Jig’s Up – June 2015

Post by , June 10th, 2015

Arts Minister Brandis has taken $105m from the Australia Council funds and transferred it to his own Department where he can dictate its use. He says the Minister is the democratically elected member officially in charge of arts funding but since he cannot instruct the Australia Council who to fund, he has no control but gets all the blame for the funding decisions. Beyond that, he seems unable to justify the change. It looks awfully like the Minister setting himself up as Czar of the Arts.

George Brandis, ozco Chair Rupert Myer, Julie Bishop and Ozco CEO Tony Grybowski  at the launch of the Australia Council Corporate Plan last August

George Brandis, ozco Chair Rupert Myer, Julie Bishop and Ozco CEO Tony Grybowski
at the launch of the Australia Council Corporate Plan last August

The decision was sprung without warning on budget night and has been in the media ever since. The Australia Council, for which artists have only conditional love in normal times, suddenly has their fierce support. The Minister, seen as gaffe-prone, may have recruited some of the cleverest people in the country as his hottest critics.

Dicks Blog, The Brandis Heist, attracted a lot of interest and praise. A shortened version was published on the Daily Review, Crikey’s arts bulletin, on June 5. https://musictrust.com.au/category/blog/dicks-blog-blog/


The reason that Labor and the Greens are proposing a Senate review of Arts Minister Brandis’s funds grab from the Australia Council is that the national arts alliance ArtsPeak put them up to it. Problem right now is that it needs cross-bench support which so far is not sufficiently forthcoming.


Research has found that you can get an earworm out of your head by chewing gum. Replacing an automated mental activity with something more intellectual.

Maybe that explains why, at a music industry conference a while back, on the speakers’ platform was a seated row of record company executives. Every one of them chewing gum, open mouthed.

Or maybe it was because they work in an industry which depends for its living on having grownups sell music written by teenagers, to teenagers.

An age group that might once have chewed gum but didn’t any more.


The city in which ABC Classic FM has the most listeners proportionate to population is Canberra. Not so surprising since studies show that those with higher levels of education are more likely to listen to classical music, and Canberrans are desk workers.

But know which city ranks second? Newcastle. Newcastle scores more highly than Sydney or Melbourne.


New York schools are setting about restoring some balance, some heart, some roundedness, through new funding to arts programs. Recall that in introducing NAPLAN, Julia Gillard was influenced by the then head of New York schools in support of high-stakes big-data testing. Well, that bloke has gone and goodBYE! Time to add some sanity.

De Blasio

Mayor Bill de Blasio: We want every child to feel the spark that comes from learning something they are passionate about. And so often, it’s taking up an instrument, honing an artistic craft, or performing for the first time that helps a young person come into their own for the first time. The investments we are making here won’t just help our students explore music, dance and the arts. They will help these children grow in a way that helps them succeed in school and in life. Here, spend this $30 million. [The photo is of de Blasio and his family. A photo that says a lot about de Blasio – and New York.]


At the ABC shop in the ABC building yesterday, on sale were 8 CDs, all of a pop-classical persuasion. That’s all. Gone were the CD racks. Gone, even, most CDs from the ABC’s own labels.

So it’s come to this…


You know the British pianist, Stephen Hough? He is amazing: one of the world’s great pianists and also a composer whose works are performed by big forces in famous places and a painter and a writer. His father was Australian and in 2005 he became an Australian citizen. But still lives in London and his online bio barely mentions Australia. Has anyone invited him to begin to build a life here?

Stephen Hough

Stephen Hough

You know, Stravinsky and Weil and Sch0nberg migrated to the US and lived their artistic lives there. It is partly by attracting people of such achievement that the US became a great cultural nation. We think only of exporting our artists and it could even be said that we are discouraging to artist-immigrants. Jig’s thinks this is an error.


Why do we not hear more new operas by Australian composers? On the morning arts session on ABC RN (May 14), CEO of Opera Australia Craig Hassall, gave the usual reasons. Then he dropped the news that Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini nevertheless has five new opera commissions underway.

The one who loudly and pugnaciously announced that OA will not be presenting any new operas because no-one wants to attend them? That the only people who want them are “opera snobs”. That Lyndon Terracini?!

Is there a strategy here? Even a line of thought?


Richard Mills, Artistic Director of the Victorian Opera and composer, was there too. Mills on opera: “…a window on the marvellous…”

Interesting to hear the perceptions of someone who wears both hats. The Victorian Opera commissions and presents a new opera every year. But, says Mills, it does not have to deal with the hurdles of scale faced by OA. It can present new operas in smaller theatres instead of in 2,000 seat houses. (Well, that is an option for OA, too.) But the issues are more complicated than can be covered in a goss column or on RN.

Richard Mills

Richard Mills

The Woollahra house of composer Peter Sculthorpe, recently deceased, has been sold to Peter and Doris Weiss, who are reported as having a philanthropic purpose: to use the house for chamber music coaching, among other things. The proceeds, more than $3.8 million, are to go to Sydney University to create a Chair of Australian Music Studies. The university also intends to recreate his studio on campus. So a sad departure has been followed by a happy ending.

Peter Sculthorpe's house

Peter Sculthorpe’s house


Country story from Music in Australia’s Hans Hoegh-Guldberg.

Four weeks ago I contacted the local rubbish collector to say I had a truckload for him to collect from my shed. He said ”Gee whiz mate, busy this week, will ring you next Wednesday.”

Nothing happened so I rang him back three weeks later to ask how come. He said:

“A horse trod on me phone and I lost all me messages!”

Perhaps he was holding his phone to his ear at the time.

Country life at its best.

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