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Matthew Hindson on Being an Australian Composer – In Conversation With…

Matthew Hindson on Being an Australian Composer – In Conversation With…


Well I do consider myself to be an Australian
composer, and it is important to me because that’s who I am. That’s… I can’t pretend
to be anything else. I’ve made peace with the fact, a long time
ago actually, that I’m not a European Modernist. I may find some of that music interesting,
and similarly European Not-Modernism, or music from Asia or music from indigenous cultures,
but I am who I am, hence people describing me as a musical bowerbird, like I’d like
to.. My ears are always open and I think that’s something that has a sense of freedom in approach
that people have described to me anyway. Perhaps now more than previously that’s
something that being Australian can offer. A sense of place is important in that sense
that I’m an Australian composer, and I can’t escape the influences of my teachers like
Peter Sculthorpe and Ross Edwards and Anne Boyd, for whom a sense of place was very important,
and it’s been very interesting actually thinking about a sense of place in terms of
how Indigenous people and that..the approach to how they approach place and how myself
as an Australian of European heritage I think (laugh) approaches place has changed a lot
over the past 20-30 years. For me it is important, um, and perhaps not place so much as culture.
Because that’s where I really come from, and that’s something that I don’t think
we can escape that. I think it’s part of who we are, growing up and our influences
as people growing up. And I grew up south of Wollongong, uh, you know, one of those
Wollongong boys.(laugh) So for me for example the influence of the Wollongong Conservatorium
as a teenager growing up was really important. the influence of growing up in a Catholic
boys school perhaps not so much (apart from actively rejecting it) so it’s part of culture
actually. When I talk to people from overseas, they always talk about the Australian music
has a sort of freshness about it, and I think that comes from our culture. We don’t feel
the weight of Europe and all these other composers bearing down on us ‘cause we can do something
a bit more different and a bit more free. The older I get, the more I feel “yes, it’s
separate”, and the way culture, you know, many cultures exist today. We live in the
most pluralist society that I think has ever existed, certainly in Western music and probably
in culture… I mean.. there is no such thing as an Australian culture, there is not, I
mean you know when John Howard talks about the Australian values I’m thinking “What
are those values?” There is no such thing as Australian values. Everybody, every sub
culture, has their own values. I’ve also gotta say, I’ve grown up in,
we’ve grown up in a classical music culture which is incredibly privileged, and I’m
aware of that. We’re sitting here in the Sydney Conservatorium of Music which is part
of the University of Sydney, you know. There’s no contemporary popular version of that, there
hasn’t been. The Conservatorium has recently brought on other forms of expression like
that to try and break down the barriers, to try and make music-making more reflective
of what’s going on in the real world, but writing contemporary classical; music, it’s
a niche of a niche. It’s a niche of classical music which is a niche of music, full stop. So I think we’re very much disparate now,
and we’re very much islands within each other, within cultural groups, and the older
I get actually the less I care about what should or shouldn’t be done. People, and I
think that’s a really exciting thing about being alive today, that people can do whatever
they want, and I’ve always said, for example as a composer, if someone doesn’t like what
I do that’s fine, go and find someone else’s, that’s fine. I’m not owed anything by
anybody.

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