Words by Damien Ricketson
“If the world isn’t ready for your music, don’t change your music, change the world that listens to it.”
This was the rather blunt challenge thrown at me by Dutch composer Louis Andriessen when I turned up to study with him in the late 90s. His somewhat confrontational stance imagines the young musician in a position of struggle. Each successive generation should not only re-fashion music by searching for their own distinct sound, but re-shape the very cultural apparatus by which music is created and consumed. That is, he promoted a fiercely independent artist-led community whose music demanded the type of structures, institutions and audiences it needed rather than the other way round. The fact that I, and many other Australian musicians, had been attracted to the Dutch music scene (which at the time was flourishing with dedicated specialist ensembles) attested to the impact Andriessen had had on music production and consumption in the Netherlands.
Although I shy well short of grandiose claims of changing the world, I do acknowledge that Andriessen’s attitude had a profound influence in fostering a strong DIY ethos in the way I approach music-making. Many of my activities as a composer, and curator of new music events has tried to allow raw ideas to drive the design of creation and presentation models rather than chasing opportunities in existing classical music structures. In some ways, my role in co-founding and later co-directing the specialist new music group Ensemble Offspring for 20 years (with Claire Edwardes), is one such example. As a composer, forming an ensemble was an empowering strategy that enabled my own public platform and a creative way of working to develop without being dependent on others. More broadly, it became an artistic operation around which to gather like minds and give voice to the creative aspirations of many others in my generation.
Carving out an independent career may be artistically satisfying but also takes courage and resilience. I, for one, believe that much of the most engaging and bold new work in Australia comes from independent artists and small artist-led ensembles, venues and festivals enriching our community with vibrant and diverse music. While many of the gifted musicians currently at ANAM may transition seamlessly into the world’s leading orchestras and ensembles, others will face the tough, but ultimately rewarding, pathway of identifying and contextualising their unique artistic niche within a broader cultural community. I echo Andriessen’s challenge and hope the next generation will change the musical world around me.
Join ANAM in exploring the works of Sydney-based composer Damien Ricketson and his mentors in the third Australian Voices concert for 2016. Curated by highly acclaimed percussionist Claire Edwardes and featuring the ANAM Musicians.
AUSTRALIAN VOICES 3: RICKETSON
THU 23 JUNE 6PM
RICKETSON Same Steps
ANDRIESSEN Klokken voor Haarlem
RICKETSON Not by Halves
RICKETSON Time Alone
RICKETSON Heaven Only Empty
Claire Edwardes percussion/curator
Damien Ricketson turntables
Venue Salon, Melbourne Recital Centre
Bookings melbournerecital.com.au / 03 9699 3333
Presented in partnership with Melbourne Recital Centre