The composer will combine her twin passions for music and art, only this time entirely without the aid of manuscript paper.

My concert at the Queensland Music Festival is another opportunity to respond musically to paintings that I love. This time by Margaret Olley, the iconic still life painter, and William Robinson, the award-winning landscape artist. I had the pleasure of meeting Margaret Olley several times. I am a big admirer of her work. I can’t wait to spend time with her bold colours, beautiful flowers and richness of textures. They will bring back fond memories for me. I am looking forward to meeting William Robinson. I admire his dark landscapes. They will inspire mystery in my music.

I have had similar challenges before. In 2007 Dr Leigh Summers, Director of Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery, asked me to be involved in their very first EMSLA (Eutick Memorial Still Life Award) Festival.

The first task was to choose which paintings I would respond to. My choices were mixed: either an image that I just loved spontaneously or the ones that would give me a creative input for musical interpretation. Once I chose the images, I created about two sketches a day over time and also gave myself time to change my mind if I wanted to try something different.

It helps if I create a story behind an image. For example, when I worked with a stunning painting by Rosemary Valadon, an image of a gorgeous china tea cup with a saucer, I thought about how that particular cup would be not
out of place in a beautiful old style hotel restaurant or tea room, where two old friends perhaps  meet to reminisce and talk about literature and history… that in turn brought me to a 1920s or ’30s café musical style.

Later at the Wollongong Art Gallery, responding to abstract paintings, I was guided by the rhythmic vibrations of colour, or breathing space in the textures. A couple of years ago, at the Canberra International Music Festival, Tamara-Anna Cislowska and myself performed in response to Leonard French’s artworks. We were on a moving platform with the piano and moved from painting to painting with the audience following on foot! Mostly we have chairs at concerts but we like to be flexible – and who wouldn’t want to play on a moving piano on wheels??!!!

The important aspect of this kind of concert is its transient nature. I am not really writing down a proper piece of music with structure and notation. This music only works when played alongside the paintings that inspire it. Once performed it can’t be recreated as a whole, only in fragmented parts.

I’m so excited right now to be creating work inspired by Margaret Olley and William Robinson. Such different artists, both with so much to say.


The Sound of Art is at Old Government House, Brisbane, as part of the Queensland Music Festival July 16

Tickets