‘Wind Farm Music – dedicated to Tony Abbott’ is described by Burnside as “art in service of political protest.”

Barrister and human rights campaigner, Julian Burnside, is a prolific commissioner of new Australian music, with almost 30 new works brought to life by his support in recent years. However, whereas previous works have been commissioned purely for their aesthetic value, Burnside’s most recent commission is “art in service of political protest.” Appearing onstage yesterday evening at the 2015 Art Music Awards at the City Recital Hall Angel Place, where he was co-hosting the gala ceremony, Burnside shared the very specific brief he gave composer Lyle Chan. “There were three stipulations: it had to be for piano trio; it had to feature some of the great melodies of the Romantic repertoire, and it had to be – and is – titled Wind Farm Music – dedicated to Tony Abbott. The commission is in response to the Prime Minister’s assertions that “wind farms are ugly,” while still actively supporting the use of fossil fuels and the mining of coal in Australia.

Lyle Chan

Chan spoke to Limelight about the origins of the unusual commission, after a chance meeting with Burnside at the Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition last month. “He said, ‘normally when I commission a composer, I say you can write whatever you want. But for the first time, I have very specific requirements.’” Chan said. “I was amused, and yet, I instantly saw the music. I wrote the following epigraph to the score to describe the piece.”

“This music is a vision of happy wind turbines, high in the air, soaking up the sunshine, catching fragments of music that rise into the sky after it leaves the ears of the people who listen to them. The music tangles up in their airfoils and the turbines are laughing, delighted.”

Tapping into the long history of windmills in society, dating back to the middle-ages, Lyle’s only deviation from Burnside’s original instructions was to broaden the historical catalogue of musical reference. Fragments of Beethoven, Bach, Vivaldi, Schubert, Rossini appear in the work.

World premiere by Seraphim Trio on Wed 19 Aug 2015 at the State Library of Victoria.
Estivo Trio will play Sydney premiere in early September.