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Terry Riley features in Sydney's inaugural Aurora Festival


24 April 2006

The legendary Terry Riley, founder of minimalism in music, is coming to Australia for the first time this week as featured composer in the new international music festival instigated by the Sydney Conservatorium of Music’s Associate Dean of Technology, Matthew Hindson.

Legendary American composer, Terry Riley. Photo: Christopher Felver.
Legendary American composer, Terry Riley. Photo: Christopher Felver.

“There aren’t many composers who are in all the music history books as he is and very few who can claim to have started an entire musical genre as he can,” said Dr Hindson, artistic director of the Aurora Festival (29 April to 7 May) and himself an internationally acclaimed composer.

Riley will present the University’s free, biennial Alfred Hook Lecture and Recital to be held on 29 April at Riverside Theatres, Parramatta as part of the University’s community outreach program.

He’ll perform his ground-breaking work In C in the concert ‘Funky stuff' later that evening and next day will be in discussion with visual artist John Peart in a lunch hosted by Sydney University composer, Professor Anne Boyd, who is a keynote speaker at the conference which opens the festival. Several of his works will also be performed by other top musicians throughout the festival.

“It’s absolutely fantastic that we’ll have Riley here and it’s because of the Hook lecture that we’ve been able to make him accessible to the wider community,” Dr Hindson said.

Terry Riley on keyboard.
Terry Riley on keyboard.

Riley’s hypnotic, multi-layered, Eastern flavoured works, polymetric and brightly orchestrated, set the stage for the prevailing interest in a ‘new tonality’and his influences have been heard in the works of prominent composers and rock groups from Philip Glass to Tangerine Dream.

“The pulse-based minimalism that Riley started has affected so many people and brought back the strong sense of beat in a way that had been deliberately avoided in so much of art music,” Dr Hindson said.

‘Living music’ is the theme of this inaugural Aurora Festival which is Sydney’s first regular festival of contemporary art music.

“It’s all music by composers who are alive - and active, working musicians - the performers are all of the highest calibre and the music is alive,” said Dr Hindson who acknowledges strong representation from the Sydney University community.

Aurora Festival artistic director, composer Matthew Hindson.
Aurora Festival artistic director, composer Matthew Hindson.

“It’s engaging, it’s vibrant, its communicating and I’m positive that even those who think they don’t like contemporary classical music would like the music in this festival.”

Amongst the many performance highlights is a concert at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music on 5 May called ‘Comin’ Right Atcha’, titled after Hindson’s up-tempo, super-funky work to be performed that night alongside works by American composer Michael Daugherty. The concert will feature young emerging performers in the Australian Youth Orchestra’s ‘New Music Now’ program, with Conservatorium dean Professor Kim Walker on bassoon.

The festival includes masterclasses, community workshops, courses for music teachers and school students and sound installations – with most events taking place in Western Sydney.

“The large population there is just as entitled to experience high quality contemporary art music as those living closer to the coast,” Dr Hindson said.

Most performances, including the Hook lecture-recital, are being recorded by ABCFM for broadcast nationally later, greatly extending the audience for the festival.

An educational spinoff of the festival, Dr Hindson said, is the first-hand experience in event management that it’s affording the 62 students in his new and highly popular Arts-Music course, Music Festivals and their Administration.

For full festival details, including details of radio broadcasts, see www.aurorafestival.com.au.

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