Welcome to the Australian Art Music Playlist! A monthly playlist of classical, jazz, experimental and electronic music focusing on contemporary Australian composers, musicians and sound artists.
The Australian musical landscape has many long-standing choirs and vocal groups that have shaped our sound, our expectations and our belief in what the voice is capable of. These ripples affect not only our composers and the music they write, but also a new generation of vocal ensembles and what they wish to stand for. This month we take a look at new and old choirs, and the music written for them.
We open with a very recent release, Sally Greenaway’s Resonance performed by Luminescence Chamber Singers under the direction of Roland Peelman. Greenaway’s expert use of line creates an utterly flowing piece of music that rests in rich wells of harmony. Tone and luminescence control enhance this fluidity, floating effortlessly and gracefully.
Composer Dan Walker is a mainstay of the Australian choral scene, whose writing style is instantly recognizable. Vast Sleeping Mother Sea performed by Western Australian band Voyces perfectly captures Walker’s sound. Melodies pass seamlessly between singers and huge changes in texture and volume give the listener both grandeur and intimacy.
The Australian Voices, a long-standing vocal ensemble renowned for the range of styles they tackle, defend Isabella Gerometta’s work with their fun piece Words that turn into other words. True to the title, the text continues to change and move, taking us from “Listen carefully” to “forgetting”. Main props for the range of colors, expressions and textures used here to keep the interest on these slow text changes.
The Sydney Children’s Choir has long been a major curator of new Australian music and their 2021 commission from Sam Weiss Deine Mami is an excellent continuation of this legacy. The piece is a setting of a poem written by Weiss’s great-grandmother to her grandmother about the state of the world in pre-war Germany and a dream for her child to have a better life. Moving and beautiful, Weiss plays to the strength of the Sydney Children’s Choir with smooth, subtle shifts, long vocal lines and pure tone.
In the sea gives by Jessica Wells shows the composer’s mastery of rhythm, energy and movement. Carefully controlled and deployed in this performance by AVÉ (Australian Vocal Ensemble), the work always seems to have forward momentum and leads to anticipation of each section to come.
Sally Whitwell has had an ongoing association with choirs as a composer and accompanist, and her familiarity with vocals is evident in the playful masterpiece Yellow of Spectrum. A joy to sing (and sing with), the work has been a popular feature in Divisi Chamber Singers concerts and social media posts. And you can hear why in this recording – each singer becomes a magnificent feast for the ears in solo moments or exquisite mixes. Whitwell knows exactly how to leave audiences and performers with a smile on their face.
The last piece I want to draw your attention to is quite different, You played the knife by Gian Slater and Barney McAll, performed by them alongside TourniquetX and Invenio Choir. Drawing heavily from pop music, the production elements draw on sound art techniques and the vocal layering, I believe, references the rich shared jazz practice of Slater and McAll. Together, they create a unique track that rewards curious and repeated listening.
Please enjoy the range of choral works this month, from intimate quartets to massive pieces for orchestra and choir. If you like any of the music featured on this playlist, be sure to see if there are any concerts to attend or albums to buy – I know musicians would really appreciate your support!
Remember that while streaming is a great way to discover new music, attending concerts or buying albums and merchandise is an even better way to support the artists you love. We’ve put together a Merchandising Table to help you get started, but be sure to check the artists’ websites for more details and other ways to support them.
Do you want to present your own music or tell me about the latest releases from your label? Feel free to email me at [email protected]
Australian Artistic Music Playlist
Organized by Cameron Lam
September 2022 Tracklist
- Resonance by Sally Greenaway | performed by Luminescence Chamber Singers, conducted by Roland Peelman
- Vast Sleeping Mother Sea by Dan Walker | performed by Voices
- Words that turn into other words by Isabelle Gerometta | performed by The Australian Voices, conducted by Gordon Hamilton
- The black swan by Stephen Leek | performed by The Australian Voices
- Deine Mami by Sam Weiss | performed by the Sydney Children’s Choir
- In the sea gives by Jessica Wells | performed by Katie Noonan, Fiona Campbell, Andrew Goodwin and Andrew O’Connor (AVÉ – Australian Vocal Ensemble)
- Don’t stand on my grave and don’t cry by Joseph Twist | performed by Exaudi and Juliana Kay
- Crazy about Words of Wisdom by Katy Abbott | performed by The Song Company, conducted by Roland Peelman
- You played the knife by Barney McAll and Gian Slater | performed by TQX, Invenio Choir, Gian Slater and Barney McAll
- As for me from Lent Cantata by Andrew Anderson | performed by Andrew Anderson, The Consort of Melbourne, Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra and Stanislav Vavřínek
- Praise Marching Band by Sandra Milliken | performed by Oslo Vocalis and Vigdis Oftung
- A strange paradise by Raffaele Marcellino | performed by Alison Morgan, Belinda Montgomery, Jenny Duck-Chong, Jo Burton and Genevieve Lang (Sirens, Halcyon)
- spectrum yellow by Sally Whitwell | performed by Divisi Chamber Singers and Coady Green
- Through the darkness by Ben Van Tienen | performed by Voices
- Ekstasis by Andrew Schultz | performed by The Song Company, conducted by Roland Peelman
- Birinyi by Gudju Gudju Fourmile and Luke Byrne | performed by the Gondwana Native Children’s Choir
- that I have always loved by Clare Maclean | performed by The Saint Louis Chamber Chorus and Philip Barnes
- Plavno Slovo by Elena Kats-Chernin | performed by Paul Holley, David Montgomery, Justine Favell, The Birralee Blokes, Stephen Phillips
- Lux Aeterna by Paul Stanhope | performed by the Sydney Chamber Choir
- Looking at others from vexations and devotions by Brett Dean | performed by BBC Symphony Chorus, Gondwana Voices and BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by David Robertson
- Epilogue by Anne Cawrse | performed by Katie Noonan, Fiona Campbell, Andrew Goodwin and Andrew O’Connor (AVE Australian Vocal Ensemble)
Listen on Spotify
Over 100 hours of music previously featured on this playlist can be found on the Australian Art Music Archive Playlist, with previous material available here.