The initiative is headed up by Joanne Kee of Ceres Solutions who has considerable experience in arts management, including managing the Song Company and consulting for the Jazzgroove collective. Curiously, Sound Travellers is run in partnership with Performing Lines, which has a strong record of touring theatre and performance—quite a different circuit to that of the contemporary music scene. Perhaps this is a cunning strategy to transfer knowledge across the arts sector and expand the audience for contemporary music.
Following an intensive period of consultancy the first tours are underway, combining an eclectic mix of styles and production scales. As well as augmenting the touring programs of established national events such as Liquid Architecture and Lawrence English’s Open Frame festival, the first program also includes the Mace Francis Big Band, improvisation ensemble Metalog (Jim Denley, Amanda Stewart, Ben Byrne, Natasha Anderson, Robbie Avenaim, Dale Gorfinkel), sound artist Tom Hall, the experimental electro pop duo ii (Jon Tjhia and Alex Nosek), the jazz ensembles Misinterprotato and Way Out West, multi-instrumentalist Colin Offord and, from the contemporary classical realm, Ensemble Offspring and IHOS Opera. Kee suggests that in the selection process they were looking to “support artists who have shown a commitment to touring. Added to that, with our eye on strategically developing networks and touring circuits, we are aiming for a mix of cities, states, genres and dates.”
The list of touring venues is particularly intriguing, located in every capital city and some key regional centres and ranging from small artist run spaces to major concert halls. Kee says, “It has been interesting working with the different genres, they all have unique qualities, but there is a blurring of boundaries both in musical genres and in scale and size. This provides all sorts of opportunities and definitely one of these is to connect smaller and larger scales of music making. I think it’s a real plus having a broader outlook. As for the actual circuits, there are existing paths around the country for sound art and jazz and we want to strengthen and enlarge them…[C]ontemporary classical music is a bit different in that there isn’t much of a pre-existing circuit, but I believe there is definitely enough interest to create one.”
Sound Travellers has been funded as a two year initiative, a relatively short time to set up a program from scratch and then learn from its development. I ask Kee about her hopes for the future: “I believe that we could make a significant change to the Australian musical landscape if we are given the opportunity to lay down a strong foundation and then given a chance to build on this…I believe that we can shift ways of working in these genres, in order to create opportunities for artists to spend more time creating, producing and performing. Plus dare I say, also to increase engagement with audiences…”
In the meantime, the second round of applications is coming up in September for tours during 2009. Hopefully Sound Travellers will continue to fill in the blank spaces on the map of contemporary music in Australia.
RealTime issue #86 Aug-Sept 2008 pg. 38
© Gail Priest; for permission to reproduce apply to firstname.lastname@example.org