Academic journal article Australian Journal of Music Education

Centenary Chronicle Chapter 1

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Music Education

Centenary Chronicle Chapter 1

Article excerpt

I begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land we meet on today, the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people and pay my respects to their elders past and present, and also acknowledge, especially in this year of Canberra's 100th anniversary, the tens of thousands of years of culture these people continue to maintain and extend. I extend the acknowledgement to any other First Peoples here today.

I also wish to dedicate this lecture to the memory of bassoonist Lindsay Cooper, who died in London a few years ago. She was a fine musician who bravely decided that she couldn't bear to be tied to a symphonic life, and endless repetitions of Peter and the Wolf, and so turned to improvisation and composition for which she was known widely in Europe. Vale Lindsay

And I will preface this lecture by saying it is the second of some six addresses I give in this second half of the Canberra Centenary year, and I am using each of them to focus on different parts of the Centenary program. Together, these will act as a kind of chronicle of the year--and this, appropriately for today's audience, is about the music that's been heard, and is still to be heard in Canberra in 2013, the year in which we celebrate the naming on March 12, 1913, of a new national capital for a newly federated nation.

When Walter Burley Griffin won the international design competition for the new capital, and his partner, the architect Marion Mahony Griffin worked on it with him, her renderings of his design being crucial to the win, there was no question that they dreamed of the new capital as not only a centre of federal government, but as a centre for all kinds of national achievement, including the arts.

Many insinuate that, along with other parts of the plan which were never fulfilled, this ambition for a centre of arts and culture also failed. I beg to differ. While Canberra now has 370,000 inhabitants, with around 600,000 in total accessing the hospitals, indicating that that many could also access the arts and culture the capital offers, it will not compete in actual numbers of artists and artistic output with cities of five or four million; but this doesn't mean there's no activity here, which is the myth which many outsiders continue to spread. 'National Treasure' Clive Palmer, in his first comments about the National Capital, to which he has been summoned by his electorate as their representative, declared he would not be spending much time in Canberra (that will be very interesting for those who elected him). He happily called it "a sterile place" and this falsehood went without comment in the mass media. It's the woeful ignorance of statements like these that continue, with absolutely no basis in fact or recent experience, to portray our capital in negative terms. In Mr Palmer's case, it may be his lack of knowledge about the lack theme parks (even though we do have dinosaurs out at Gold Creek, and seriously good live animals at the National Australia Zoo) that forms the basis of the opinion: I'm guessing he's rarely stepped into any of the 11 national collecting institutions which the capital hosts --each of them with more themes, content and stimulation than a 1000 theme parks put together.

In any case, artistic activity has been greater this year than at any other time in the one hundred year history of this city, and we can now couple that with statistical evidence of the significant rise in visitors to the capital this year. Given that I made an early decision that this activity would be created mainly by local as well as Australian artists, there have been unprecedented opportunities for local artists to make work, and, in the instance of music, to have their works heard. I'm sure, once you've heard about some of what we've been doing, and continue to do, you may think differently of Canberra--and that's what one of chief goals has been, for Australians (including Canberrans as well) to re-imagine their capital. …

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