Listen to ABC Classic FM on Monday and Tuesday  this week to hear young competitors in the Sydney International Piano Competition play Anne Boyd’s new composition ‘Kabarli Meditation (Dawn)’.
Anne has just finished the piece which was commissioned for the 2012 competition. It is inspired by the painting ‘Daisy Bates at Ooldea’ by Sidney Nolan.

Anne is in the middle of writing an opera on Daisy Bates (1863-1951) so she has her head full of Australian mythology and indigenous culture. The opera Daisy Bates at Ooldea will be premiered in October. It tells the story of the eccentric Irish migrant Daisy Bates and the decades she spent at the beginning of the 20th century living with Aboriginal communities in the desert. Daisy was nicknamed ‘Kabbarli’ which means grandmother.

Syndey Nolan’s 1950 painting of Bates is of a determined, diminutive figure in an arid landscape. It immortalises her but also depcits her alienness in the Australian landscape. I’m interested to hear if Boyd’s piano piece explores the sense of an alien figure or is more sympathetic.

Boyd is a truly original voice in Australian music and a good choice (the other was Karl Vine) to write for SIPCA. Her music is distinctive for its delicate textures and purity. The immensely popular piano piece Angklung (1974) was inspired by the ancient Javanese gamelan instrument. The entire twelve-minute work uses just the notes Bb, Ab, Eb and Fb. Listen to an audio sample here.

Australian critic Roger Covell called it ‘among the most restrained and fastidious pieces that have ever been written … also very beautiful, as finely calculated as one of those ancient Chinese or Japanese paintings that record the fall of an autumn leaf.’

More information on the life of Anne Boyd and her music can be found in Women of Note!

If you get a chance to listen to the performances playing Kabarli Meditation let me know what you think. I’m hoping it will give a glimpse of the opera in the pipeline, will post my comments soon.