October’s playlist digs into the unique repertoire of the guitar, with a couple of guest appearance by the mandolin or bass guitar. We have releases from 1996 all the way to this year, cataloguing and showcasing Australia’s contribution to the instrument’s vast range of music from solos to concerti.
I also wanted to shout out the Australian Music Centre catalogue as an essential resource in filling in gaps in metadata, it has been wonderful to be able to find composers or performers when not listed on the Spotify tracks themselves.
While streaming is a great way to discover new music – purchasing albums or merch is an even better way to support the artists you love. Visit the Merch Table for this month’s playlist.
We begin with several performer-composers showing off their deep understanding of the instrument. Michelle Nelson’s Summer Rain showcases the gentle and unfurling textures of the guitar against soothing backdrop of rainstorms. Loop Sonata by Ken Murray takes crystalline moments of colour and lets them build into glorious latticework. Kim Cannan’s Renegade immediately features the versatility of the instrument’s palette before supporting it with layers of other instruments and effects. And finally, Meredith Connie’s work, They of the Half Light, uses the subtle resonance of the guitar to stitch together the ebb and flow of her melody lines.
In terms of larger ensemble works, we really get to how the instruments blend and interact with on another, the smooth gleam of Fandago by Ann Carr-Boyd written for Sydney Mandolins leans into the flow to create interest and momentum. An old favourite of mine, Flying Fish by Nigel Westlake, was one the first work to open my eyes to the amazing possibility of guitar quartet (really should write one, one day) and I adore Saffire’s recording featured in the playlist. Richard Charlton’s work for Guitar Trek, Guitar Quartet No 8, 5 Tails in Cold Blood, also showcases the ensemble in a different light more homophonic than Westlake’s polyphony, the melodic writing elegantly leads the listener all over through the group in an eminently pleasing way.
The most recent release here is Natalie Nicolas’ Sunbeam, part of her ABC commissioned for guitarist Matt Withers, the piece speaks of a good collaborative relationship with expressive freedom given the Withers to bring the best out of Nicolas’ compositional ideas. The oldest recording is a wonderful mandolin work by Caroline Szeto for Paul Hooper, Mandolin Dance, a brisk joyful work filled to the brim with energy and giving the solo mandolin a solid workout. It made me consider what the mandolin is capable of, much more deeply than I have before.
On a very different axis, Cathy Milliken’s Wie fliehen? unashamedly opens with the rough sounds of attack and acoustic distortion – a notable and welcome difference to many other tracks that feature this month. Whereas Edward Grigoryan’s Day Dreams utilises space to craft a distinct open letting the duo ring between phrases simultaneously creating calm and anticipation. Another track that is very intentional in its use of space is To My Left Is Where the Lake Is by Franklin | Gill, Franklin’s bass notes are sparsely yet effectively placed and make a beautiful web of silence and sound to inhabit.
I hope you enjoyed the array of guitar sounds on the Aussie Art Music playlist this month – It’s been wonderful to explore some composers new to me and revisit some old favourites. If you’re looking for more to listen to, the full Australian Art Music Archive has also been updated on Spotify (now with over 80 hours of music!).
Australian Art Music Playlist
Curated by Cameron Lam
Guitar Concerto: III. Allegro vivace by Philip Braĉanin | performed by Karin Schaupp; Ronald Spigelman; Queensland Symphony Orchestra
Tides of a current flowing by Vivienne Olive | performed by Stefan Grasse
Three Duets: 3. Alchemy by Phillip Houghton | performed by Andrew Blanch; Ariel Nurhadi
Summer Rain by Michelle Nelson
Loop Sonata: I. Seven Seeds, Loop Miniatures by Ken Murray | performed by Ken Murray
Guitar Quartet No. 8 “5 Tails in Cold Blood” by Richard Charlton | performed by Guitar Trek
Wie fliehen? by Cathy Milliken | performed by Jurgen Ruck
5 Bagatelles: No. 2, Moderato by Mark Isaacs | performed by Timothy Kain
Eliza Aria from Wild Swans Concert Suite by Elena Kats-Chernin | performed by Umberto Clerici; Karin Schaupp
Djanaba by Ross Edwards | performed by Karin Schaupp; Claire Edwardes
Black Dogs: 2. Adagio by Iain Grandage | performed by Australian String Quartet; Slava Grigoryan
Renegade by Kim Cannan
Buddha Fantasy by Eve Duncan | performed by Stefan Feingold
Mandolin Dance by Caroline Szeto | performed by Paul Hooper
Flying Fish by Nigel Westlake | performed by Saffire: Gareth Koch; Karin Schaupp; Leonard Grigoryan; Slava Grigoryan
Storming by Rick Alexander | performed by Matt Withers; Acacia Quartet
Day Dreams by Edward Grigoryan | performed by Leonard Grigoryan; Slava Grigoryan
Budgie by Ken Murray | performed by Ken Murray; Laila Engle
Fandango by Ann Carr-Boyd | performed by Sydney Mandolins
Southern Sky by Slava Grigoryan & Leonard Grigoryan | performed by Grigoryan Brothers
Sunbeam by Natalie Nicolas | performed by Matt Withers
Heart On a Sleeve Mvt. 2: River Between (Dying Love) by Marián Budoš | performed by Ján Labant, Peter Remenik, Slovak Sinfonietta, Oliver von Dohnanyi
Landscape by Robert Davidson | performed by Brew Guitar Duo
Rushall Express by Stuart Greenbaum | performed by Ken Murray
They Of The Half Light by Meredith Connie
To My Left Is Where the Lake Is by Joseph Franklin & Sam Gill | performed by Franklin | Gill