University of Tasmania

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Centred on the periphery: the development of an Australian musical avant-garde in the 1960s

conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-24, 19:52 authored by Arabella Teniswood-HarveyArabella Teniswood-Harvey
In 1963, Hobart hosted the first Australian Composers’ Seminar, an event that has since been described as “the beginning of a new community of purpose among Australian composers” and “the birthplace of ‘the Australian Avant-Garde’.” Three years later, a Festival of Contemporary Opera and Music incorporating a second seminar, resulted in the premiere of three new Australian operas in Hobart. Furthermore, under the baton of Thomas Matthews the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra premiered and broadcast many works by Australian composers during these years. The excitement and productiveness of this period indicates the heightened musical awareness and curiosity of those involved, and the effectiveness of their willingness to collaborate. This paper seeks to position Hobart as a national centre for new music in the 1960s, in contrast to its geographic location on the periphery of mainland Australia; and to address communities of practice, the remnants of colonialism, and the emerging confidence of Australian artistic identity. Starting from the premise that it was partly the success of Australian visual art from the 1950s onwards that provided fertile ground for the growth of the musical avant-garde, the paper will explore the dialogue between music and visual art. The theme of internationalism versus parochialism discussed in relation to Australian visual art in Bernard Smith’s 1961 lecture “The Myth of Isolation”, was prominent in the composers’ discussions in Hobart, and reflected in the musical works performed. The recent scholarly concept of “multiple modernisms” was inherent in their discussions and activities, which acknowledged the contributions of varied cultural and compositional backgrounds to the development of Australian composition. This diversity is also evident in the associated visual culture, including portraits of those involved and LP covers. The paper will discuss these materials, the interactions between specific musicians and artists, and the role of visual art in developing a sense of musical identity.


Publication title

19th International Conference of Association RIdIM, Belonging and Detachment: Representing Musical Identity in Visual Culture




School of Creative Arts and Media


University of Tasmania

Place of publication

Hobart, Australia

Event title

Belonging and Detachment: Representing Musical Identity in Visual Culture

Event Venue

Hobart, Australia

Date of Event (Start Date)


Date of Event (End Date)


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  • Restricted

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Expanding knowledge in creative arts and writing studies

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