BY STEPHANIE ESLAKE/MAKING WAVES
Have you had a listen to the new Making Conversation podcast? Music journalist Matthew Lorenzon settles in for a chat with composer May Lyon about her music. The episode is part of the Making Waves series, 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.
Matthew Lorenzon is a journalist and musicologist who is passionate about art music of the 20th and 21st centuries. His academic work combines theoretical and philosophical speculation with music analysis and archival research. He holds a doctoral degree in musicology from the Australian National University with a thesis on the interaction of music and philosophy in Antagonisme, a chamber work by Xavier Darasse on a text by Alain Badiou. As a music journalist, Matthew believes in critics maintaining a dialogue with musicians and audiences to help foster mutual understanding.
What is your musical background?
I developed Repetitive Strain Injury studying cello at the Elder Conservatorium, and instead of soldiering on with a chronic injury like a real musician, I turned to musicology and never looked back.
I still play the cello and sing in the Astra Chamber Choir, Australia’s longest-running contemporary music choir. I also play the banjo because I like the idea of an instrument where the pedagogical method is ‘you’ll get it eventually. Drink more beer’.
When did you decide you wanted to become involved in music journalism?
I started writing music journalism in 2007 as an outlet for half-baked musicological ideas. It stuck. I now write the Partial Durations contemporary music blog and run workshops in music journalism around the world.
How and why did you get on board with Making Waves?
A chance to interview a bunch of awesome Australian composers? How could I say no? But it helped that I had already made an investment in podcasting technology for the Partial Durations podcast. Nothing like consumer guilt for motivation.
Who were you responsible for interviewing in the Making Conversation podcast, and what was the process like for you?
I was responsible for interviewing May Lyon, who I feel has one of the most sophisticated and multi-faceted compositional voices in Australia. I also interviewed the globe-trotting composer Natalie Williams when she came down to Melbourne for the Melbourne Music Analysis Summer School. Late in the game, I put my hand up to interview Andrew Aronowicz as well, which turned out to be a great Saturday afternoon discussing philosophy, music, and poetry.
What are some of the things you’ve learnt and challenges you’ve overcome when taking part in this music journalism project?
The fascinating insights of the composers aside, I enjoyed the opportunity to hone my production and interview skills. I certainly won’t be micro-editing my interviews like I did in the first Partial Durations interviews.
And what have you learnt about new Australian music and composers?
I was really impressed by the composers’ willingness to discuss their processes and their music in some detail. I always want to go there, but composers don’t always follow. Peggy Polias and Lisa Cheney from Making Waves gave us a brief of around half-an-hour for the podcasts, which is quite long for an interview like this, but gave the participants plenty of time to develop their ideas.
What did you most enjoy about your involvement?
What do you hope listeners can gain from your podcast?
The interviews contain a treasure trove of tips for emerging composers, whether about meeting likeminded individuals, gaining international exposure, or developing musical material.
What was one of the special moments in your interviews with these composers that really stood out for you?
How can you not take Andrew Aronowicz’s advice: “Someone, somewhere out there in the world is interested in the same thing as you, so go out there and find them”. That is wonderful advice that applies to all creative endeavours in our tiny antipodean community.
Where to next for you?
Before Trump, I was happy to subscribe to the adapt-or-die philosophy of modern arts journalism. In order to draw in audiences, I didn’t mind shortening my paragraphs or leaving out technical jargon. But this actually flew against my experience with Partial Durations, which was that longer, higher quality content was what really attracted new music audiences.
After I awoke to the news of Trump’s victory on the back of social media campaigns fuelled by fake news, I was frankly disgusted to have participated if ever-so-slightly in the trashy noise of the online media environment. As a result, I am moving in two directions: I’m going to take my time and write long, in-depth articles about important new works, even embedding myself with ensembles if necessary. Simultaneously, I believe that Australian and international new music need to be better connected, that we should find the international significance in Australian music and that we should be aware of every internationally significant new music event. Just how I do that will be a surprise.
Listen to Matthew Lorenzon interview May Lyon in the fourth episode of Making Conversation!
Music in this episode:
On The Inside by May Lyon
Performed by Tamara Kohler (flute), Gemma Tomlinson (Cello), Aaron Klei (Clarinet) and Adam McMillan (Piano)
Verse-re-rhymes by May Lyon
Performed by Ensemble 21, led by Stephen Grant
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: Matthew Lorenzon
Audio consultant: Daniel Thorpe
Mixing and Mastering: Thomas Green
Executive Producers: Lisa Cheney and Peggy Polias Making Waves