Rubiks are thrilled to announce that the winner of the 2017 Pythia Prize is Melbourne based female composer, Samantha Wolf. The winner was announced publicly at our event 75 Years: A Portrait of Meredith Monk.
In our upcoming event 75 Years: A Portrait of Meredith Monk, Rubiks will be joined by the evocative Invenio Singers. Tamara sat down with Invenio's Artistic Director, Gian Slater to learn a little more about her experience with Meredith Monk.
"If her music wasn't inspiration enough, her whole person radiated love, generosity, openness, grace and adventure."
Can you tell us a little about the history of Invenio Singers?
"I formed Invenio in 2010 for the Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festivals Composer’s Commission to perform my new work, 'Gone Without Saying'. I had been dreaming about a different kind of choral music for a while and was inspired to think of the great young singers I could put together at the time. After the success of this first work, both in the performance and in the rehearsal process – I was compelled to keep the momentum going. I felt that the musical possibilities were boundless as was the great potential of these amazing singers. I was immensely excited about presenting this music in different ways –with movement, with costumes, with lighting, acoustically, in different spaces. I felt that this kind of ensemble experience was something that filled a big gap in a singer’s performance life. Most singers will predominantly lead their own ensembles and are rarely invited into other ensembles, let alone ones that use, challenge and develop their musicianship.
Since the premiere of 'Gone Without Saying', we have performed seven of my large-scale works and have collaborated with many diverse artists and across art forms. Invenio performs in different configurations depending on the project, from 3-20 singers. "
Tell us about your experience with Meredith Monk and her music.
My partner introduced me to Meredith's Music via her album, Mercy. The first time I listened to it, I felt this strange combination of confrontation and venerability that provoked a deep curiosity in me. After listening to more of her music, I was lucky to be in New York when a retrospective 4 hour showing of her works was on at the Whitney Museum. It was without a doubt the most profound artistic and musical experience I have had so far. I left the show a different person and the experience has informed many of my ideas and thinking about the voice in particular.
Through an Australia Council for the Arts Fellowship, I was also incredibly fortunate to meet Meredith and spend some time with her in her NY studio. If her music wasn't inspiration enough, her whole person radiated love, generosity, openness, grace and adventure.
Meredith's work has a timeless quality- it doesn't ride on the tails of any fashion but is its own universe. It is primal and futuristic at once and breaks everything down to the core essentials of expression, sound, movement, nature and beauty.
Who are some of your female artistic heroes?
Join Rubiks, Gian Slater and the Invenio Singers at the Melbourne Recital Centre on October 23rd , as we celebrate Meredith Monk's 75th Birthday! Tickets available here.
The word ‘pioneer’ is regularly used to describe Meredith Monk, referring not only to her unique and distinct musicality, but also to her fresh, lateral approach to the human voice. Monk has an uncanny ability to make the newest and most esoteric vocal stylings sound as if they’re derived from an ancient pedagogy grounded in thousands of years of practice. Her album Turtle Dreams, released in 1983, is a testament to this way of thinking. Monk creates a bizarre yet incredibly organic sound world with the human voice as its focus.
For Rubiks, Monk’s work is so appealing as it refuses to be pigeon-holed. In an article for The Guardian, Tom Service reminds us that to talk of Monk as only a composer ignores the other essential aspects of her artistic practice, including choreography, filmmaking, and directing. This appeals to us hugely, as we are constantly trying to find ways to incorporate other art forms in to our practice as artists.
One of our first concerts was a portrait concert of composer Marcus Fjellström, who is also a self-taught animator/video artist. Most recently, we collaborated with visual artist Carmonn French to create a painting representing the Pythia Prize, our commissioning project for Australian female-identifying composers. For our Meredith Monk Portrait Concert, we have chosen to collaborate with the acclaimed Invenio Singers, who will bring Monk’s vocal writing to life.
While this may not be a huge departure from the world of instrumental music, there is a unique quality to the human voice that cultivates empathy and transcends cultural boundaries, which is perhaps why vocal music is so ubiquitous in popular culture. While much of Monk's vocal music doesn’t utilise text, her employment of vowel sounds which morph in to each other is at once transparent and enigmatic - an unrestrained approach to manipulating both the familiar and the unfamiliar, and reminds one of the most primordial sounds humans make with their voices.
For us, this concert is a celebration!
Carmonn French is the artist behind the image of the Pythia Prize. She grew up in a small town, which she believes to be one of the most influential parts of her journey as an artist. Next month, Carmonn will see the opening of her very own gallery in Darlinghurst, Sydney.
When did you start painting?
When I was about 13 years old, I realised I could draw and paint and I fell in love with it. I've never been technically trained as an artist which I feel allowed me to approach my work with a particular creative freedom. I truly believe this has allowed me to become a better artist.
Describe your typical painting environment.
Right now, I'm painting in my new studio in Darlinghurst, Sydney. It's quite noisy as it's on a busy road. I choose not to paint on an easel or at a desk, but prefer to paint with my canvas awkwardly on my lap or on the floor. I always have music playing as I am heavily influenced by sound.
Who are your female artistic heroes?
It's hard to narrow it down, but I would have to say Naata Nungurrayi, Dominique Crenn, Tori Amos, Amy Winehouse and Kate Winslet. I look up to anyone who is dedicated to their craft.
Check out more of Carmonn's work at https://www.carmonnfrench.com/.
It’s no secret that women composers are underrepresented across the world. At the 70th Darmstadt Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik, American composer Ashley Fure delved into the festival's archives to examine the representation of gender relations across the history of this iconic event.
The results showed only 7% of the music programmed over the festival’s 70 year history to be by female composers. All of the data and resulting discussions can be found at the Gender Relations in Darmstadt website.
A quick Google search will lead you to discover that Australian programming isn't so different . The Australian Music Centre’s website currently shows represented artist numbers as follows:
These are the facts, plain and simple. Many ensembles, composers, arts directors and programmers are doing their part to address this problem and should be openly commended. Sydney’s Ensemble Offspring have programmed entirely female composers throughout their 2017 season. Cat Hope, Head of the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music has implemented a compulsory quota for students to include works by female composers on their recital programs.
Australian composer Liza Lim, in conjunction with the Sydney Conservatorium of Music is launching a new professional development program aimed at empowering women in composition entitled 'Composing Women'.
Changes are occurring, but it is not enough to just commend those who are making a difference without doing something ourselves. It’s not enough to just assume others are making the changes. We all need to actively make the changes together.
Rubiks are so proud to be launching The Pythia Prize, a new commission project that will see an Australian female composer collaborate with Rubiks to create a new work, to be premiered in 2018. The Pythia Prize winner’s piece will be performed in both Australia and Europe, ensuring repeat performances of the work. Rubiks are striving to develop the Pythia Prize into an annual competition, in which the ensemble will not only develop new pieces with the winning composer each year but also build a database of female composers who we intend to build ongoing relationships with.
Pythia (or the Oracle of Delphi) was an ancient Greek Priestess who held court at Pytho, a sanctuary dedicated to the Greek god Apollo. Apollo was a god of many things, including: music, poetry, art, oracles, archery, plague, medicine, sun, light and knowledge. Pythia was highly-regarded, for it was believed that she channeled prophecies from Apollo himself, including messages of music.
Applications for this opportunity will open on September 4th, 2017 through the Rubiks website.
Together, we can oversee equal opportunities and empowerment for creative females. Rubiks are raising funds to support the launch of the inaugural Pythia Prize with the support of Creative Partnerships Australia's MATCH Lab program. To learn more and support our campain, please click here.