In February this year, the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM) announced an audacious commissioning project, pairing 67 Australian composers at varying career stages with 67 musicians studying at ANAM. Supported by the Australian Government’s Restart Investment and Expand (RISE) Fund, the pairs would create over six hours of new music with the goal of reinvigorating new Australian music after the lockdowns of 2020 (and now 2021). Now, nine months on from the initial launch, ANAM has announced the completion of all 67 works, to be presented as a festival from 13–15 May next year.


Double bassist Hamish Gullick and composer Samantha Wolf. Photos supplied.

“The ANAM Set was conceived in a time when Australia’s musicians were silenced by the closure of venues and concert halls and looking toward a very uncertain future. To commission 67 compositions was a deliberately brave undertaking, but one that expressed ANAM’s optimism about the future of the artform. When enthusiastic responses to our idea poured in from composers around the world, we knew that we had touched a nerve,” said ANAM Artistic Director Paavali Jumppanen.

Brett Dean, one of the ANAM SET composers, described the project as “an extraordinary and extremely welcome contribution to our country’s rich yet fragile arts fabric.”

The final piece of the project, entitled Adrift, has been composed by Connecticut-based composer Samantha Wolf for ANAM double-bassist Hamish Gullick.

“Collaborating with Hamish so closely and for so long has been a lifeline for me. The piece we’ve created, Adrift, reflects on that feeling of being stuck that so many of us have felt over these last few years, but ironically, the process of writing it has helped me feel less stuck and isolated,” said Wolf.  “I’ve been outside of Australia for almost two years now – far longer than I expected to be – and having a creative connection with someone back home has helped me feel less stranded. The piece challenges both the performer and the listener to make peace with stasis, and to find the beauty in the moment.”

Gullick described the project as a unique experience. “Throughout the process Sam sent me sketches of the score to give me an idea of what she’s thinking. Together we’ve navigated tricky time zone differences and workshopped the piece over Zoom. It’s been challenging but wonderful, and the payoff will be performing,” said Gullick.

The 67 composers who have contributed and collaborated on works as part of this project include high-profile artists such as Brett Dean, Deborah Cheetham, William Barton, Felicity Wilcox, Richard Mills and Ross Edwards. The list also includes other composers who are not yet as established, who joined the project through a public callout.

The first pairing was announced at the launch of the project. It featured Liza Lim and ANAM cellist James Morley (of Rathdowne Quartet), who were collaborating on a new work for solo cello.


Cellist James Morley and composer Liza Lim. Photo © Pia Johnson

Now, to celebrate and showcase the mammoth achievement of the ANAM SET, all 67 works, totalling over 470 minutes of new Australian music, will be premiered as part of the ANAM SET Festival in May at Melbourne’s Abbotsford Convent. The pieces cover multiple genres, ensembles, instruments (including a carving knife) and themes – with some reflecting on the lockdowns and others focusing on more political ideas.

“What joy and inspiration this project has given us!” said Jumppanen. “It is a humbling gift, but one whose recipients are all of us who care about music and all the wonderful things it has to offer.”

The ANAM SET Festival will run at Melbourne’s Abbotsford Convent, 13–15 May, 2022. More information about the project, and the composers and performers involved, can be found here.