The legendary homegrown composer tells Limelight what he has in common with George Clooney.

The Australasian Performing Right Association and the Australian Music Centre have paid tribute to Peter Sculthorpe with the 2012 Art Music Award for Distinguished Services to Australian Music.

The 83-year-old Tasmanian composer, internationally renowned for his distinctive style drawing inspiration from the Australian landscape and indigenous culture, said he was proud of his long association with the organisations presenting the award.

“APRA was founded in 1926 and I became a member in 1956,” he recalled, ”So I must be one of the very oldest living members. That makes it very special to me and I treasure the recognition.”

Speaking from his Sydney home the afternoon of the awards, Sculthorpe dismissed the description of “the father of Australian classical music” that has plagued him for decades. But he doesn’t mind comparing himself to George Clooney. 

“I haven’t prepared my speech for tonight,” he confessed. “It’s the one thing I have in common with George Clooney. I heard him say on television that he just wings it when he gives a speech.”

The composer was hard at work, however, on an arrangement of an earlier string arrangement for a concert of his music at the Canberra International Music Festival.

That evening, on April 3, Sculthorpe’s onetime composition student Ross Edwards presented the award acknowledging the former’s contribution to Australian musical life. The Art Music Awards ceremony, held at the Sydney Opera House and hosted by trumpeter James Morrison, also acknowledged the work of leading composers Brett Dean (Instrumental Work of the Year: Sextet) and James Ledger (Performance of the Year: Two Memorials for Anton Webern and John Lennon, premiered by the West Australian Symphony Orchestra). Nigel Westlake won Orchestral Work of the Year for his deeply moving Missa Solis, the requiem he wrote for his son Eli, which also received the Limelight Award for Best New Composition last year. Percussionist Claire Edwardes picked up the Award for Excellence by an Individual in praise of her 2011 marimba album Flash. 

APRA/Australian Music Centre’s 2012 Art Music award winners:

Distinguished Services to Australian Music:
Peter Sculthorpe

Work of the Year: Instrumental
Brett Dean, Sextet (Australia Ensemble) 

Work of the Year: Orchestral
Nigel Westlake: Missa Solis – Requiem for Eli (Sydney Symphony/Westlake) 

Work of the Year: Vocal/Choral
Clare Maclean: Osanna Mass (Sydney Chamber Choir/Paul Stanhope)

Work of the Year: Jazz
Andrea Keller: Affectations (Bennetts Lane Big Band)

Performance of the Year
West Australian Symphony Orchestra, Conductor Paul Daniel
James Ledger: Two Memorials for Anton Webern and John Lennon

Award for Excellence by an Organisation or an Individual
Claire Edwardes – Flash: Marimba Miniatures recording project 

Award for Excellence in Music Education
Gondwana Choirs: 2011 Program 

Award for Excellence in a Regional Area
Moorambilla Voices, for engagement with local community 

Award for Excellence in Experimental Music
Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey 

Award for Excellence in Jazz
Quentin Angus, for composition, performance and international development