Posted by Megan Burslem
Tuesday 14th January, 2014

Read. Think. Write.

When I was in grade 5, I recited Roald Dahl’s Little Red Riding Hood at my primary school fete. I can’t remember exactly why I chose this poem, but it was probably due to the part where Little Red Riding Hood ‘whips a pistol from her knickers’. Whatever the reason, it was from this moment that I fell in love with the power of writing. I went on to become a violist, but I have never lost my love of words.

I am now participating in AYO’s Words About Music Program (WAM) and feel like all my Christmases have come at once. I had the opportunity to meet Guy Noble, popular ABC Classic FM presenter, conductor, musical entertainer and Limelight columnist. I quizzed him about his thoughts on writing in the classical music industry and he admitted that a great piece of writing ‘turns him on’ just as much as a fantastic chord in a symphony. ‘Sometimes I am actually more into words than I am into music, even though I have spent most of my life as a musician, and this is because words communicate ideas’, he said with boyish excitement.

With this in mind I approached our WAM tutor Alastair McKean and proudly announced, ‘Alastair, I want to encourage people to write about music!’ He raised his eyebrows with curiosity, blinked a few times, and said: ‘Great! What are you waiting for?' 

So here I go.

I would like to grab a big fat texta and graffiti the words ‘read, think, write’ wherever I can; inside the cubicle of every McDonalds toilet, on every music stand, and above every gaming console. I want these words to hold the same significance as ‘slip, slop, slap’ or ‘stop, drop and roll’. In my opinion ‘read, think, write’ will do as much saving as these other mantras. 

Those of us involved in classical music in Australia have experienced the benefits of good writing. You may be a performer who has read extensively on practice technique or a student learning about John Cage. You may be an audience member who is reading about Mozart for the first time, or someone reading a sterling review. Regardless of what or how you read, these writings have done one thing: advocated.  

This is the power of writing. Alastair says, ‘What is incredibly important in crusading for anything is having a well-argued case. And a well-argued case consists of well-organised thoughts. It’s about arguing that case persuasively. It’s about arguing that case logically.’

I was curious as to what the other WAMsters (not to be confused with hipsters), (or hamsters) had to say on the topic. Needless to say I was pleasantly surprised at the diverse and insightful answers I received to my incessant questioning. 

Our youngest family member, Gabby, is an 18-year-old go-getter from Perth. She thinks that reading and writing about music has contributed to her understanding of musical expression and technique. Lucy smiles her sweet smile and looks up from her thesaurus app, ‘Keep your tools many and keep them sharp’. Sam, our wordy composer, adds that we need to be having ideas about music as ‘the dots will only give you a fraction of the story’.

Andrew frowns in concern and for a moment his eyebrows are lost behind his glasses, ‘It’s impossible to maintain a community of music without the well written word’. ‘Yes!’ interjects Stephanie, ‘Just do it! Nothing else will help you learn, retain, think, and understand as well as your own written word and the research required to create it’.

And me?

Read Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy or The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. Immerse yourself in the letters of Beethoven or wrap your tastebuds around Oliver Sacks. Hell, get into Hairy Maclary for all I care, but READ!

Think about what you have learnt. This will probably hurt, but don’t forget that your brain is like an unlimited 7/11 Slurpie – you can just keep filling it.

Write. To quote WAMster Ben, ‘There is a particular beauty in constructing your own writing’. This is not a job just for the ‘professionals’, but for everyone.


Words About Music participants will be blogging daily.


– Megan Burslem

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