BY STEPHANIE ESLAKE/MAKING WAVES
Musician and journalist Antonia Zappia has settled in for a chat with jazz composer Jenna Cave for the new Making Conversations podcast. The episode is part of the Making Waves series curated by Lisa Cheney and Peggy Polias, which showcases composers through new audio features about the inner-workings of their careers, music, and lives.
In Behind the Conversation, CutCommon ventures into the process of the music journalists who have crafted these podcasts.
Antonia Zappia is a creative working in the fields of acting and music. She completed her Honours in Music Technology at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music ,writing a dissertation on interdisciplinary collaboration. After years of recording orchestras and ensembles throughout Brisbane, Antonia returned to performing as co-founder and saxophonist in One Two Three Chamber Music. Antonia moved to Sydney to continue study and completed the Actors Studio at NIDA in 2015. During her time in Sydney, Antonia performed in two Short + Sweet Festivals, has written articles for CutCommon, and performed in the Sydney Fringe Festival.
Antonia’s most recent achievements include performing in Edgewise Production’s sold out Sydney Fringe Festival show The Women, in which she played quick-witted Nancy Blake; and premiering Cameron Colwell’s adaptation of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper for the Macquarie University Dramatic Society.
What is your musical background?
I learnt classical saxophone from the age of nine. I stopped just before turning 19 due to recurring difficulties with my embouchure. I tried to work through these with my teachers but didn’t get the necessary help to continue my degree so I switched to composition and production. I returned to saxophone to set up a chamber music group in 2012, composed music, and recorded orchestras until 2014.
When did you decide you wanted to become involved in music journalism?
In 2014, a mentor told me I had too many skills on my business card – I had performer, composer, and engineer. I had a similar instance occur in high school with another mentor. My self-esteem is very susceptible to the opinions of people I respect, so I simply stopped altogether. It was also a difficult year personally and I came across all shades and stripes of unsupportive people.
Later that year, I started to take acting lessons again, which helped me gain a little self-confidence. After gaining a spot in NIDA’s year-long acting studio in 2015, I thought I might dip my toe into the water of music again via journalism. I really sought out new contemporary music and composers that were organising releases and concerts independently.
How and why did you get on board with Making Waves?
Lisa Cheney – fan girl moment! – held a very supportive group of contemporary music appreciation sessions when I lived in Brisbane. She posted on Facebook in the early part of last year to ask who might be interested in doing some production and content for an upcoming project. I had not yet found a way to combine all the things I was interested in – acting, music, writing and production – so this seemed ideal.
Who were you responsible for interviewing in Making Conversation, and what was the process like for you?
I interviewed two composers, Holly Harrison and Jenna Cave. They’re diametrically opposite in style to each other, which was so exciting to research. I treated the process much like I do when I act: study, study, study. You become a detective and find out as much about the person and their musical world as you can.
What are some of the things you’ve learnt and challenges you’ve overcome when taking part in this music journalism project?
I obviously applied acting technique to the research phase, which resulted in me arriving at the interview with an excess of information. That was overwhelming for myself and the interviewees, so I tried to be a little more settled in knowing I had done my homework and let the interview carry out naturally. Asking questions that will elicit detailed answers can be very intimidating; you feel as though you might miss something.
And what have you learnt about new Australian music and composers?
Watch it performed live, listen, and buy! There are so many nuanced approaches to contemporary classical music that you’re guaranteed to find something that suits your taste or, better yet, stretches you as a listener. Ten years ago, there was a lot of music I didn’t listen to. Making Conversation has made me hungry for recommendations!
What did you most enjoy about being part of Making Conversation?
I loved extrapolating on questions around the research I had done on my composers. Learning about the collaborative networks we have in Australian new music was also very encouraging. From the planning to the production stage, I felt the team members Lisa and Peggy had put together were committed to helping each other create excellent content.
What do you hope listeners can gain from your podcasts?
Both Jenna (released in May) and Holly (August) have great senses of humour. There was a lot of laughter in each interview. For those wanting encouragement to begin creative endeavours again, I’d listen to Jenna’s interview. She stopped performing for a time and her journey back has been very mindful. Holly’s interview is excellent for learning more about how literature can be successfully applied to writing music, and the importance of seeking out your own opportunities. These composers have outstanding business acumen and are very much about having their music heard, so both podcasts will give listeners an idea of artistic entrepreneurship.
What was one of the special moments in your interviews with these composers that really stood out for you?
There were many special moments. Overall, I feel very grateful for the generosity of time and spirit from Jenna and Holly. My world is a little more colourful and hopeful knowing Holly is setting music to Lewis Carroll, and Jenna is leading her own jazz orchestra.
Where to next for you?
Bolstering my self-esteem as an artist and regaining self-confidence as a musician. Meeting these amazing composers and working with this phenomenal team has made the creative world seem a lot less scary. I have a long way to go. However, as Jenna pointed out to me, artistic journeys are lifelong. They’re also varied, so I’ll be finding mentors who support me in my decision to pursue multiple creative fields and don’t boss me around regarding my business cards!
Listen to Antonia Zappia interview Jenna Cave in the new episode of Making Conversation!
Music in this episode (all composed by Jenna Cave):
Dear Miss Upstill, Twerking It Nyabs Style, and A Stranger In Helsinki
Performed by Divergence Jazz Orchestra
String Quartet No. 1
Performed by Viven Jeffery, Tom Dethlefs, James Eccles and Oliver Miller
The music you heard in the opening and closing credits is:
I/O (2014), by Eli Simic-Prosic
For diskclavier, recorded by the composer.
Used with permission.
Support Eli Simic-Prosic:
I/O. Eli Simic-Prosic. Recording of electroacoustic piece involving a disklavier. From the composer: “I/O explores multiple approaches to the sounds possible on the piano via electronic manipulation. Nothing is external; every element of the work originates in the analogue sounds made on the disklavier, a sort of modern, digitally-enabled version of the player piano”.
Making Conversation production credits:
The Making Conversation: Australian Composers’ Podcast is brought to you by Making Waves.
This episode was recorded and produced by: Antonia Zappia
Audio consultant: Daniel Thorpe
Mixing and Mastering: Thomas Green
Executive Producers: Lisa Cheney and Peggy Polias Making Waves