Freedman Classical Fellows and Freedman Jazz Fellows win their awards by performing for judges and audiences and proposing projects on which they would spend their prize money should they win a Fellowship.
These projects are intended to assist the winners to develop their careers. Generally speaking, they are designed to enable the artists to increase their artistic ability and/or achieve greater exposure and success in performance. For instance, some Fellows choose to commission and perform new works or to make recordings that can be used in promotion. The actual strategies are many and varied.
After about two years, the Fellows send in reports of their experiences in carrying out their projects. The Music Trust is publishing these reports in the expectation that they may be helpful in guiding other musicians towards success.
Below are reports from firstly the Freedman Classical Fellows, and then the Freedman Jazz Fellows. They are listed alphabetically by the surnames of the artists. The year in which they won the award is also shown.
REPORTS FROM THE FREEDMAN CLASSICAL FELLOWS
Matthew Kneale, bassoon, 2017
The Freedman Fellowship is the perfect opportunity for up and coming musicians to come up with a concept for an interesting and diverse project. Musicians are nominated, propose an idea and then make a budget and create the magic to happen. My project was to bring bassoon chamber music to audiences and to promote all genres of Australian chamber music for the bassoon, written predominantly by female or non-binary composers.
Before going further, I would like to thank the Music Trust/Freedman Foundation for supporting my proposal and trusting me with this amazing project
The concerts were to be performed in Germany, France and New York. It was a great to have the opportunity to be a local and have the Fellowship cover flights, accommodation, concert venues, and pay musicians to be part of the amazing tour. There were of course many challenges including getting musicians to commit to times, my own work schedules, and co-ordination with lots of venues given time differences. Recording and live streaming were nearly impossible as some venues that mentioned that they had good wifi and equipment had very haphazard and terrible internet and even worse equipment. Getting a professional to come in and manage this was over 3000 euro and would have blown the budget completely so it unfortunately couldn’t happen.
However I managed to get all the artists I needed in Europe and America, and present 5-6 concerts in total over the tour. Audiences in Germany and America took a particular liking to Holly Harrison’s and Stuart Greenbaum’s work. Concerts were of small attendance in some cases but were very well received by audiences. Many had never heard bassoon chamber music this intimately.
What was wonderful was to collaborate with my Australian colleagues Amir Farid and Courtenay Cleary and many other musicians. Many students in Mannheim and Julliard were very keen to perform this music as part of their chamber music electives in 2020, which was very encouraging in recognizing how well written the work is. A key aspect here was the fact that female and non-binary composition was extremely well received and performance was encouraged in locations mentioned.
Touring for this long always has its challenges. Time away, practice and temperature changes always affect instruments and reeds. Moving to different climates, time zones and accommodation requires great organisation and preparation. Due to language differences and circumstances it was rather stressful to organise concerts particularly in France. However in the end all ended well with successful concerts, audiences appreciating new music for the bassoon and seeing the instrument in a whole new light. The project brought a wonderful opportunity to achieve great learnings in artistically curating and planning a tour around the world..
Production of a CD, Cloud Day, featuring composers Calogero Panvino, Cyrus Meurant, Tansman and Beethoven. Nicholas Young piano, Matthew Kneale bassoon, to be released in December 2019
The works on the CD are:
Telepus II for solo bassoon – Calogero Panvino (CD)
Palomar’s Vacation for bassoon and piano – Calogero Panvino (CD)
Melody for solo bassoon – Cyrus Meurant (CD)
Other new bassoon works already created and performed:
Knismesis and Gargalesis for piano, oboe and bassoon – Ian Whitney (performed as requested by composer and music donated by composer)
Airbender for bassoon and string quartet – Holly Harrison (Comissioned by Canberra Symphony Orchestra and performed)
New bassoon works composed, not yet performed
Seeing Earth for oboe, bassoon and piano- Stuart Greenbaum to be world premiered April 19, 2020 at Macedon Music
The hound of heaven for bassoon and string quintet – Naomi Brown to be world premiered in 2020
Fantasy on Les Bijoux de Castafiore for bassoon and piano – Ian Whitney to be premiered at Macedon Music April 19, 2020
New works for bassoon, under discussion or being composed
New work for oboe, bassoon and piano – Paul Dean, commission funded, hopefully to be premiered in April 19, 2020 Macedon Music
New work for solo bassoon – Holly Harrison to be premiered in 2021 (funded and ready to start composing)
New work for bassoon and flute – Cyrus Meurant to be premiered in 2021 (beginning compositional process)
New work for solo bassoon – Andrew Ford (not composed but for 2021)
Concerts in Australia with Amir Farid and Courtenay Cleary (planning for 2020/21) to perform some of the works on the Europe/USA tour.
The Fellowship helped launch my trio Ensemble Françaix into a concert series at Tempo Rubato and multiple concerts at Macedon Music. We also entered the Queensland International Chamber music competition and performed our first work which was Ian Whitney’s Knismesis and Gargalesis and jointly won the competition. This is the only chamber competition in Australia that allows wind musicians to compete.
Ensemble Françaix is embarking on a CD recording and a regional tour of country NSW in September 2020 featuring many of these Australian works.
Also when Arcadia Winds collaborate with Australian composers a lot of them already know who I am given the amount of collaborations and bassoon compositions composers have heard about.
The unexpected outcome of creating a world tour and to see so many new works composed has been extremely surprising and pleasing. It is giving so many more opportunities for bassoonists to play solo works, wind and piano chamber music but most importantly, the combination of bassoon and strings. This is extremely important for music festivals around the country as I am consistently asked about any works for bassoon and string combinations given the prolific string quartet repertoire; the other wind instruments have many more significant smaller works like this.
I am pleased to say that given the focus as well on Australian music, having multiple female and non-binary compositions commissioned is exciting and a way to have a much fairer system. The quality of Holly’s and Katy’s work is a testament to the possibilities for the bassoon, an instrument that generally gets neglected in the chamber music scene. It is wonderful that the Music Trust see the value of putting bassoon music and chamber music to the fore.
Future hopes for bassoon chamber music
Being a Freedman Fellow is one of the biggest honours young and upcoming musician can have. It is something that allows you to grow as a musician and to achieve your aim and goals but it is one of huge responsibility. We all have a job to be leaders in our field and inspire the younger generation to create really amazing projects and to ensure that music that we all commission has a life beyond our own playing. Through the fellowship there are already many more new excellent works for the bassoon written by our amazing colleagues. My hope is that young bassoonists will pick up and play this music more frequently in university and chamber music settings and that I will be continuing to commission more and more works into the future plus curating many more concerts here in Australia or around the world.
Ideas for the music trust
What could be a very inspired move by the Music Trust is to put previous winners onto a panel that judges the Freedman Fellowship as we have been part of it and understand how important funding these projects is. It is a great way to include alumni into the program. It could also be a good method of having reunions with Freedman Fellows and talk about how each fellowship has inspired one’s career, and to give musicians who are nominated to meet up with some of the alumni and discuss how best to think and write about their proposals.
Stefanie Farrands, viola, 2016
My Freedman Fellowship project was one that involved an enormous amount of self-development and exploration over the past two years, and one that both challenged and inspired me beyond anything I thought I was capable of.
Over the course of the two years, the support from the Freedman trust has enabled me to develop a set of commissions for the viola, to work directly with the composers, to promote, record and perform these works and bring them to life on the world stage as a performer. It has allowed me to strengthen and develop new ties in Europe as well as enabling me to leave something behind that is quite simply, unique.
The Freedman Fellowship has given me the knowledge and inspiration to continue to make this a life long project. It has taught me so much about myself and given me the chance to learn and grow both as a musician and person from so many different people.
Not only have I been able to develop my own skills as a performer, but make a difference to support and expand the amount of works written for the viola. Having first hand knowledge of the works is invaluable in strengthening the interpretation and understanding of the works, and I feel honoured to be able to carry this knowledge to pass on to other musicians as these works continue to live.
No words can possibly express the amount of gratitude, appreciation and respect I feel towards the Freedman Trust. Thank you for trusting me with this project.
Over the course of two years I was fortunate enough to collaborate with four of Australia’s most esteemed composers to produce four new works for the viola. It was an honour for me to be able to work with these composers and become an integral part of their piece’s creation. From the initial ideas about the works, working through their various sketches, to the final printing of the work and finally bringing it to the concert hall I was able to work alongside the composers, workshop our ideas, share my knowledge and passion for my instrument and contribute directly to the creative process. It is an honour for me to have been able to instigate and directly take part in the addition of some wonderful new works to the Viola Repertoire.
- ‘Desert Rain’ by Maria Grenfell for Viola and Percussion (Marimba, five temple blocks, small high pitched suspended cymbal and bass drum). Composed in 2017.
- ‘Elegy in the French Style’ by Calvin Bowman for Viola and Piano. Composed in 2017.
- ‘Too Quiet for the Hall’ by Paul Hankinson for Viola and Marimba (or piano). Composed in 2018.
- ‘Mother Tongue’ composed by Yitzhak Yedid for 2 Violas. Due for completion early 2019.
NATIONAL WOMEN’S COMPOSER DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM COMMISSIONS
It was important to me that part of my project included an educational component, and I was fortunate enough to commission four composers of the National Women’s Composer Development Program to write me a piece each for Viola and Piano. Before beginning the compositional process, I gave a workshop on Writing for the viola focussing on aspects and characteristics of the instrument as well as concentrating on some of the staple works written for the instrument. The students were mentored by the prolific Australian composer Mathew Hindson during the process.
- ‘Micro Sonata’ by Elizabeth Younan. Composed 2017 for Viola and Piano.
- ‘After Glow’ by Ella Macens. Composed in 2017 for Viola and Piano.
- ‘Frost Crystals’ by Clare String (Johnston). Composed in 2017 for Viola and Piano.
- ‘The End’ by Natalie Nicolas. Composed in 2017 for Viola and Piano.
- Workshop on ‘Writing for the Viola’ for the National Women’s Composer’s Development Program (Hobart, 16/10/2017)
- Recording of ‘Desert Rain’ by Maria Grenfell (05/08/2017) with ABC Sound Engineer Toby Frost, Friends’ School, Hobart and Percussionist Kaylie Melville (2016 Freedman Fellowship Finalist)
- Recording of ‘Elegy in the French Style’ by Calvin Bowman (05/08/2017) with ABC Sound Engineer Toby Frost, Friends’ School, Hobart, Stewart Kelly Piano.
- Workshop Recording of Elizabeth Younan’s ‘Micro Sonata’ for Viola and Piano, Natalie Nicolas’ piece for Viola and Piano ‘The End’, Clare Strong (Johnston) ‘Frost Crystals’ for Viola and Piano and Ella Macens ‘Afterglow’ for Viola and Piano, Sydney Conservatorium of Music (12/12/2017). Official Recording to follow in 2019.
- Video Recording of ‘Too Quiet for the Hall’ with Paul Hankinson on piano planned for 2019 in Berlin.
- World Premiere of Elizabeth Younan’s ‘Micro Sonata’ at Semi Finals of the Australian Young Performers Awards (16/07/2018). Composer Elizabeth Younan was present at the Premiere.
- World Premiere of ‘Desert Rain’ by Maria Grenfell at Musica Viva Tasmania 2018 Concert Series at the Hobart Town Hall (28/10/2018) with TSO Principal Percussionist Gary Wain. Maria Grenfell was present and gave a pre-concert speech before the Premiere.
- World Premiere of ‘Too Quiet for the Hall’ by Paul Hankinson with TSO Principal Percussionist Gary Wain at Musica Viva Tasmania 2019 Concert Series at the Hobart Town Hall (28/10/2018)
- Premiere of Yitzhak Yedid’s ‘Mother Tongue’ Viola Duo with Berlin based Violist Avishai Chemaides in Berlin set for 2020 (after completion of work due in 2019)
- Recording Rebecca Clarke Viola Sonata, Natalie Williams’ ‘Talking Points’ (previous commission from 2016) in 2017 and Glazanov Elegy, Vieuxtemps Capriccio for Solo Viola and Miriam Hyde’s Canzonetta (written in 1988 but never before recorded) in 2017 with ABC Sound Engineer Toby Frost at Friends’ School, Hobart, Tasmania.
- Chamber Music Recital in Berlin with the Noga String Quartet, Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition First prize Winners in 2015, 27/05/2018, Kreuzberg, Berlin.
- Musica Viva Tasmania Concert Series Recital (Schubert Arpeggione Sonata, Grenfell Desert Rain and Vieuxtemps Viola Sonata with Pianist Leigh Harrold.
- Workshopping and collaborating with Australian Violist and Composer Brett Dean in Berlin (June 2018)
- Chamber Music Concerts in Paris at the Australian Embassy with fellow expat Australian musicians living abroad (November 2018)
INFLUENCE OF THE FELLOWSHIP FOR FUTURE PLANS
An overwhelming amount of opportunities have transpired since becoming recipient of the Fellowship, many of which may not have come into fruition without this award.
It has given me the strength to continue dreaming and making my passion for performing and collaborating with composers a life long project. It has been a constant source of inspiration and I am overwhelmed by the faith composers, recording engineers, musicians and concert managements have put in me.
Some exciting plans to follow include:
- World premiere of Viola Concerto by one of Australia’s leading composers in collaboration with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra and the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra (2020-2021)
- Recording of Yitzhak Yedid’s Viola Duo under leading European recording label (2020).
- World Premiere of Viola Concerto in collaboration with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra’s Composer Development Program (2019)
- Recording of rarely performed ‘Flos Campi’ Viola Concerto by Vaughan Williams with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra (2019)
- Further completion of recording commissions with sound engineer Toby Frost from the ABC, including a video recording.
- Commission of Solo Viola Work by world renowned Irish Violist and Composer Garth Knox. Due to be completed in 2019, Premiere to follow at a later date.
- Setting up my own Chamber Music Festival to invite musicians from Australia and abroad to collaborate together, including programming works from a ‘Composer in residence’.
Beyond this, I am very sure I will continue to perform and record these commissions as they change and grow over time. More opportunities will arise and other projects will be born – and this is what makes being a musician most precious.
It is a very overwhelming thought to imagine that these commissions, performances and collaborations would not have come about without the incredible support from this Freedman Fellowship.
I hope I have done the composers justice in premiering their works and that they enjoyed the process working with me. I hope they feel that they have also made a positive impact in the Australian music scene and that their music lives on for many others to be able to enjoy and perform. I’m very thankful to each and every musician I had the pleasure to collaborate with, and for the journey we embarked on every time we walked out on the stage.
I hope that every audience member was able to take something positive away from hearing a new work and was moved by my performances.
It is my greatest hope that this project and the pieces that I have left have become an inspiration for others to keep these pieces alive and further develop the repertoire for the Viola. Australia is fortunate enough to have such wonderful composers, and we have the fortunate gift of being able to work with them, learn from them and support their music. I wish for each and every one of us to take risks, to move out of our comfort zones and to push ourselves beyond any limits. Music needs us to seek constant exploration and curiosity.
I feel of all people involved in my projects, it is me who has been the most fortunate. I have grown both as a person and musician in a way I could never imagine and it has lit a fire in me to continue to explore, develop my skills and share with audiences the things I love most in life. As a violist I am stronger than I ever thought possible, and I will forever be thankful to have been given this wonderful gift from the Freedman Trust.
Aviva Endean, bass clarinet, 2015
Thank you once again for your kind and generous support.
Being awarded the Freedman Fellowship in 2015 provided a wonderful opportunity and resource to establish my career as a solo artist, and to further the scope of my international artistic and professional network. I wanted to use this prestigious award to generate new music (both of my own and that of other composers) as well as to broaden the possibilities for work as a soloist both in Australia and overseas. The projects that I undertook as part of my fellowship were numerous and helped me to achieve these goals in various ways.
1) In October 2015, I completed my first European tour as an independent artist, touring Pierluigi Billone’s 90 minute work for 2 bass clarinets ‘1+1=1’ to Ljubljana, London, Berlin, Cologne and Bern. This experience introduced me to a new world of opportunities in Europe, working with highly regarded concert series and presenters across Europe. I intend to build on these connections, with the aim to tour my new solo album in the coming years.
2) I commissioned a major new work for clarinet and electronics by Natasha Anderson, which was developed over the entire duration of the fellowship. The work was premiered at INLAND concert series, and recorded in November 2017. Generating, recording and refining material with Natasha was a very inspiring process as I was privy to seeing her compositional ideas develop and unfold. ‘Mote’ will be included in my performance programs interstate and in Europe in 2018
3) I recorded my first solo studio album ‘Solo for skin and air’ featuring my own compositions and improvisations. This was a challenging project, where I demanded myself to focus entirely on my own work, to make something completely new, to confront my own reservations about my work and artistic rationale, and to overcome self-confidence issues. This project allowed me to explore new artistic developments, and gave me a lot of new skills and knowledge about recording technology and techniques, so despite the challenges, I am very pleased that I saw it through. The album was recorded at Rolling Stock studios with Myles Mumford and is currently being considered for release by Norwegian label SOFA.
4) In July 2016 I made a 20 minute art-film clip for ‘Counter-Earth’ a piece of contemporary-music-theatre by Wojtek Blecharz which was commissioned by myself in partnership with BIFEM (Bendigo International Festival of Exploratory Music). The film clip was made in Berlin with the composer present, together with Berlin-based Polish artists Robert Mleczko (film-maker) and Yeorg Kronnagel (costume/makeup). The film is available on You Tube and Vimeo and serves as a digital iteration of this incredible work, which cannot be documented adequately with sound recording alone. The film has been shared with both my own and Wojtek’s international networks via social media platforms and has attracted very positive feedback and will provide a wonderful resource for presenters of both of our work.
There were many positive consequences of receiving the Fellowship. Through the prestige and publicity associated with the award I have received many invitations including:
- Performances and workshop presentations with TURA new music (2016/17)
- Guest lecturing/master-classes and performances at Monash University, WAAPA and Melbourne Polytechnic (2016/17)
- A commission for a new performance/installation by Ensemble Offspring (2017)
- A commission and performance for Sound Out- Canberra (2016)
- An opportunity to undertake a solo tour in Portugal, France and Spain (2016)
- Invitations to show work at Darwin Festival (2016) Instalksje-Poland (2015)
- Appointed to sit on panels for Melbourne Polytechnic, Australia Council, EG music awards.
- Garner enthusiasm and support for further grants/residencies including Creative Victoria- Creative development grant 2017, Australia Council- New Work grant 2016, OMI international residency (New York) supported by the Australia Council, Artist in residence at Sonoscopia (Porto).
- Invitation to present new work at NEXUS (2018)
All of these unexpected opportunities, as well as my fellowship projects, have helped to broaden and develop my professional and artistic networks and advance my career. Each engagement has provided an opportunity to develop new work and/or deepen my understanding of my own musical practice. In addition to this, these activities have provided an opportunity for sharing of artistic and professional knowledge, including mentoring, new collaborations, and advancement of the perception of the Australian scene both in this country and overseas.
My only advice for both musicians and The Music Trust would be to not underestimate the value of awards such as this. The Freedman Fellowship is so much more than the financial resource that is associated with it, and provided me with a boost of self-confidence and recognition that was a very productive force. I urge you to consider this when choosing a worthy recipient for future awards.
Peter de Jager, piano, 2014
My original proposal, and outcomes achieved
1: Commission a large scale Piano Sonata from friend and colleague Chris Dench.
The Sonata was formally commissioned on the 22nd of September 2014, shortly after receiving the Fellowship. It was a piece which Chris had been intending to write ever since hearing the Barraque Sonate in the 60s and wishing some day to write a companion work on a similar scale. I first met Chris at the end of 2010, and after playing in a few chamber pieces of his over the next year he was impressed enough with my work to suggest that he write this Sonata with myself in mind to perform it. I readily accepted. He had envisaged the work as being around half an hour long; his initial structural diagrams plotted out a structure of precisely 32 minutes. This rapidly ballooned. He started work on the piece in February of 2015, and finished work on it in April of 2016. At this stage it had achieved a stature of close to 100 minutes in length, in 10 movements. However, given the scope of the composer’s vision, which was the unfolding of a whole universe, depicting every stage of a particular cosmological life-cycle, the piece felt like it was exactly the length it needed to be.
2: Plan and prepare a program consisting of four major works for piano: the new Chris Dench Sonata, the Barraque Sonate, the Alkan Symphonie for Solo Piano, and the Szymanowski Piano Sonata No. 3.
All three of the other works I chose had great personal significance to Chris, and provided not only a way for me to tackle some of the more challenging parts of a repertoire which had for a long while greatly interested me, but to show Chris’s music as stemming as much from the late-romantic pianistic tradition, primarily that of Scriabin, as from the modernist world of Barraque or the complexist tradition of his colleagues and former countrymen Finissy and Ferneyhough. In fact, Chris has extremely wide-ranging musical tastes not explored directly in this project, ranging from Dufay to Schubert to Louis Couperin to German improvised prog band Can, and many others.
While I still struggle to come to terms with Barraque’s uncompromising and unfortunately somewhat dated musical language, the Alkan and the Szymanowski became very useful pieces for me in concert and competition, the Alkan in particular being a very appealing piece to audiences despite its relative obscurity. I played the Szymanowski first in a concert in Verbruggen hall at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music on the 12th of March 2014, where it proved a successful pairing with a first half consisting of music from his great predecessor Chopin, which I played on a 1950’s Erard. I then played this piece again in a concert for the Austral Salon in February in 2015, then in October the same year for the finals of the ABC Young Performer of the Year awards. I most recently played it in June 2016 in the first round of the Sydney International Piano Competition, which was broadcast live on ABC classic FM. The Alkan I played less frequently, but I played it twice during the 2016 Australian National Piano Awards in September of 2016, where it helped me achieve second prize, and included it in a concert at the Queensland Conservatorium on the 14th of October alongside other works by Chris.
The first time all four of these works were programmed together, and possibly the last, was on the 6th August 2015 at the Australian National Academy of Music. The concert was given the title “Pillars”. As Chris had not written two of the movements for his Sonata, the piece was played in an incomplete 45-minute version. In its current form, the inclusion of this piece in a single concert with the other three works would, we feel, be infeasible for most practical purposes. This concert was in essence a proof of concept for my project as a whole and was a success. Those that stayed to the end of the nearly two and a half hour performance (and there were quite a few!) reported a musically satisfying and fascinating experience, despite its considerable length.
Once the Sonata was complete, Chris and I planned what we termed a “pre-premiere” of the work: a performance only for invited friends and colleagues, again at the Australian National Academy of Music. The performance took place on the 9th of October 2016. This was also a great success, and possibly a better performance overall on my part. With a few interpretative tweaks which we discussed a few months later after we had both recovered, and the insertion of one minute of bridging material into the 6th movement, Chris declared the piece complete. These concerts were both recorded in high quality audio and video.
The official public premiere was given on July 30th, 2017, in the Iwaki Auditorium, Melbourne, where it was recorded by ABC Classic FM for release on their New Waves podcast. It included a pre-concert discussion between Chris, myself, and Stephen Adams outlining some of the main conceptual features of the work.
3: Record 4 mini documentary episodes including a live performance of each of the four works alongside other historical and musical information for eventual online distribution.
This is still in the works. A major concern of mine was that I have as much performing experience as possible with these pieces before undertaking the task of recording them in this fashion. I have played the Alkan and Szymanowski enough to justify this (see section 2 above), but the fact that Chris’s Sonata was not properly complete until April 2016 delayed this process for that work. These videos will be put on YouTube, as well as my website, which I shall create at the same time. As of January 2018, these recordings have still not been made, but I hope to achieve them sometime this year.
4: Tour Europe with this program, or excerpts from it. Particularly focus on the UK, the Netherlands, France, and Poland.
Due to the incredible support and consistent effort shown to me by my friend, London-based pianist Coady Green, I did finally manage to confirm a concert in London for the Alkan Society. This took take place on the 7th of April 2017, on which occasion I played the Alkan Symphonie and the first half of the Dench Sonata, totalling 80 minutes.
I am very happy with the artistic side of my project, and I am delighted that Chris Dench and I have become better friends throughout the whole process. It has been a privilege to be involved in this incredible process, and the contribution to Australian music I think is immensely significant. The video episodes I make I hope will be the first in a series of recording projects that I undertake with the aim of gaining a wider audience on the internet. I feel that these types of creations, far from being just a package to give to concert promoters as an example of one’s work, are in fact the very stuff of our future digital society, as they already are amongst my generation, and will be the way in which classical music, and indeed all music, reaches a wider and more diverse audience. I think they will be an impressive start to my career in the way I wish to shape it. I am unhappy with my lack of success garnering performance opportunities overseas, but I am happy that I at least got to go. And of course I am very grateful to the Music Council of Australia for helping me to achieve this significant project, and to Richard Letts for his unfailing support and encouragement.
Lina Andonovska, flute, 2013
Objectives of Freedman Project and Achievements
Since being awarded the Freedman Fellowship in 2013, I have been gaining momentum in my career as performer, curator, collaborator and facilitator. My work has begun to become recognised on an international scale, and I have presented my work to new audiences in a diverse range of contexts. The main and underlying goal of my Freedman Fellowship was to generate opportunities in my career as an emerging artist through taking an entrepreneurial approach by means of a commissioning and recording project. Another goal of my Freedman Fellowship was to help bridge the gap between being an emerging artist and having a sustainable career as an Australian musician.
I commissioned Australian composer Anthony Pateras to write a new solo composition for flute and electronics titled a reality in which everything is substitution. Alongside the new composition, I have recorded four other Australian flute works including Demons by Brett Dean, Mujo by Lachlan Skipworth, Cars and Sunsets by Thomas Meadowcroft and Ether by Mary Finsterer. The works have been edited and are now in the mastering and post-production stage. I will be releasing the recording independently, available for download or as a physical copy in early 2016. The intention of this was to act as a ‘calling card’ and to generate further momentum and interest in my activities as a musician. I believe that these goals have been achieved and my profile has been raised significantly since receiving the award.
Things that I have learnt from my Freedman Fellowship project
Collaboration was a big element in my project, and I learned how to create positive outcomes throughout the collaborative process. This is something that will be an ongoing theme throughout my career; it was a brilliant opportunity to have the initial support of the Freedman Fellowship to test the waters of what is possible especially when it comes to commissioning new work and documenting it.
I also learned the importance of keeping to a timeline, but also to understand that when planning a project far in advance, timelines will tend to evolve. It’s always important to remain flexible and open to changes that may arise when planning for a project that involves more than one person, and this played a factor in the delivery of my outcomes.
Career development through the Freedman Fellowship
I am yet to make the recording available for online and printed distribution, so I am looking forward to completing this final phase within the next few months. I have received interest in my activities as a Freedman Fellow, and I have been promoting my work in the presentation and performance of contemporary Australian flute music around the world. The prestige of being awarded a Freedman Fellowship has raised the profile of my own activities around Australia.
Since being awarded the Fellowship, I have founded two ensembles dedicated to the programming and performance of contemporary new music as well as bringing together cross-disciplinary art forms. These groups, CATHEXIS and Press, Play have been awarded program funding by ArtsVIC and New Music Network, have featured in the Port Fairy Spring Festival and 2015 Melbourne Festival, and Press, Play’s performance of Trio No. 10 by Larry Sitsky (commissioned by the ensemble) was awarded the prestigious Contemporary Masters Award by the Melbourne Recital Centre. Press, Play will be featured artists in the 2016 Metropolis New Music Festival.
In the last 6 months I have also been gaining momentum internationally, having just completed a two-month contract as artist in residence with Crash Ensemble who are one of Europe’s most well-known exponents of contemporary classical music; I have also recently begun an Asialink Residency in Timor-Leste that will be completed in January 2016. For the residency, my plans include collaboration with local contemporary musicians, cultural exchange with traditional flute players in the Lautem district, and presentation of contemporary flute works in a variety of performance situations. Earlier in 2015 I completed a trial with Grammy award winning ensemble ‘eighth blackbird’ in Chicago, and will be doing a debut performance at the Tokyo Experimental Festival in late December with my flute duo BINARY.
I am helping to raise the profile of emerging and established Australian composers, which is one of the most important aspects of my work. As a young female artist leading a portfolio career, I act as an ambassador for other artists that also choose to take the road less travelled and create their own unique career paths. Through my commissioning and recording project I have contributed a new work to the repertoire that is available for subsequent performances and documented a small portion of existing Australian flute music that will become available on a global scale.
Advice to The Music Trust and musicians
The work that is carried out by The Music Trust is incredibly important in increasing the visibility of the activities carried out by Australian musicians and composers. I am grateful for the support of the Freedman Foundation through the Freedman Fellowship award, which has helped me to better understand the processes of commissioning and recording, as well as raise the profile of my own work. I would like to encourage the Freedman Fellowship Award to continue to support musicians that take risks in their art form therefore redefining the genre of classical music. I believe that this is the way that we as artists can continue to make our art form relevant and important to contemporary society.
I would like to suggest that a platform is created that connects alumni Freedman Fellows to share their experiences with each other as well as establish a network where we can engage with each other’s work, as there is so much to learn when it comes to an ever evolving creative practice.
I want to encourage musicians to undertake a diverse range of projects throughout the course of their careers. Open-mindedness, versatility, as well as the goal to communicate through music are all qualities essential for the 21st century musician.
Ashley William Smith, clarinet, 2012
GOALS OF FELLOWSHIP PROGRAM
To enhance my skills as a classical artist: to extend and develop myself creatively, technically and professionally as an emerging professional musician and exponent of new repertoire for clarinet and bass clarinet.
To establish an international presence and career: to showcase my skills to an international network of key figures within the contemporary music industry (including key composers, performers, pedagogues, music agents and fellow emerging contemporary artists) and to develop this international network through artistic collaboration, mentorship and personal meetings.
DESCRIPTION OF FELLOWSHIP ACTIVITIES
The fellowship program consisted of three complementary projects
- Pursuing a self-devised mentorship and performance workshopping program alongside several key clarinet composers of the last decade
Mentors included Martin Bresnick (USA), David Lang (USA), Risto Viasanen (Finland), Magnus Lindberg (USA/Finland) and Anders Hillborg (Finland).
- Touring a recital program in Finland, the United States and Australia with long-term duo partner, Australian pianist Aura Go. This recital program showcased the works of Bresnick, Lang, Lindberg and Tiensuu alongside the works of Australian composers and standard clarinet chamber repertoire. The recital tour included:
- Yale University, Oneppo Chamber Music Series (New York, USA): July 27 2013. Solo recital with Aura Go, piano: works by Beethoven, Berg, Brahms, Widmann, Hillborg and Lindberg.
- Australian National Academy of Music, Recital Workshop (Melbourne Australia): August 2nd and 4th 2013
Workshopping with Aura Go, piano: works by Beethoven, Berg, Brahms, Widmann, Hillborg and Lindberg.
- University of Western Australia, Artistry Recital (Perth, Australia): August 5th
Recital for solo clarinets and electronics: works by Michael Kieran Harvey (world premiere), Martin Bresnick, David Lang, Serban Nichifor and Jorg Widmann.
- Melbourne Recital Centre, Spotlight Series (Melbourne, Australia): August 7th 2013
Solo recital with Aura Go, piano: works by Beethoven, Berg, Brahms, Widmann, Hillborg and Lindberg.
- University of Western Australia, Chamber! (Perth, Australia): August 13th 2013
Solo recital with Aura Go, piano: works by Beethoven, Berg, Brahms, Widmann, Hillborg and Lindberg.
- Kässän Taidetalo, Virkkala Recital (Lohja, Finland): November 23rd 2013
Solo recital with Aura Go, piano: works by Beethoven, Berg, Brahms, Widmann, Hillborg and Lindberg.
- Preparation of the following portfolio of audio and DVD recordings of the workshopped works for the purpose of creating an online profile and for submitting expressions of interest for performances in major national and international chamber music and new music festivals.
- Beethoven: Sonata for basset horn and piano, Op. 17: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QqzaGgFUPtU
- Schumann: Phantasiestucke for clarinet and piano: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gM3HI3aNjfo
- Schumann: Drei Romanzen for clarinet and piano: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0fI_Jdip2Y
- Berg: Vier Stucke for clarinet and piano: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tXPA1A5hGoc
- Widmann: Funf Bruchstucke for clarinet and piano: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYDACnhnpXk
OBJECTIVES ACCOMPLISHED AS A RESULT OF THE OF THE FELLOWSHIP PROGRAM
To establish myself as a leading performer of new works for the clarinet: the fellowship program afforded several opportunities which played a major role in shaping both my performing and teaching careers.
- The performances in Western Australia played a major role in being offered an Artist in Residence contract and a contract for a position as the Head of Winds and Contemporary Performance at the University of Western Australia.
- The performances in Western Australia were attended by representatives from the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, which resulted in a commission for a new clarinet concerto by Lachlan Skipworth. The concerto was workshopped and recorded in April 2014 and premiered as part of the WASO Latitude series on October 1st This performance went on to win the 2015 APRA AMCOS Performance of the Year.
- The Melbourne Recital Centre Spotlight Recital was nominated and won the MRC Contemporary Master’s Award for the most outstanding work of a post-1945 work (Jorg Widmann’s Funf Bruchstucke).
- Very positive reviews of both the Melbourne and Western Australia recitals were published in The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and The West Australian
To undergo a period of accelerated artistic, technical and professional growth with my collaborative partner, Aura Go. The Fellowship program enabled Aura and me to establish ourselves nationally and internationally as a professional ensemble specialising in new repertoire, innovative programming and new audiences. The recital tour and portfolio of recording has played a major role in promoting our duo work to artistic directors and music festivals. Resulting solo and duo festival appearances have included Chamber Music Society of the Lincoln Centre (New York, USA), Norfolk Chamber Music Festival (Norfolk, Connecticut, USA) Chamber Music Northwest (Portland, Oregon, USA), Bangalow Festival (Australia), Beijing Modern Music Festival (China).
To extend myself professionally: the Fellowship afforded the opportunity to showcase my own work as a solo performer and duo ensemble member to key figures within the contemporary classical music community and significantly assisted with developing my international network, particularly in the USA and Europe.
To bring new music to new audiences: the Fellowship afforded several opportunities to bring to Australian audiences and the Australian classical music community new music that is gaining significant attention in the Europe and the United States and to showcase new Australian music to the international new music community.
July 14-23: Performance workshopping and rehearsal: Bresnick and Lang, New Haven and New York (USA)
July 24 and 25: Portfolio recording sessions: New Haven (USA)
July 27: Yale Oneppo Recital (New Haven, USA)
July 29-30: Travel: JFK-LAX-MEL
August 2 and 4: Open workshopping: Paul Dean, Timothy Young, Australian National Academy of Music (Melbourne, Australia)
August 3: Rehearsal
August 5: Travel: PER-MEL
UWA: Artistry Recital
August 6: Travel PER-MEL
August 7: Melbourne Recital Centre Spotlight Series Recital
August 9: Travel PER-MEL
August 10-12: Rehearsal
August 13: UWA Chamber! Recital
August 20: Travel PER-MEL-LAX-JFK
November (weeks 1-2) Editing of recorded and DVD material, further rehearsal and workshopping (Lindberg).
November 10 Travel: JFK-HEL
November 15 -17 Rehearsal and workshopping: Sibelius Academy (Viasanen, Hillborg)
November 23 Kässän Taidetalo Recital (Lohja, Finland)
November 27 Travel: HEL-JFK
EXAMPLE PRESS FROM FELLOWSHIP PERFORMANCES
This new duo’s name brings up mixed memories of a contemporary music ensemble active in the 1970s and ’80s, headed by one-time music critic of this publication, Felix Werder, whose fellow artists were wholly focused on cutting-edge modernity with an emphasis on electronics and improvisation.
The new Australia Felix covers a wider range of repertoire, showing a bent for experimentation but without straining an audience’s tolerance.
Clarinettist Ashley William Smith and pianist Aura Go are high-profile graduates from the Australian National Academy of Music. Their most significant exposure to this listener has been in concerto format, but they are expert chamber musicians.
Wednesday night’s recital demonstrated their patent comfort in the duet format, opening and closing with familiar masterworks for this combination: the Three Fantasy Pieces by Schumann and the Sonata No. 2 by Brahms.
Each performance had its danger points – some near-squeaks from Smith in the third Schumann, a loss of momentum from Go near the end of the Brahms finale-variations – but the co-ordination of roles, easy melding of texture and the complementary nature of the personalities made for fine music-making.
The duo also performed Berg’s Four Pieces, a remarkable sequence that tested the players’ power at extracting sympathetic fluency from difficult material, the clarity and directness of their output a measure of their success. Go and Smith also presented their authoritative version of Jorg Widmann’s Five Fragments of 1997, available on YouTube and a flashy juxtaposition of varied colours and sound-production techniques.
REPORTS FROM THE FREEMAN JAZZ FELLOWS
Emma Grace Stephenson, piano, 2017
Receiving the 2017 Freedman Jazz Fellowship has enabled me to pursue a number of career transforming projects, each of which has helped me to refine my artistic goals, enhance my professional skills, and build invaluable relationships with colleagues and mentors.
As communicated to the 2017 panel, my project proposal was multi-faceted in nature. The central aim of my project was to compose, record and release an album of songs written to feature Australian vocalists and piano trio. I am delighted to report that this album has been recorded and we are in the final stages of mixing and mastering, looking forward to an album launch in early 2020. The album features myself on piano, Oli Nelson on drums, Samuel Zerna on bass, and the Australian singers Kristin Berardi, Jo Lawry, Olivia Chindamo, Liz Tobias, Liam Budge and Jane Irving. We recorded ten original songs in June and July 2019 at Engine Room Audio in downtown New York with the Australian engineer Darren Fewins. The project has evolved into a collaborative affair exclusively featuring the musicianship of Australians – of whom all but one are expats residing in New York City. Fittingly, the lyrics of the songs invoke many stories and sentiments relevant to the particularities of life as an expat. As envisaged, the album is a fusion of a modern jazz and popular-songwriting aesthetics, with the working title ‘I Wrote You a Song’. I am extremely grateful to have composed and performed music with so many colleagues who I admire deeply, an opportunity that may have never have progressed out of the realm of fantasy and into tangible reality without the resources offered by the Freedman Jazz Fellowship.
I am pleased to report that since receiving the fellowship, I have also made significant progress on each of the other three peripheral projects outlined in my proposal.
Firstly, I made several additional episodes for my podcast ‘Stuff You Can’t Say with Jazz Piano’, featuring interviews with acclaimed musicians Ingrid Jenson, Marc Hannaford, Rosie Gallagher, Mike Nock and Sandy Evans. I personally find these interviews to be invaluable resources of inspiration and instruction – and I hope that listeners have found them similarly valuable.
Secondly, I undertook frequent lessons with pianist John Bloomfield during the 18 months after receiving the fellowship. John is a leading practitioner of the Taubman Approach to piano technique. This approach has not only transformed my playing by granting me access to greater fluency and speed – skills that I believe are demonstrated on the forthcoming album mentioned above – but has also formed central components of my PhD research and my approach to teaching piano. I cannot understate the impact on my musical life that has been brought about through pursuing further education in the Taubman Approach, and I frankly could not have afforded the expense without the Freedman Fellowship grant.
The fourth and final component of my project proposal regarded the development of a unique streaming platform that I have been working on with my father Gary Stephenson – a professional computer programmer. This program was mentioned in my project proposal under the title of ‘eqURLity’ but has recently been rebranded ‘LinkSquid’. We hope that this brand name communicates the utility of the platform by conjuring up images of an eclectic and intelligent creature busying itself with creating and distributing links to online content. I am very proud of the progress that we have made in developing and refining this program, and I attribute much of our progress to the fact that the Freedman Fellowship provided me with financial resources that freed up time and energy to dedicate to LinkSquid. Since receiving the grant I have spent between 3 and 10 hours a week working on researching and consulting on the project, whilst my father has been attending to it full time.
As initially projected, LinkSquid will be the central platform that I use to distribute the album that was made possible by the Freedman Fellowship. For the past two years we have planned for the release of my forthcoming album to be the program’s first implementation in the real-world, and as such, we are eagerly anticipating the day when I can upload and sell the music on the system. We are currently testing the system by onboarding users in an invitation-only mode, and plan to launch it to the public in conjunction with the album in early 2020. This system will enable content creators to share, market, and sell their work entirely on their own terms. We have incorporated a number of groundbreaking economic concepts, most notably a commitment to an ad-free environment, maximum autonomy and transparency for both consumers and creators, and the opportunity for content creators to personally subsidise new audience members for their initial listens and views. I am very optimistic that this particular facet of my project will provide other musicians in the Australian Scene with a technology that will directly benefit and empower them in ways that other 21st century content distribution services have not.
There is one unanticipated consequence of my project activities that seems pertinent to mention in this report. Firstly, I did not expect that my PhD research program would converge with my Freedman Fellowship project as much as it did. The results of this convergence were diverse. In many ways, the two projects augmented one another – as the album provided an opportunity for me to demonstrate the pianistic developments relevant to my PhD research, and the research context helped me to codify goals and remain attentive to my progress at the piano, thus shaping the musical results on the album. However, I have also observed in hindsight that combining academic goals with projects that appeal to my personal musical aesthetics can create challenges and compromise the motivations of each project. Were I to repeat the process, I think I would make a greater effort to distinguish and delineate the mechanical considerations that were the subject of my PhD research – which were very much derived from rational and analytical thinking – with the intuitive processes inherent in my songwriting, composing and improvisation. In the future I would like to make a greater effort to separate these processes so that they do not impinge upon one another.
I pressured myself to demonstrate pianistic facility during my piano solos on the album as I was cognisant of the fact that I would be using excerpts from the album as part of PhD submission. Naturally, this stifled my creativity somewhat and I suspect that had I relieved myself of this obligation I may have been able to deliver more musically impactful improvisations. Nevertheless, I am still very content with the album overall, and I consider these mild regrets to be more than tolerable, and a good lesson for future projects.
As a result of what I have experienced since receiving the Freedman Fellowship, a time which I have spent residing in a foreign country, I have a few insights that I feel may be useful to future recipients of the Fellowship, as well as those who administrate the award and assess the candidates. Firstly, I am very grateful for the hands-off approach that I felt signalled trust and confidence that I would follow through with my proposal. This trust and confidence instilled me with a sense of duty but also gave me the freedom to tweak and adapt my project as constraints and opportunities emerged across time. My only regret with regards to my engagement with the opportunities afforded by the Fellowship is that I did not take advantage of the recording session offered at the ABC – mainly because I have been residing in New York City and as I grew more and more entrenched in my routine here, it became less and less convenient to plan a recording project in Australia. I hope that my failure to follow through on this front is interpreted as a glitch in my logistical planning, and not as a lack of gratitude. As a result of this experience, my only suggestion to administrators is that perhaps for recipients residing overseas, an alternative to the ABC recording, or an extension on the ABC recording deadline (if there is one), might be offered.
To all who read this report I wish to conclude by expressing infinite thanks to Richard Letts, The Music Trust, The Freedman Foundation, the 2017 panelists Mike Nock, Stu Hunter and Dr Phillip Johnston, and my nominator Gian Slater, for providing me with a truly invaluable opportunity and for supporting my somewhat atypical career exploits.
James McLean, drums, 2016
James responded directly to the guidelines provided for the report, shown here as dot points.
- Restate the objectives of the project, tell us something about how you went about achieving them and what you did achieve
The aim of this project was to record duo works between myself and five of Australia’s best improvising musicians – namely, bassist Christopher Hale, drummer Simon Barker, vocalist Gian Slater, pianist Andrea Keller, and trumpeter Scott Tinkler. In each instance I would provide a composition, and the other musician would provide a composition, which we would rehearse and record.
This structure was designed to fulfil numerous objectives, both creative and practical. By recording a series of duo works, rather than larger ensembles, I hoped to foreground my creative contribution as a drummer – as, in my experience, as an ensemble gets larger the drummer is required to perform a more conventional role, and in turn is ascribed less creative authorship of a performance. The intimacy of a duo performance means listeners equally consider the contributions of both musicians.
It was also important for me to work with Australian musicians. I am a strong believer in the quality of Australian musicians, and through my PhD studies researched numerous musicians whose abilities, contributions, and influence have been undervalued (if not forgotten) by younger generations due to a lack of documentation. In this way, I chose five of the most original improvising musicians working in Australia today, and was happy for this project to contribute to the body of work they appear on.
While each duo ran slightly differently, they essentially followed a similar path. The first step was to get together for one (or more) ‘development’ sessions, in which we could try certain preliminary ideas (usually provided by me) and gauge what kind of creative ideas would be successful going forward. From this we would each go away and develop ideas, before returning for a series of rehearsals leading to a recording. In some instances, this process yielded clear compositions attributed to myself and the other musician, while in others it led to two works of shared authorship. In general I would say that the project was less compositional and more collaborative than I had assumed it would be beforehand.
All in all, the project has essentially produced what was originally proposed: an album of duo music featuring five of Australia’s leading improvising musicians and myself. In addition, live in-studio videos have been produced for a number of tracks, and will be released online in the lead-up to the release of the album.
- Were there consequences of your project activity, good or bad, that were unanticipated in your original project design?
One challenging aspect of the project I did not anticipate was the complexity that comes with organising five separate duos. While the output of each duo was only two pieces, each still required essentially the same input as if we were producing an entire album’s worth of music. Creatively I needed to consider the specific instrumentation of each duo, and the strengths of each musician, and devise musical/compositional strategies to best harness these. Logistically, each still required finding multiple times to develop and rehearse ideas or compositions – in some instances this involved multiple interstate trips – and booking studio space and engineers. Upon reflection, it feels more truthful to state that I started and recorded five new bands for this project.
A positive outcome I did not fully anticipate was the flexibility of the duo format, and the ability for the interests and skills of my collaborators to take the music in creative directions I did not foresee. Perhaps the strongest example of this is in the duo works with bassist Christopher Hale. Our pieces were based upon a set of rhythmic structures I presented in our initial development session, but after a few sessions Christopher – unprompted by me – ‘translated’ these ideas onto his drum machine, which we then decided to incorporate into one of the works. This gives that piece a unique character, not only due to the electronic sonic presence of the drum machine, but also due to the ostinato-heavy repetition character of such a device.
- What has the project done to advance your music? your career?
This project has undoubtedly been the most significant I have undertaken thus far in my career, both in terms of the practical aspects of organising and developing music for recording with five of Australia’s best (and busiest!) musicians, but also in the creative challenge of developing an aesthetic understanding of five different improvisational situations.
Going through this process has helped to clarify the musical ideas I am interested in exploring and, perhaps more importantly, the processes required to achieve successful results. To be more specific, I am interested in exploring unconventional rhythmic ideas through improvisation, and building complexity together from a limited set of materials rather than pre-determining through extensive compositions. I have found that achieving these goals works best in settings where collaboration is encouraged and time is allowed for the shared musical knowledge to percolate. Learning this about myself clearly indicates the projects that I am interested in pursuing in the future, and how to go about them – undoubtedly a significant development for any artist. Further to this, I am confident that at least some of these duos will be something we will revisit going forward.
For my career, I feel that this recording will help to establish myself as a creative leader in the space of modern jazz and improvisation – rather than just an ensemble member, as I have usually been. The album is due for release in June 2020, and I will send an update as to how the release of the album has affected my career after this time.
- Have there been positive consequences for other people and/or the Australian scene?
Primarily, I feel that this project has had positive consequences for the other musicians involved. In each case, they were selected not simply for their general musical ability but because of their unique artistic vision and skills. As such, each duo has been an opportunity to produce more work showcasing their unique voice without restriction, adding to their own body of work. Not to mention, they were paid to do so, which is usually not the case!
More generally, I believe that the Australian scene benefits from the documentation and promotion of Australian improvising musicians. As mentioned earlier, I have become more aware over recent years of the number of Australian musicians whose contributions and abilities are largely forgotten, and I hope that by producing an ‘All-Australian’ album I am helping to present and promote the quality of musicians we have here.
- As a result of your experiences over this time, do you have useful advice or suggestions for other musicians, or for The Music Trust in its organising of the Fellowships or its support for music and musicians?
As a practical piece of advice for future fellows, I believe finding ways to easily document as much of the project as possible is of huge benefit. For this project, I purchased a pair of GoPro video cameras, which allowed me to film the entirety of each recording session. A professionally produced EPK is great, but being able to produce numerous videos (at slightly lower production values) is extremely useful in promoting your project, rather than just ‘dropping’ an EPK once a month or so before release. Also, I have found that ‘live’ style footage seems to have as much (if not more) interest than slick footage.
Also, as has been floated already, I believe the option for having a mentor for the Fellow throughout their fellowship would be great help. I certainly had periods of the fellowship where I ‘lost my way’ a bit – perhaps I got stuck on a creative problem that I wasn’t sure how to proceed, or simply lost my way in the anxieties of life – and having an experienced figure to turn to for advice would have been highly beneficial.
Tal Cohen, piano, 2015
The Objectives of the project
- Record new material of mine in New York featuring internationally acclaimed musicians.
- To capture an artistic collaboration of Australian and American musicians of the highest calibre.
- Bring people who haven’t played music together and create an artistic platform of expression.
- Create wider exposure for myself by recording with bigger names in the jazz world
Were the Objectives achieved?
I am very confident to say that in this album, titled Gentle Giants, I have achieved my objectives and many more. I have assembled a carefully picked group that I am incredibly proud of and composed a collection of music that really allowed the musicians to express themselves in many ways.
The group involved:
Jamie Oehlers from Perth, Australia -Tenor saxophone
Greg Osby from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA – Alto saxophone
Robert Hurst from Detroit, Michigan, USA- Double Bass
Nate Winn from Detroit, Michigan, USA- Drums
Greg Osby and Robert Hurst are among the most famous jazz musicians in the world with many different jazz awards including six Grammy awards between them.
Jamie Oehlers is one of the most prominent Australian musicians and is also a long time musical collaborator of mine.
All of the musicians had arrived the day before the recording date for a short rehearsal to familiarize themselves with the music that I sent a long time before the date. I specifically wrote the music with this band in mind and I think the recording really projects that. You can certainly tell who is featured on each composition and that the tunes were certainly written with them in mind.
For example, the composition titled ‘Gavetsch’ features Greg Osby and captures his free spirit in an open undefined improvisation section and the title track– ‘The Gentle Giant’ features a well built and captivating bass solo by Robert Hurst.
The music has certainly exceeded every expectation I had and I could not imagine my compositions sounding any better. The communication between the musicians on this recording is in my opinion second to none and I could not have hoped for a more natural, engaging, dramatic and honest outing.
The results at this point are still ongoing yet I can confidently say that Gentle Giants has received a lot of attention already. It received a featured week at ABC jazz radio as well as extensive radio coverage all over Australia.
It also received quite a lot of reviews from Australian platforms, all which were very positive.
I was also motivated to make the release show the best I can and I made arrangements for Greg Osby to participate in an extensive Australian tour performing at all the major Australian festivals.
On the American front, the album has been signed to the ‘Inner circle’ music recording label, has received a 4 star review from the acclaimed Downbeat magazine (upcoming on the July 15 Downbeat issue) and is already getting radio airplay all across the country.
I am currently working on an American tour to release the album.
As a final thought- this album is something that I am very proud of. At this point it’s a matter of more people listening to it and getting more exposure for the project in the States.
In terms of Australia, it was successfully released at all the major Australian festivals to a large, engaged and supportive audience.
Freedman Award Report for Innocent Dreamer
As part of the Freedman Fellowship. ABC Jazz offered studio time to complete this duo recording involving:
Jamie Oehlers- based in Perth, Australia – tenor saxophone
Tal Cohen- based in Miami, USA – piano
Jamie and I have played together in many different scenarios all around the world but we have never done a duo recording. It’s something that we always wanted to do and this gave us the opportunity to do it.
The Objectives of the project
- Record new material of mine in the ABC studios in Sydney
- To capture an artistic collaboration between myself and Jamie Oehlers in an intimate duo setting, something that contrasts with our previous work
- Creating a spontaneous album that highlights the interplay between the two instruments/musicians
Were the Objectives achieved?
I can certainly say that the objectives for this project were achieved. We recorded in Sydney and successfully created an intimate, spontaneous record that focuses on different elements of our musical and improvisational communication. There are eleven songs on the album – four originals and seven standards that showcase the musical interplay between Jamie and myself.
The tangible results of this include a 4 star review in The Australian, extensive radio airplay in Australia and a tour of Australia and New Zealand that starts this week to promote the release of the album. This includes a sold-out show at Melbourne Recital Centre on September 23rd and ticket sales are going well in the remaining cities of the tour.
In an artistic sense, this album showcases the result of many years of collaboration between Jamie and myself, and our ability to sense the intricacies of one another’s improvisations and complement the other’s playing. It represents a part of what current Australian jazz improvisation sounds like, showcasing original compositions by myself and Jamie, and interpretations of both well-loved and lesser-known standards from the great American songbook.
Freedman Award Report for Intertwined
This was a second recording made in the ABC studios by ABC Jazz. It is a duo recording with piano and voice, and two trio tracks, with the addition of tenor saxophone.
Tal Cohen- based in Miami, USA – piano
Danielle Wertz- based in Miami, U.S.A. at the time of recording – voice
Jamie Oehlers (special guest on two songs)- based in Perth, Australia – tenor saxophone
Danielle and I have played together in many different scenarios around the U.S. and we have managed to form a special relationship between the voice and piano. Together, we came up with some arrangements and original tunes specifically for this album.
The Objectives of the project
- Record new material of mine and Danielle’s at the ABC studios in Sydney
- To capture an artistic collaboration between myself, Danielle and adding Jamie to create another dynamic
- Create an album which appeals to a wide musical audience, not only jazz fans
- To showcase improvisational interplay between piano and voice
Were the Objectives achieved?
All objectives were achieved. The reviews for the album have been fantastic, including a 5-star review from Amazon, and the response was certainly overwhelming. The album itself is a very honest representation of the music and some of the final decisions were made in the studio as part of the recording process. The music represents the outcome of our continued collaboration, showing our ability to intertwine improvisations of voice and piano with a modern sensibility. The addition of Jamie was certainly successful as he added a new dimension of creativity. The music itself has received comments and reviews that are from a variety of sources, not limited to jazz avenues, which fulfills the objective of having the project appeal to a wide musical audience.
The album itself has received a lot of play in Australia and was featured on the ABC show, Home Cooked. In addition it received many great reviews from acclaimed sources. The CD was launched in Washington USA in the ‘Garage House’ venue to a sold out crowd.
Reviews and press for Gentle Giants
Featured reviews from the album on my website linked here:
The Australian review
Album of the week at ABC
Reviews and press for Innocent Dreamer
ABC jazz album of the week- http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/dailyplanet/features/cd-of-the-week/7981944
Melbourne recital performance link- https://www.melbournerecital.com.au/events/2017/tal-cohen-and-jamie-oehlers/
Reviews and press for Intertwined
Jazz music archives
In a Blue Mood
Contemporary Fusion Magazine
Marc Hannaford, piano, 2013
Restate the objectives of the project, tell us something about how you went about achieving them and what you did achieve
The objectives of the project were to compose, perform, and record a set of original music with Scott Tinkler, Ellery Eskelin, and Tom Rainey. A portion of the funding from the Freedman Fellowship was also put towards advertising: I bought online banner space in Time Out New York for the month preceding the gig.
Musically the project was a complete success—there was an immediate band rapport and enough rehearsal and recording time to realize the project. The gig was also well attended, which makes me believe that the advertising was effective.
Were there consequences of your project activity that were unanticipated in your original project design?
The project acted as a catalyst for new musical relationships in New York. I now play regularly with both Tom and Ellery and have also generated musical relationships with some of their musical collaborators. Some of these connections have coalesced into groups which work on original music both from me and other members of the group.
Since undertaking the project I have performed at some of New York most renowned venues for improvised music including The Stone, Barbes, and Spectrum.
Musicians who were not involved in the project respond very favorably when they hear either about the recording, or the recording itself. This has led to even more musical relationships that have been productive in the form of new groups or other performance opportunities.
Musically, these compositions acted as catalysts for further reflection on my compositional aims and means of achieving them. More specifically, it was challenging to incorporate the rhythmically complex language that Scott and I have been working on for a number of years into a group that has never worked together in such a way to preserve both the singularity of this rhythmic language and group cohesion. My compositional solutions to these challenges have expanded my compositional practice.
We also had the opportunity to tour Australia in May/June 2015. This was Tom and Ellery’s first time to Australia. The tour was a complete success—the compositions developed in ways I hadn’t imagined, and the group found new approaches to improvisation. The tour has also begotten other performance, teaching, and composing opportunities.
What has the project done to advance your career?
I now have an established group of musical collaborators in New York. I play music regularly with Tom Rainey and Ellery Eskelin, as well as musicians they are associated with. The Australian tour also bred significant interest amongst music students in my music and processes of composition and performance.
Have there been positive consequences for other people?
For each member of the group, certainly, and also I like to think so for music students in Australia.
Tom and Ellery, although well known to Australian audiences, had never been to Australia. The tour therefore afforded them the opportunity to survey the standard of Australian student and professional musicians. They made it clear to me that the level of interest in music from both Australia and America is very high, that the standard of performance is generally high, and that overall they were extremely impressed with the amount of thought students and professionals in Australia are putting into their artistic projects.
For students, this tour afforded them an opportunity to hear Tom and Ellery in person. Many students commented positively to me on the difference between their recorded and live sounds, and also expressed how effective it was to hear Tom and Ellery speak about their playing, working in my group, and their thoughts on improvisation in general.
For Scott, this project allowed him to record and perform with two musicians he had long listened to and always wanted to perform with.
As a result of your experiences over this time, do you have useful advice or suggestions for other musicians, or for The Music Trust in its organising of the Fellowships or its support for music and musicians?
For musicians, I think it’s extremely important to push yourself to reach beyond what you are already able to do and be willing to chart territory that is unknown to you. It may feel uncomfortable, and you may not sound as you’d like, but these are sure signs that you’re improving and improvising. In my experience as a listener, player, teacher, I am often surprised and disappointed how quickly some improvising musicians forego this kind of development for the comfort of more controlled or predictable performances. In a place like Australia, where the infrastructure around improvised music is much less well established, we have an opportunity to avoid some of the pitfalls of attempting to measure artistic success only in terms of financial profitability.
Being in New York for two years has allowed me to see past the veil of romanticism that often makes the scene here appear like the be-all-and-end-all of improvised music. In fact, musicians here are in many ways just like anywhere else and it’s been helpful to dig past the initial novelty of being in New York and discover that. One major difference is the sheer number of musicians here, which for me has had the effect of focusing my artistic outlook. Unlike in Australia where it is perfectly feasible to play many different kinds of jazz in a single week, I’ve found it much more productive here to focus on my original music and collective free improvisation. This is as much due to a lack of time on most New York musicians’ part as it is to feeling somewhat disconnected to the scene I left behind. Overall, my time living and playing in New York has been extremely informative, and has contributed significantly to my artistic and scholarly practice.
Christopher Hale, bass guitar, 2012
Every musician I know has a story of an inspirational encounter that changed his or her musical outlook, a moment that set a new musical life in motion. These moments of inspiration can happen everywhere, in surprising places. It seems that for a musician in the presence of an inspiring encounter, the thoughts flow from “what is this?” to “I love this!” – and then following close behind – “what can I learn from this?” Appreciation turns immediately to action, the inspirational moments are glimpses of personal possibility.
To be inspired is not a passive thing. It’s a choice, a creative act in-itself that makes connections between disparate domains, or sees personal resonance in the unfamiliar. It’s an impetus to undertake work. Without work, even the most compelling encounter is entertainment – to be inspired, new music must necessary result. However, this is not always easy, or obvious. New ideas often come too fast to be properly followed. Invisible, unrealised fragments of compositions or potential new directions litter the path behind or get stored away in notebooks, loosely thrown in an imaginary, ever-more crowded box of creative intentions. Discovering inspiration is not often the problem– it is mostly time and opportunity to follow that lack. Time to be at home to practice, opportunity to travel to the source for study. To be inspired is active and time consuming.
Winning the Freedman Fellowship in 2012 gave me time and opportunity to follow the new ideas arising from a moment of inspiration. For me, this came from a chance encounter in Korea – hearing the traditional drumming forms for the first time. The intensity, power and complexity of this music changed the way I viewed rhythmic possibility, and my attempts to synthesise these possibilities have occupied the majority of my practise since. The work initiated by my Freedman Fellowship has constituted the principle activity of my current artistic practice, and allowed me to build a mode of music making that has nurtured friendships, teaching and personal development. My Freedman work has so far resulted in a completed PhD, three hours of newly composed music (which I have performed with different ensembles, including a Korean-Australian collaborative group, large student ensembles, bass-drums duo and jazz trio), an album of recorded music, an original technical/rhythmic method for bass guitar practice and a strongly codified curriculum of teaching rhythm and movement methods.
In the title of my Freedman application, I stated “in this project I am seeking to develop a new improvising approach and vocabulary for the bass guitar based on the principles of Korean drumming.” At the time I felt that the idea was perhaps too vague and, in the context of the competition, somewhat risky, as it did not foreground a concrete outcome like a recording project. However, at that time in my life, the question of whether it would be possible to assimilate principles and procedures from a cultural music (Korean traditional drumming practices) to inform and enrich a practice from a completely different domain (bass guitar improvisation) was compelling. I felt that an opportunity as rare as the Freedman Fellowship could offer a chance to fully commit to this idea, to try for a major development of personal musical language.
My encounter with Korean drumming happened the year before being nominated for the award. In 2011 I visited Korea for the first time. While touring with an electro-acoustic improvising trio, we were invited to visit a rehearsal at a traditional drumming studio. Sitting in the small room, a group of four drummers played. The drumming was loud, fast, startling in its intensity. Amidst the power was a mysterious rhythmic sophistication; in particular I was struck by a unique, inscrutable rhythmic quality, where the ensemble of drummers could perform ambiguous, elastic rhythmic subdivisions in perfect unison. I immediately commenced study.
I learned that this quality was the result of a uniquely Korean system of musical technique that placed primary focus on specific breath-like movement patterns to create rhythm. This system is called hohŭp (literally exhale/inhale). Hohŭp teaches the production of rhythm via breathing-based circular, flowing body and arm movements. The result is ambiguous, complex rhythmic patterns that arise as an emergence of body-movement, rather than via intellectual predetermination. At its heart, hohŭp is not an esoteric overlay or philosophy (though it has these associations from some perspectives), but a technique, a method of creating rhythm that is clearly codified. As I learned, hohŭp was revealed to me as a mode of musical thinking that offered a pathway to expand the concept of rhythm in my own musical practice, far away from Korean traditional settings.
From the beginnings of my musical life I have been engaged with playing the cultural and traditional musics of my friends and colleagues in Australia and abroad, chiefly the rhythmic music from the Afro-Cuban, Brazilian and Flamenco communities of my teenage years. When the time came to make my own music, I sought to assimilate my knowledge of the inner workings of these musical styles. I wanted to somehow capture the ‘feeling’ of these musics I loved in my own original voice, rather than imitate or become a foreigner exponent of a traditional style. (My Freedman concert presentation featured an ensemble with my long-time friend flamenco dancer Johnny Tedesco, performing original music created from this perspective). It was with mindset that I heard that unique ‘feeling’ of Korean drumming. I instantly felt the familiar impulse to ask if I could somehow learn to create an analogous feeling in my own music.
The impulse formed the thrust of my Freedman Fellowship application. If I followed this idea, I did not know what the eventual music I was to make would sound like. I was embarking on a genuinely new artistic mission for me, one born of an idea in which the destination was unknown. When I stressed in my Freedman interview that this was a project in which the product would be secondary to the process, judging panellist Mike Nock replied: “The product will be you.” I carried these words with me as I began the activities.
In July of 2013 I travelled to Korea, where I began drumming lessons with my friend, virtuoso Korean percussionist Woo Minyoung. My main focus was to learn the breathing and movement system of hohŭp. This system of instrumental technique is the basis of the strong, flowing, relaxed technique of the rhythmically demanding Korean drumming, as well as the particular rhythmic quality of expressive, uneven subdivisions of a strong, even pulse (like a kind of intra-beat rubato, in some ways analogous to the ‘drunken’, slippery programmed beats of hip hop artist J Dilla). In Korean drumming, the hohŭp technique produces this rhythmic quality as a result of specific body movement, harnessing gravity in flowing, breath-like circular movements. Here was the major paradigm shift for me – rather than abstractly conceiving a rhythmic phrase ‘in my head’, then engineering an ad hoc body movement to render it (like a bass picking or strumming scheme), hohŭp rhythmic quality is generated by movement first.
As well as producing rhythm, hohŭp is also the way to understand or perceive rhythm. The Korean drumming student is instructed to not only move with the drum in breath-like circular motion, but also – just as critically – to imagine the created sound as a circle. The hohŭp body movement guides this conception of the rhythm, which in turn reinforces the movement in a kind of action-perception loop. In my research, I called this idea a motion-concept. Within an ensemble, a unified clear, intersubjective motion-concept (and the resulting unified movement) results in deep group cohesion of phrasing, dynamics and aesthetic intention.
After two years of study on Korean drums I considered how to create analogous hohŭp concepts for the bass guitar. Central were the aspects of hohŭp that created rhythmic quality: the circular ‘motion-concept’ guiding pulse and rhythmic perception; the relaxed, sustainable and resonant sound production, the generation of complex rhythmic patterning as a result of specific body movement. The resulting technique that constitutes my ‘bass hohŭp’ concept is a movement/rhythm system for my right hand picking I called Reciprocal Stroke Circles. The concept centres on the relationship between unsounded ‘internal’ Korean-inspired archetypal rhythms and specific hand-movements. The interaction of these two forces produces a series of rhythmic effects, as both direct (consciously executed) and emergent (unconsciously occurring) rhythmic phenomena. Short excerpts of this technique may be seen here.
During my hohŭp studies with Minyoung we spent time together outside of the teaching studio. In the manner of musical friends, we informally shared rhythms from our respective backgrounds. Minyoung’s deep knowledge of the practices of different shaman drumming traditions revealed an insight that formed a separate stream of study. Suddenly a whole new avenue of activity arose from the two-way exchange of ‘structural codes’ of rhythm, from both Korea and Australia.
The shaman drummers of Korea’s eastern seaboard have developed a rhythmic language that is sheer virtuosity and creativity: long, improvised streams of complex, knotted rhythms are performed with endless invention over underlying, often obscured, rhythmic frameworks. Minyoung has studied these forms with the originators of the style, and was able to reveal to me some of the fascinating inherent methods of rhythmic organisation. Beneath the complex patterns of the shaman rhythms, there appeared to methods of organising phrases of different beat-length durations. Some of these methods shared structural similarities with the number-system rhythmic methods of my friends in Australian rhythmic improvisation (like Greg Sheehan, Scott Tinkler, James McLean and Simon Barker). I shared some of these Australian techniques with Woo.
We were able to reorganise adaptations of shamanic rhythmic phrases via number systems borrowed from Australian percussionist Greg Sheehan (number diamonds), my own compositional forms and novel rhythmic timelines. By revealing and sharing the codes that organise rhythm, Minyoung and I could contribute personal surface’ rhythmic patterning from our respective backgrounds over a shared structural principle that was interpreted as common to both of us. Here was a language to make music together that went beyond the ‘fusion’ or juxtaposition of our disparate styles. This work led to an album of new music and concerts at the Melbourne Recital Centre and for SIMA at Sydney’s Seymour Centre in August 2017. A documentation video excerpt of one of the concerts may be seen here.
These two streams of activity (my hohŭp investigations and the collaborative work with Minyoung) led to my recently completed PhD project called Ritual Diamonds and Bass Hohŭp: Strategies for Cross-domain Creative Engagement with Korean Traditional Rhythm. Throughout the PhD, I identify the core principles of hohŭp technique and structural aspects of Korean shamanic drumming, assimilating this knowledge into methods of rhythmic performance for my bass guitar and in collaboration with Minyoung. As result of the rigour demanded by PhD research and study, my translation of hohŭp rhythm techniques is clear and methodical, and amenable to a wide range of teaching settings. This has led to a further outcome of my Freedman work – one that was not part of the original project, but one that has been perhaps the most rewarding.
I have been teaching my hohŭp system to both Australian and Korean students at the Australian Art Orchestra’s Creative Music Intensive (CMI) residencies since 2016. As a result there is now a large community of dozens of students and musicians who are familiar with my hohŭp-inspired concepts for creating rhythm, and have used these methods in their own music making. In June 2017 I was privileged to work with a large group of students in concert at the inaugural Sydney Conservatorium Jazz Festival in a program built on this shared rhythmic language. A short clip of students from the 2018 CMI taking part in a hohŭp workshop may be seen here.
The work is ongoing. My translated concept of hohŭp in my bass playing and composition continues to expand. The music that results has no identifiable relationship to Korean drumming – but the specific mode of musical thinking would not have arose without a deep, concerted investigation of Korean rhythm. While I don’t play or teach Korean music, my understanding of one of its most fundamental motivating forces has revealed more profound appreciation of the traditional forms for me, and allowed me to share the unique beauty of this music with other non-Korean musicians.
The Freedman Fellowship afforded me an opportunity to follow an inspiration, an idea: to uncover universal potentialities within a uniquely Korean concept. The long journey from study to assimilation and personalisation of hohŭp has clarified for me the actual nature of what it means to be inspired by music around me. I am grateful to have been given this opportunity. It seems now more than ever the “time and opportunity” to be supported and encouraged to pursue something intrinsic, personal and process-focused is rare. The Freedman Fellowship has been this rare chance for me. It changed my life, and I am excited for the future recipients of this award.