I’m writing this en-route through airports to the Coriole Music Festival. It shows a real commitment to new music and composers for a festival to fly a composer out, put them up, feed them, as well as perform their music at a festival and I’m really grateful to the festival and Anna Goldsworthy for inviting me.

The work of mine that is being performed is my song cycle On Bunyah, which I wrote about in previous blogs. It was premiered last year by tenor Mark Padmore and the Britten Sinfonia as part of a UK tour taking in Wigmore Hall among other fantastic venues. You can listen to a sample of it here.

I’m delighted that the work will receive it’s Australian premiere at the Coriole Music Festival as the almost 40 minute song cycle sets 10 poems by Les Murray, one of Australia’s foremost poets who passed away this week. I was luck enough to exchange a number of letters with Les in 2017 and 2018 when I was researching and composing the work. He was incredibly generous with his ideas and input and steered me in the direction of the poems I ended up using. We spoke about the idea of a poet farmer figure being symbolised by the tenor in the cycle and this seemed to have a real affinity with Les’ outlook and aesthetic. I hope I have done Les proud and I feel it is going to be particularly poignant to hear his words sung, so soon after his passing, in his native home.

The festival runs this weekend and On Bunyah will be performed on Sunday. More info here. I will also be part of a discussion panel in conversation with festival director Anna Goldsworthy on the Saturday.

When I get back home from the festival I will start composing a new contemporary circus work. I’m not sure how much information I can reveal at the moment, but it will be the third work with my long time collaborator Ilona Jantti and her company Ilmatila. The work will be written for a small group of circus performers and a yet to be determined number of musicians (probably 5) from the Finnish contemporary music power house that is Uusinta.

In Jan 2018 Ilona and I did a 2 week residency at Cirko Helsinki to create the ideas (choreographic and musical) and eventually the broad structure of the work. Since then I have done some preliminary composing and Ilona has created choreography for some of the sections of what will be an hour long work. The next task, which will take up the better part of the next 6 months, is to compose the full work. This will involve lots of back and forth between Ilona and I, sharing videos and music electronically, before we come together with the Uusinta musicians in Helsinki for 3 weeks in Feb/March 2020 to test/rehearsal/destroy/rebuild/polish what we have created. Then the premiere (which I don’t think I can reveal just yet) will take place in the second half of 2020 followed by a European tour.

I’m very excited about making a third work with Ilona and to be working with Uusinta. Ilona and I wanted to make our third work something more ambitious in scale and scope than our previous work, Handspun. What we want to build on from Handspun and our first work Polar is the abstract mode of expression and goal of retaining the audiences attention and interest without recourse to narrative. This is very different to my operatic work but does not discard theatrical principles or the deep need to create a music and movement that feel of the same source and work as one transdisciplinary art form. More about this new work as I start writing it and work towards the Feb/March coming together of all involved.

I’m still waiting on the broadcast date for Ned Kelly, but in the meantime I have put together an audio taster and received a trailer of the opera. If you fancy a sneak peak before the ABC broadcast take a look here:

Ned Kelly Video

Ned Kelly Audio

Luke Styles