A Path of One’s Own

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Actually, I need to write a little more on Tim and eighth blackbird than that last post…

I first encountered Tim while I was studying for my BMus at the Con – at that time I was actually quite into American new music, particularly hardcore minimalism. I was playing Steve Reich’s Vermont Counterpoint for flute and tape (13 additional recorded tracks playing on alto flute, concert flute and piccolo), and there was a recording in the library of Tim playing it when he was doing a masters there. I got in touch with him, detailing my ambitions, which went something along the lines of “get into some super international new music ensemble like eighth blackbird“. He got back to me, and I think the thing that I remember most from that correspondance was his insistence that I should have lessons with Patrick Nolan, “the best teacher in Queensland” (it took me a few years, but obviously I now do and completely agree). But this was the beginning of my idolising Tim Munro and expecting myself to follow something of a similar trajectory into a similar position.

Whenever Tim visits Brisbane I scab a couple of lessons off him (hopefully he doesn’t remember a particularly bad rendition of Berio’s Sequenza from a couple of years ago), and the firm talking to I got in a lesson in July led to my doing to the detailed slow work with Alex that meant we could actually play the Furrer Presto. In addition we’ve had some disagreements over the relationship a performer should have to their audience (one particular instance, prior to an ACO concert over dinner with a rather illustrious crowd, led to Tim accusing Liam of knowing nothing of the working class!).

Well, tonight’s concert demonstrated quite clearly that that disagreement is symptomatic of an absolutely fundamental difference in the priorities and approaches of Tim and myself. I really think that pandering to one’s audience can never end well (eighth blackbird‘s tagline for tonight was that they could show you art music “isn’t just for the cerebral few”), although neither, of course, can talking down to them. Perhaps it’s to do with the composer-performer-audience hierarchies that are still rife in the world of Western art music, and I think perpetrated by performers … something I’ll bang about for a bit over the coming months as I’m writing a paper for UQ’s ‘Power’ conference in November. But also it’s clear to me that the music and the performance style that were on show tonight came out of American experimentalism just mixed with a very heavy dose of capitalism.

Not sure I’ve made a lot of sense here… But anyway, I am now letting go of Tim as my ultimate role model. This is such a common and dangerous trap for me – to look to people and think ‘I want to be like them, I’ll just follow their path’. Inevitably this leads to disappointment and frustration. My subsequent reflex is to work simply by elimination – ‘I don’t want to be like them … or them … or them…’. Evidently this is insufficient. I must make the more difficult affirmative gesture, and forge a path truly my own.

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