In 1954 Aaron Copland, one of the darlings of 20th Century American music, created an opera that was damned with faint praise. Everything else Copland touched seemed to turn to gold. So was it a bad opera, or was it just bad timing? Michael Shirrefs investigates.
The 1950s turned out to be a tricky time for Aaron Copland, the master of Americana, to create his first major opera. In a period of mass-neuroses typified by Senator McCarthy’s Communist witch-hunts, Copland found himself less sure of his standing as a darling of the music world. … Continue Reading
Language is the key to unlocking culture and, in a shrinking, swirling, multicultural world, multilingualism is a crucial tool. Michael Shirrefs asks why Australia, a country that proudly spruiks its multicultural credentials, is still so monolingual.
Learning foreign languages—it’s not rocket science, surely. No, for most Australians it’s much harder than that. Like many products of British Empire, Australia has always told itself that English is sufficient. It’s part cultural arrogance, part fear and part geography. The English language has spread like a virus, and there’s no denying that much of the World has accepted English as an ancillary language. But that also means that much of the World can shut us out of conversations when they revert to their native tongue.
These days we know this is a problem, but a solution seems to be elusive.
This is a story of how some brave souls are trying to tackle our linguistic awkwardness.
It’s one of the most important institutions for English music in the 20th Century—a place that Gustav Holst, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Michael Tippett poured their heart and soul into. The buildings witnessed the creation of some of the best known works of the last century. But it’s almost certain you’ll not know of it, and it’s barely mentioned in the conventional histories of the period.
Ultra-nationalism, anti-Semitism, censorship and intimidation of opponents. How has Hungary gone from having one of the most admired legal systems in the world, to becoming the most worrying symbol of democratic decline within Europe? European Union was founded on the belief that all members wanted to distance themselves from the sorts of conflicts and closed regimes that defined much of the 20th Century. But Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is presiding over a Hungary that is proving that this assumption was naïve, and that Europe is ill-prepared for the cascading side-effects of a crippling economic crisis.
What does it mean to a life to be born two years before a revolution that will rip your country apart?
Ali Alizadeh was born in Tehran in 1976. He grew up with the love of literature and strong Marxist ideologies of his immediate family, while a Revolution went horribly wrong across wider Iran.
The young Ali grew into a belief that language had power. This was until his family left Iran and moved to Australia—leaving Ali wrestling with his identity and wondering whether his new language still had power.
Today Ali Alizadeh is a highly respected writer, poet, critic and lecturer at Monash University, with an expanding body of work which already includes 5 poetry collections, a novel, a work of non-fiction and a collection of short stories.
Ali’s voice is clear and uncompromising and he treasures the strengths and failures of language in equal measure. … Continue Reading
Radio Yak Yak is one element of an international exhibition called Yak Yak, being hosted by the Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery in northern Victoria. The exhibition is co-curated by Irish artist Fiona Woods and gallery director Ian Tully. The show features artists from Ireland, Sweden, the USA, Argentina and Australia, and it highlights the myriad global conversations that are starting to forge powerful new networks that will support the idea of rural arts into a future full of change.
Our world is a complex organism, more interrelated than the silos in which we typically place it. One area of research to recognise this is the new discipline of participatory architecture, which explores among other things the relationship between music and buildings. But the idea has antecedents, including composers like Benjamin Britten and Edgard Varèse, and architects like Renzo Piano and Carlo Scarpo. Michael Shirrefs explores the search for harmony in the built environment.
Have you ever looked at a building and wondered what it would sound like? I’m not just talking about acoustics and air conditioner hum—I mean, what if that building was a piece of music? … Continue Reading
How does music speak to the buildings that house it? Music has always been a conversation with its environment, but from the 15th Century on, the craft became much more deliberate. And acoustic architecture has changed a lot since Dufay and the Gabrielis were composing their choral works for the Basilicas of Italy. … Continue Reading
RN’s Michael Shirrefs is talking to Ishan Khosla who returned to India from the US five years ago and quickly realised that the rapid rise of the Indian Tiger economy was coming at a cost. In the headlong rush to be a big global player, India was at great risk of losing its unique design traditions.
As India’s huge metropolises become ever more infatuated with the gloss and mystique of global design trends, alarm bells have sounded amongst many who see a downside. With a very wealthy new Indian middle-class being seduced by the power of ‘the global’, a vast number of distinctive local design skills and knowledge systems are being ignored or marginalised. This has prompted a counter-push from high-profile designers and commentators, aiming to elevate the profile of the myriad, rich design traditions across India’s length and breadth.
Rural artists have typically found themselves trying to translate their experiences of living on the land to gate-keeping gallery owners in the major cities. But new informal networks of artists, brought together on the internet, are cutting out the middle man and staging their own shows and happenings. Michael Shirrefs investigates.
One of the truths of rural life is that power and money and modernity usually lie elsewhere—in the metropolitan other. Well, it’s a truth of sorts. But it’s a truth that’s starting to loosen its grip.
Rural life, the world over, is in the midst of changes that are altering, not just who lives remotely, but what they do there. In this mix, artists have often seen rural life as an option that allows them to live and work on meagre incomes, but it usually comes at the cost of profile, access and any semblance of urban arts cool.
However, even that’s starting to change, because technology has begun to make geography less relevant, not only for artists, but for rural communities in general. … Continue Reading
On the NSW Central Coast lives farmer and artist Neil Berecry-Brown. For him, those two titles describe what he does in equal measure and the roles are interchangeable.
However, while living on the land has always meant being relatively isolated, this is starting to change. And for many rural artists around the world, technology has allowed them to find each other and form strong networks.
For a hybrid like Neil, the power of this connectivity has wider implications than just the art. His farm, on Mangrove Mountain, has become a hub for his community and, through that, for a global conversation about agriculture, life on the land and how to confront change.
It’s a conversation that has a universal resonance and the long-term implications of these networks will be to help bind communities globally as we witness seismic economic, social and environmental shifts. And one of the fundamental questions that this sort of dialogue raises is whether geography is less critical. Does it matter any more where you live? … Continue Reading
Australia’s Capital is keen to move into a new era as it passes 100 years since its inception. But what does it mean to be a Canberran?
For the rest of Australia, Canberra has remained a staple of parody and caricature for its entire, short life, but surprisingly the residents of Canberra aren’t quite as quick to shrug off the old clichés as you might think.
For the people that choose Canberra as home, the idea of peace and quiet, trees and space, the things that are such a source of mockery—they’re the very reasons they stay.Canberra has remained a staple of parody and caricature for its entire, short life, but surprisingly the residents of Canberra aren’t quite as quick to shrug off the old clichés as you might think. … Continue Reading
Why did that very modern 20th Century composer, Maurice Ravel, compose images of spectres, goblins and death?
Gaspard de la Nuit is the title of one of the most arresting and spectacularly difficult works ever written for the piano, but the name of this 3-part suite has it’s origins much earlier. This remarkable piano work by Ravel is actually a conversation between the composer and a little-known poet living more that 60 years earlier. And today’s Into the Music feature enters into their dialogue—between the words and the music.
There’s a problem in Australia, with regard to Europe. It’s not just the media, although we’re certainly among the biggest culprits. The pervasive attitude, in Australia, is that Europe is a history subject. Europe represents the past … Asia is the future … we’ve got Europe under control. So, we can tick the European box and move on.
The problem with this is … well … everything. To so casually dismiss Europe as a legacy region—static and easily understood—is folly. And there are a few clear and urgent reasons why this attitude should bother every one of us, especially in the education sector.
The first is that Europe has never stopped morphing, but the current state of flux is as radical now as it was at the end of the Cold War, 23 years ago. The immediate economic meltdown is a major part of this state, but in many ways it only goes to accentuate a massive, ongoing and very restless existential crisis. But I’m not really using the word ‘crisis’ in a negative way. Europe is changing shape. Within that there are myriad identity issues, and the result has been widespread, active and very healthy debate over who Europe is and who the individual countries are within that larger region. … Continue Reading
In a world of global ambitions and amorphous regions, Europe has become emblematic of the struggle between the need for collective cooperation and the fear of becoming lost in a vast, culturally homogenous mass. And in the current crisis of confidence about the future of the European ‘project’, one country sits as a symbol of all the tension and all the uncertainty.
Germany is once again right at the heart of global events and its role in the unfolding drama is being examined from all the obvious political and economic angles. But to understand what the future might hold for Europe, it helps to understand something of the identity of the main player.
So who is Germany? This series of three programs aims to provide some useful vignettes of how Germany sees itself, and how the country is perceived from the outside.
Born in 1888 into an industrial age full of machines, the young Antonia Sant’Elia began to articulate the collective obsession with the future through his remarkable sketched designs for the idealised city.
Sant’Elia had an almost comic-book, sci-fi sensibility about his drawings, and yet his aesthetic was also one of respect for a distant medieval tradition of ‘honest’ Romanesque forms.
Antonio Sant’Elia took the aesthetics of the 18th Century and brought them into the 20th Century, where new materials like glass, steel and concrete meant that the sky was the limit.
Although he was associated with the Italian Futurists, the young socialist didn’t share the Fascist sentiments of this movement, especially their love of violence and war. So it is, perhaps, especially tragic that the young Sant’Elia died at the age of 28 during World War I, with none of his most ambitious designs realised.
However the power of his imagination survives remarkably well, and his images remain a source of influence and intrigue in the 21st Century.
© 2012, Michael Shirrefs & ABC RN
What role do artists and intellectuals play in the debate over displaced peoples? Cultural theorist Nikos Papastergiadis and artist and performer David Pledger have been trying to figure this out for many years.
Both Nikos and David approach the subject of refugees, and our collective response to the ongoing drama, from different sides. But the questions they ask are very similar.
So this week on Creative Instinct, the artist and the academic look at how we got to this place, and why the events of Tampa and 9/11 drove such a divisive wedge between ‘the political’ and ‘the intellectual’ in Australia.
© 2012, Michael Shirrefs & ABC RN