Nine established and emerging composers from Australia and New Zealand have been announced as sharing more than $110,000 of funding for the creation of new works through APRA AMCOS’ second annual Art Music Fund. And in an encouraging sign for the future, women have received 66% of the total funding pool this year.

This year’s recipients are Natasha Anderson, Newton Armstrong, Lisa Cheney, Erik Griswold, Annie Hui-Hsin Hsieh, Eve Klein, Dylan Lardelli, Kate Moore and Eugene Ughetti. Commissioned works range from a 40-minute operatic work for young audiences, based on Edward Lear’s poem The Owl and the Pussycat, to a live performance combining custom built ice instruments with a frozen performance space.

Launched in 2016, the Fund aims to provide composers with more opportunities to see their works performed. Proposed projects are assessed on their viability, quality, and strategy for its life and reach. Aiming to commission new work that is innovative, displays professional compositional craft, and represents a benchmark of excellence in its field, the Fund supports a wide range of music styles.

John Davis, CEO of the Australian Music Centre, said “these works present a broad spectrum of contemporary practice in Australasian art music. In its second year, it’s fantastic to see the Art Music Fund again reflect the diversity and breadth of the work being created by local composers”.

Limelight spoke to three of the composers about their works. Eve Klein, whose work Vocal Womb will allow audiences to witness the hidden and fleshy workings of the operatic voice from inside a singer’s body, says that the piece was “inspired by my experience as a professional opera singer where the instrument itself is contained inside your body, concealing the process of musical creation from your audience”.

“Singing opera is an intensely physical and personal activity because of this internalisation,” she explains. “Vocal Womb is trying to externalise the experience of singing and in doing so engage with the larger philosophical questions of what having a ‘voice’ means for our collective humanity and individual selfhood”.

In her song cycle Eximia (Bloodwood), Kate Moore aims to explores the heritage, environment and women’s culture of the lower Hunter Valley – a location of significance to her own family history – using the metaphor of Eucalyptus trees. “The resin from this tree is bright red, giving the impression that the tree is bleeding,” she explains. “The imagery of the bleeding tree has resonances with medieval miracles where visions of Saint Mary were said to have appeared in sacred places. The tree represents a sacred vision of the bushland. The song cycle is based on artistic research into the history, culture and environment of the lower Hunter Valley, looking at early colonial settlement and the intersection with Aboriginal society in that region.”

Eugene Ughetti will tackle a very different environment in his immersive Polar Force, a live performance involving ice instruments and Antarctic field recordings. It all takes place within a chilled inflatable performance space, where audiences experience extreme wind and temperature. His work “explores notions of human fragility and isolation whilst pointing towards climate change, the colonisation of new territories and legendary Australian photographer Frank Hurley’s two photographs of 1912 – A blizzard and Leaning on the wind”.

Polar Force… is principally a sonic exploration of the materials of ice and wind,” he explains. “So the heart and soul of the work will be to work with ice aerophones. I am developing instruments which do not resemble conventional instruments at all but look and feel more like scientific equipment for measuring the environment. I want the audience to hear Antarctica and to understand the coldest, driest, windiest continent on the planet through sound”.

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