Eight women composers from around the country will write music responding to their experiences of the recent bushfires for Muses Trio. Five emerging Indigenous composers will draw on their perspectives of 250 years of European cultural heritage in new works inspired by, and incorporating, an historic square piano dating from around 1770. Emerging Adelaide composer Dylan Crismani will compose a two-movement work using the remarkable timbres of Australia’s first Cristal Baschet (built by the composer) – a contemporary multi-timbre percussion instrument related to the glass harmonica.

Ywaalaraay woman Nardi Simpson is one of the composers to have received a grant from the ABC’s new Australian Music Fund. Photograph © ABC Classic, Matthew Lorenzon

These new compositions are part of the 25 Australian works commissioned by ABC Classic and ABC Jazz to help safeguard local creative and content, which has taken a hammering during the COVID-19 crisis.

The successful applicants will receive $6,000 to cover writing and recording, a studio session at the ABC, airplay for the complete recording on ABC Classic or ABC Jazz, and a commercial digital release of the work via ABC Classic.

The 25 works – 17 for ABC Classic and eight for ABC Jazz – will be presented to music audiences over the next year. They were selected from 486 applications to the ABC’s new Australian Music Fund, which is part of the ABC’s $5 million Fresh Start Fund, launched in April 2020 to provide critical support to Australian artists during the coronavirus pandemic. In an initiative designed to celebrate the diversity and range within the Australian musical sphere, 55.5 per cent of the selected composers and 62.5 per cent of the performers they are writing for are female, while almost 30 per cent of the composers identify as Indigenous Australians.

The 17 works for ABC Classic include:

  • three short solo works for classical guitar composed by Natalie Nicolas (a graduate of the Sydney University Composing Women program) in collaboration with guitarist Matt Withers;
  • a new work by SA composer Anne Cawrse for the Benaud Piano Trio;
  • a two-movement work by David Paterson for Melbourne Ensemble;
  • Dylan Crismani’s work for the Cristal Baschet;
  • a suite of seven short pieces by Luke Severn based on poems by Stephen Crane;
  • a 20-minute string quartet by singer/composer Emma Jayakumar evoking the narrative of Henry Kendall’s 1869 poem Bell Birds;
  • a three-movement trumpet concerto by Andrew Batterham composed for Dave Elton;
  • new works for Muses Trio by Elena Kats-Chernin, Natalie Williams, Cathy Applegate, Maria Grenfell, Hilary Kleinig, Nat Bartsch, Olivia Davies and Isabella Gerometta responding to the 2019-2020 bushfires;
  • a new trio for Ensemble Offspring by Yuwaalaraay woman Nardi Simpson, exploring the Southern Cross constellation from a First Nations perspective;
  • works by Indigenous composers Elizabeth Sheppard, Nardi Simpson, Will Kepa, Rhyann Clapham and Tim Gray exploring 250 years of European cultural heritage, and using an historic square piano made by Henri Henrion in about 1770;
  • music for string trio, piano, celeste/harp and soprano saxophone by Tasmanian saxophonist, composer and event curator Jabra Latham;
  • a 10-minute work by SA composer Jakub Jankowski for a new Adelaide Symphony Orchestra program focusing on health, meditation and well-being in the post-COVID-19 world;
  • two new concert works for Melbourne’s Ensemble Liaison by Natalie Williams and Katy Abbott;
  • a 15-minute multi-media work by composer-improviser Erik Griswold, which the Orava Quartet will premiere at the 2021 Brisbane Music Festival;
  • Harry Sdraulig’s first string quartet for the eminent Goldner Quartet;
  • a new work for didgeridoo and violin, drawing on the sounds of the native Australian landscape by William Barton and Véronique Serret;
  • a new work for trombone and strings by Kate Neal for trombonist Don Immel.

The eight commissions for ABC Jazz feature Adelaide drummer Ben Todd, vocalist Natalie Dietz, pianist Zela Margossian and Jeremy Rose from The Vampires, bassist Kate Pass, double bassist, composer and songwriter Jonathan Zwartz, saxophonist Angela Davies, Tasmanian guitarist Damien Kingston, and vocalist Margie Lou Dyer.

Toby Chadd, ABC Classic and ABC Jazz Content Manager, said: “This extraordinarily diverse selection of new works embodies Australian composition and performance at its finest and builds on the ABC’s established tradition of discovering and developing new music. We are very pleased to be able to bring such a superb collection of emerging and established artists to audiences over the next 12 months.”