all going, and where we are coming from. At…

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On crowdfunding and microdonations

Celebrity Soft Spot Kelly Lovelady

Originally posted at Noted:

Kelly Lovelady is a Perth girl now based in London where she is founder and artistic director of the Australian orchestra Ruthless Jabiru. She drinks tea with Sir Colin Davis, conducts concerts for Greenpeace and lives in a house boat on a canal. This is someone you need to know about!

What music gets your heart racing?
I do a lot of different types of listening these days. Sometimes Im listening to the musicians, sometimes the repertoire, the interpretation, the program, the chemistry, the venue, the sound of a composer, the sound of an instrument, the strength of a piece, the impact of a conductor, the list goes on. My ear responds differently to music I know well compared to something Im hearing for the first time. I do get excited about discovering new composers and their music. At the moment I cant get enough of Counterstream Radio which is the online broadcast of New Music USA. I also love Late Junction (BBC…

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Sculthorpe’s last ‘Postcards’ to get a hearing in London

Originally posted at Limelight Magazine:

Ex-pats Kelly Lovelady and Ruthless Jabiru plan to play one of the composer’s final commissions.

It’s just over a year since the passing of Australian composer Peter Sculthorpe, yet it seems that the man whose music inspired so many still has a few surprises up his sleeve. Aussie conductor and founder of the ex-pat ensemble Ruthless Jabiru, Kelly Lovelady, commissioned Sculthorpe back in 2012 and, although the work was never completed, she now hopes to raise the funds to allow what did make it to the page to be heard.

“I can’t remember exactly how my friendship with Peter started but I think I’d decided to write and say hello when I was performing some of his flute music in the 1990s,” says Lovelady. “I’d also read his book Sun Music around that time and his idea of the Pacific…

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Charlotte Church adds her voice to Arctic oil protest

I’ve been invited to conduct Charlotte Church and an expanded Ligeti Quartet in a popup for Greenpeace this week, performing a collaboration by composers Nehemiah Luckett, Chris Garrard, John Metcalfe, Rachel Portman and Max Richter largely commissioned for the project.

Originally posted at The Guardian:

Singer will perform outside Shell’s headquarters in London to campaign against the company drilling for Arctic oil and to raise awareness of climate change

She’s performed for the pope, the Queen and the former president of the United States, but next week Charlotte Church will turn her attention – and her voice – to the employees of the oil giant Shell.

On Wednesday the singer-songwriter and actor will sing a “heartbreaking” song alongside a requiem outside Shell headquarters in London, as its oil exploration vessels gear up to restart drilling for oil in the Arctic. She hopes it will highlight the oil firm’s “nonsensical and exploitative” billion dollar venture under the ice cap and persuade its employees to blow…

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News from the Pest

I’m just back from a master course with the inspirational composer-conductor Peter Eötvös. I spent a week at the Budapest Music Centre where I had the chance to meet composers Matthias Pintscher, Philippe Manoury and György Kurtág alongside a steady stream of contemporary repertoire workshops. The Hungarian Music Information Centre was also onsite: I was in my element amongst the scores of the fantastic Eötvös operas! Many thanks to the Eötvös Music Foundation for their kind support.