Welcome to the Australian Art Music playlist! A monthly playlist of Classical, Jazz, Experimental & Electronic music focused on contemporary Australian composers, musicians and sound artists. 

This month’s playlist is an odd one. It started out with me looking at the sky, pondering the stars, and has expanded into contemplations of death, mourning, bird song, and distant landscapes. In many ways this is a playlist about distance, transition, and contemplation – very much pre-sunrise thoughts. Unlike most of my playlists, I think this one bears listening to in order – if only so you can hear me pondering from piece to piece.

Australian Art Music May 2022
Clockwise from top left: Kate Moore; Nardi Simpson; Nadje Noordhuis, photo © Mireya Acierto.

Streaming is a great way to discover new music – attending gigs, or purchasing albums or merch is an even better way to support the artists you love – we’ve even set up a Merch Table link here to get you started! Don’t forget to check out the artists’ websites for more details and other ways to support.

We begin with starlight.

Caerwen Martin’s Stars Come Out in a Midnight Sky is the perfect gentle contemplation piece, slowly building from small gestures to grand sweeps, showing off ACO Collective’s wonderful ensemble work. Star Song by Daniel Wilfred and Sunny Kim instantly transports us to a more spacious rendition of starlight. The recording production really lends a sense of immersion and being surrounded by the Australian Art Orchestra’s players.

Way of the Dead by Kate Moore absolutely captivated me from first listening, and despite its different subject matter feels at home in a space of distance and stars. In many ways it is the mirror of the sense of awe we feel staring out into space. It navigates the isolation and loneliness of being adrift in a sea of stars, captured beautifully by Anna McMichael’s violin melodies and Genevieve Lang Huppert’s spacious harp ostinatos.

We continue this pensiveness with Requiem for the Holocene by Nicholas Meredith and Tilman Robinson. The building of white noise underneath a textural melodic line seems fitting here, as thoughts give way to just being and watching the sky.

Birdsong joins in.

Nardi Simpson’s Of Stars and Birds has featured on this playlist before, but it’s too perfect a segue to pass up. Lamorna Nightingale and Jason Noble’s flute and clarinet lines inject some energy and motion in our listening experience, while Claire Edwardes’ vibraphone keeps us tether to the stars which came before.

A new work for us is Lockdown Birdsong by Bryony Marks. A more grounded and melancholic work than Simpson’s, Erica Kennedy’s violin playing communicates a tender and delicate longing that still preserves momentum forward. In stark contrast, Cassie To’s Snowy Owl is immediately dramatic and full of anticipation. The rich chordal ostinatos contrasting with the bird sounds, reverb, and short string gestures to give the Snowy Owl a great majesty.

Clouds roll in, bringing snow and rain.

Nadje Noordhuis captures a sense of warmth in isolation in her piece Migration, her trumpet playing is layered with nuance that I would normally associate with the human voices. The blankets of harmony shift and shimmer giving me the impression of distant banks of snow. Where Lachlan Skipworth brings Light Rain expertly rendered by shakuhachi and string quartet with just the right blend of sustain, gestural motion and silence.

And finally, dawn comes.

Morning has a gentle beginning in Andrea Keller’s Horizons Cusp. The performance benefits greatly from her expert sense of timing, drawing out silence just long enough to become anticipation. 

The playlist closes with Flowers by Kirsten Milenko, and I love the rich texture of this work. Almost as though, after staring into the distance, we see not a flower but each and every cell of the plant. We luxuriate in ridges, roughness, and structure as much as the vibrancy of the petals. There are worlds contained therein.

I hope you enjoyed the music and the slightly different format this month, let me know if this is an experiment you’d like to see again. As mentioned before, if you enjoyed any of the Aussie Art Music playlist this month don’t forget to see if there are concerts to attend or albums to buy – I know the musicians would really appreciate your support. 

Australian Art Music Playlist

Curated by Cameron Lam

Tracklist

Stars Come Out in a Midnight Sky by Caerwen Martin | performed by ACO Collective
Star Song by Daniel Wilfred & Sunny Kim | performed by Daniel Wilfred, David Wilfred, Sunny Kim, Peter Knight, & Aviva Endean (Australian Art Orchestra)
Lights Across The Sky by Ross McHenry
Glacial – A Night Sky Lullaby by Elissa Goodrich, Phil Bywater, Daniel Farrugia, & Tamara Murphy
Symphony No. 4, “Star Chant”: I. The Northern Sky by Ross Edwards, text by Fred Watson | performed by Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Richard Mills
Way of the Dead by Kate Moore | performed by Anna McMichael, Claire Edwardes, Genevieve Lang Huppert, Kirsty McCahon, & Rowena MacNeish
Requiem for the Holocene by Nicholas Meredith & Tilman Robinson | performed by Kcin & Tilman Robinson
Therein Lies by Christine Pan | performed by Heathcliffe Auchinachie & Christine Pan
Blood Moon by Christopher Gordon | performed by Louise Johnson & Magic Fire Ensemble
Eclipse by Robert Curgenven
Aurora Australis by Philip Samartzis & Eugene Ughetti
Of Stars and Birds by Nardi Simpson | performed by Ensemble Offspring
LOCKDOWN BIRDSONG by Bryony Marks | performed by Kristian Chong & Erica Kennedy
“and other lines”: I. Little birds of the night by Luke Severn | performed by Briana Leaman, Joseph Lallo, & Yasmin Rowe
Snowy Owl by Cassie To
Migration by Nadje Noordhuis
The Clash of Icicles Against the Stars by Nirmali Fenn | performed by Hong Kong New Music Ensemble
Snow, II Falling by Felicity Wilcox | performed by Jason Noble, Freya Schack-Arnott, & Felicity Wilcox
Rain by Alexandra Spence
Light Rain by Lachlan Skipworth; Bronwyn Kirkpatrick | performed by Bronwyn Kirkpatrick, Mariana Green, Claire Herrick, Maike-Karoline Drabe, & Will Hewer
Horizons Cusp by Andrea Keller
Dawn Lament by Paul Stanhope | performed by University of Queensland Chamber Players
Castle In The Sky by Chloe Charody | performed by Van-Anh Nguyen
Earth Lullaby by Katy Abbott | performed by Riley Lee & Enigma Quartet
Distant Hills by Maria Moles
Flowers by Kirsten Milenko

Want to recommend music for future playlists? Tag #AussieArtMusic on Twitter or Cameron Lam on Facebook or Twitter. Want to pitch your own music or let me know about your label’s latest releases? Feel free to email me at aussieartmusic@gmail.com.

For previously featured music and merch visit the Australian Art Music archive and archive Merch Table.

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