Posted by Sam Gillies
Saturday 18th January, 2014

I’m not partial to quoting myself (most of the time I’m quoting other people anyway – usually quite badly) but unbeknownst to myself, fellow WAMster Benj has been keeping notes on the group’s discussions over the last couple of weeks. We were waxing lyrical following the final submission deadline for the first Saturday concert’s program notes, and I was quoted as saying ‘I can’t remember the last time I’ve written 500 words I’ve been so proud of.’ Benj reminded me of this yesterday, demanding that I use this quote in my final blog. 

The thing is, over the past week this statement has rung truer and truer. Prior to my time here, writing about music was generally greeted with an attitude of ‘smash it out, get it done, move on to the next project.’ This is the first time I’ve had the chance to write, stop, reflect and refine all aspects of my language and, with the expert tutorship of Alastair, Bob and ‘Beryl’, really noticeably improve over the course of the last two weeks. And this isn’t exclusive to the WAMsters. The general consensus amongst instrumentalists, arts admin, sound production, and composers is fairly unanimous in their appreciation for the opportunities offered by the camp.

Of course, it’s not just all the hard work itself that has made the 2014 National Music Camp so rewarding. Other highlights have included seeing the students thrash the staff in the annual cricket match – a victory so resolute I believe some staff members are still limping. Richard Gill gave some of the most entertaining and thought-provoking public addresses it’s been my pleasure to witness, a testament to his energy and passion for music education. And it goes without saying that the music on offer has been an unceasing string of revelations. I’ve developed a newfound appreciation for the music of Haydn, borne witness to the unceasing beauty of Gorecki’s Little Requiem for a Polka (a work I never thought I’d get to see performed live), and witnessed two world premieres from truly talented young composers. Of course, it is hard to top the spectacle of Richard Gill belting out the lyrics to Frank Zappa’s The Idiot Bastard Son at full volume.

The initial disinterest with which I appreciated Canberra has quickly subsided with the discovery of the National Gallery and Old Parliament House. I spent 15 minutes staring at Pollock’s Blue Poles and I in no way felt pretentious. Canberra itself seems to have woken up from its post-apocalyptic state. When we arrived Canberra was firmly stuck in the first act, empty streets absent of people, open shops or life of any kind. Walking around in the 40° heat the other day I felt that Canberra had finally proceeded to the second act, with reanimated corpses swaggering around the streets, ignorant of passing traffic. (However, I feel that even on the best of days Canberra would never proceed to its third act).

I know that all the swingers and hipsters at Château Periwinkle would like to acknowledge and thank Alastair McKean and Bob Maynard for their energy and patience over the last two weeks. I’m sure we’re all going to miss the 9:30am workshopping sessions, and the honest, good-humoured flow of ideas that the real world seems all too willing to suppress. Similarly, our radiophonic visions would have been left unrealized without the instruction and assistance from Jim ‘Action’ Atkins, while Musica Fever looks fantastic thanks to the efforts of Sanja Simic – thank you.

To everyone on camp we harassed relentlessly, thanks for your affability and willingness to be interviewed/badgered/misquoted. Particular thanks must go to Richard Gill, Geoffrey Lancaster, and Alexandre Bloch for their willingness to have a few curly questions thrown at them from time to time in the pursuit of a good story!

 As we pack our bags, add each other on facebook, and mentally prepare for tomorrow’s imminent departure, I’m really looking forward to seeing the final concert tonight, built upon two weeks of hard work – and I hope that the performers will find their own ‘500 words’ to be proud of.

- Sam Gillies


Words About Music participants have been blogging from National Music Camp.

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