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Further files will be posted at regular intervals. Those listed below are a representative sample of articles written from 1982 to the present.
Both published and unpublished articles are featured. Email discussion and feedback are welcome.
Click here for Site Index on home page.
Contents of this site
"Ted and Sylvia - I Was There" recollections of an undergrad at Cambridge. Dating Sylvia before she met Ted. Ted gets angry with me in a pub.
"ABOLISH THE AUSTRALIA COUNCIL?" - The question is a rhetorical one. The Australian Federal (Central) Government will always need an arts advisory body.This article examines aspects of the assessment procedures and budgetary priorities of the Australia Council (OZCO). It suggests that the funding basis for individual creative artists needs to be widened.
This article now includes an updated version of the article “No Reasons For Saying No” previously posted on this site as a separate article.
A print ready PDF version is also available - click here to download
"The Economic Disempowerment Of Australian Composers" - a survey of obstacles facing Australian composers seeking to fund their programs of work.
"Copyright Reform" - an article in the Sydney Morning Herald provoked this response, and a radical suggestion.
“Academics As Territorial Mammals” – A simple (but not simplistic) explanation as to why the politics of music are so Byzantine.
"Music As An Industry" - an application of the basic commonsense tenets of economic rationalism to the music industry, with suggestions about improving methods of Product Development, especially in the area of "modern classical music".
Heterophobia in New Australian Opera - An analysis of plotlines
(Who Needs A) Rump Monarch? - Despair of a republican.
Creaky Machinery - Funding arrangements for the Music Industry in Australia, contrasted with dissimilar arrangements for the Film Industry - a prequel to No Reason for Saying No.
No Reasons For Saying No - An article about the assessment procedures of the Australia Council, the Federal Government's arts advisory body, now included in the article “Abolish The Australia Council?”
A Secret History
of Words and Music.
Crosby - The Screen's First Anti-Hero.
Profile On British
Composer Stephen Adams
Despite his international success he stopped composing at the age of 52, due to a well documented family scandal. But recent controversy suggests another and even more sinister crisis.
"Variations on a Racist Theme" - racism in music (as published in Australian Rationalist, 1997)
"Australian Music, Past , Present & Future" (as published in Sydney Music Diary, 1982)
"The Vultures Descend" - exploitation of dead composers by the music industry at the expense of living composers (as published in Ossia journal, 1994)
"Why music can't survive without patronage" - An open letter from a composer (as published in "The Australian" Wednesday November 21 1984
"Multiphonics" - extract from a thesis by Ian Shanahan, composer, Lecturer in the Department of Music of the University of Western Sydney (Nepean)
"The Artist as Serf" - Report on a Seminar on "Moral Rights in Film"
"Registrar of Primary Creators" - A proposal for governments
" Composers Conference, Sydney 1988" - Extract from proceedings re: socio-economic situation of composers
composers bear little relation to reality" - critique of composer
characterisation in Australian film "My First Wife" (as
published in "The Australian" Tuesday, October 9th, 1984
INTRODUCTION TO POLEMIC
Derek Strahan BA Cantab (Mod. Lang.)
The Oxford Dictionary defines a "polemic" as : "A controversial argument or discussion; aggressive controversy". There has been very little of this in the arts in Australia because most decisions are made behind closed doors by appointed committees. Debate about the reasons underlying decisions is not welcome. An illustration of the attitude of officialdom to open debate is the case of the Australian Music Centre. Under directed Dr. Richard Letts, for a period of several years, a lively letters section was run in the Sounds Australian Quarterly, in which open debate was possible about such matters as the philosophy and purpose of different schools of compositions, and public funding policies. These two topics are, of course, closely interrelated where funding seems to favour particular styles of writing over others!
The Australian Music Centre depends for its existence on funding from the Federal Government's Arts Advisory body, the Australia Council. After funding was reduced and new management was installed, the Letters pages disappeared from the Journal and so did the opportunity to debate funding policies!
During the period from 1982 to 1994 I participated in music polemic and this file is a record of my contributions. As regards their effectiveness I regard my efforts to achieve change to have been characterised by almost complete failure! But as the issues are still extant, and as others might wish to take up some of the issues raised, and as the material makes quite lively reading, I decided to file them here, particularly as the Internet provides to opportunity for international debate. Different countries try different methods of encouraging and policing artistic endeavour, but the underlying problems of survival which daily confront the creative artist are the same everywhere.
I referred above to the "almost complete failure" of music polemic in this country.
One small success was in the spontaneously self-combusting campaign to "persuade" the (then) Performing Arts Board of the Australia Council to reform its Code of Conduct Guidelines to prohibit members of the Music Committee benefiting directly from its own funding decisions! Astonishingly there was implacable resistance to this reform! Shortly after it was introduced in April 1989 it was rescinded. The campaign for reform had to be fought again, this time openly in Press on TV and at Public meetings. Finally the reform was re-introduced and remains in place. However, shortly thereafter, the Australia Council subjected all of its bureaucratic procedures to new broom treatment including the creation of new categories of application for funding and new assessment procedures ...
Plus ca change ... (See No Reasons For Saying No) For the record, I have created a file of my own involvement in the above, partly as a cautionary tale ... and partly to revoice issues which are always current.
It is tempting for the artist to remain ensconced in a cocoon of gestation, preoccupied with the creation of new works. Unwise. Be aware that a new work is a NEW INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY. This is a predatory world. The arts industry is global. It is omnivorous. It is run by merchants. They rely on a continuing supply of new or recycled property to market. They will acquire it as cheaply as possible, and if artists are stupefied enough to create it without payment and part with the rights without adequate compensation, or assurance of profit from sales, artists have no one but themselves to blame if they live on in penury. (See THE VULTURES DESCEND) The traditional attitude to artists is analogous to the traditional attitude to women (see GOLD, BEAUTY & MUSIC). Those who desire resent the possessor of beauty,the owner of beauty, the creator of beauty.
Desire disempowers the desirer.
There is a very simple reason why both women and artists have been "psyched" into doing what they do "for love" i.e. "for nothing". And made to feel guilty if they don't! This is so that the desirer can obtain what is desired for little or no payment. Women have been much more successful in creating a sisterhood to resist oppression, subjugation and exploitation. Artists are still several centuries behind women in achieving similar rights. This is because artists are competitive with each other and (as women are said to be) unable to act together through fear of each other's talent and jealousy of each other's prowess. The merchants encourage such attitudes. It enables them to divide and rule!
Composer (and other artists) should beware of becoming too rabidly involved in cultural wars and internecine squabbling. It prevents them from forming an industrial collective. The Freemasons knew how to maintain an industrial collective long before the communists tried and failed. The Masons called it a guild. The Masons (who were anti-clerical) earned money from their ideological enemies building cathedrals. There's a lesson there.
In Australia, under the Federal Labour Government of Paul Keating, a brave new start for the Arts began under the banner of Creative Nation. During the PR for the opening national conference in Canberra there was much brave talk and pious reference to the role of the "primary creator" in the arts. Predictably the initiatives of Creative Nation were quickly hijacked by the usual mob of arts bureaucrats determined that no change in the status quo would threaten their regular salaries.
I was there in Canberra, and I saw who was there! Not many "primary creators"! Within one year the term "primary creator" was dropped from all literature on, all programs for, and all press reports about the arts. It was a semantic error to have coined the term in the first place. No one in the arts who is not a creator likes to be reminded of the fact that, in essence, their role is of secondary importance!
Artists should not naively expect that government arts funding bodies exist primarily to serve the interest of themselves, the "primary" creators. In the pecking order the artist is still of "secondary" importance. The primary purpose of funding bodies is to pay the salaries of those who run the funding bodies! For a consideration of the current status of the artist in these final years of the millennium see THE ARTIST AS SERF.
The following collection of articles is a representative sample of my contribution to - how to describe it? - arts gossip in the press, in letters, and in music journals.
It also includes several articles which were not published, either because they were deemed too contentious at the time, or, in the case of FILE ON BEETHOVEN, because there was material left over for reasons of length, but which contained further pertinent evidence and/or argument. I hope what follows proves entertaining and possible even informative. Feedback invited.