Dots On The Landscape

Dots on the Landscape is an oral history of notated music in Australia that takes us on a historical journey of discovery from European settlement to present day. With his inimitable easygoing and down-to-earth style, narrator Andrew Ford talks with Australian composers and musicians including Anne Boyd, Richard Meale, Peter Sculthorpe, Ross Edwards, Carl Vine, Brett Dean and Elena Kats-Chernin. Through their own stories they interpret Australia's musical history and discuss the effects it has had on them and their contemporaries.


01The Colonial Quadrille20011003

Since European settlement, music in Australia has had a continuously evolving role in Australian society. The music of Isaac Nathan, reputedly the colony's first professional composer, hardly constitutes an auspicious beginning to the art of composition in this country, but his arrangements of "Aboriginal melodies" and his ambitions as a composer of opera, set the scene for certain later endeavours in Australian music. Certainly, much of the 20th century was concerned with the need to write the Great Australian Opera and the search for an elusive Australian Identity in music.

Episode 1 of Dots on the Landscape includes the voices of composers Anne Boyd, Colin Bright, George Dreyfus, Moya Henderson, Liza Lim, Richard Meale, David Page, Vincent Plush, Peter Sculthorpe and Larry Sitsky. Also featured are music critics Roger Covell and Elizabeth Silsbury, Prof of Aboriginal Studies at Melbourne University, Marcia Langton, and novelist and librettist, David Malouf.

02Looking Over Our Shoulders20011010

Europe provided Australian music with its early role models and its institutions: the concert hall, the opera house, the symphony orchestra. Young composers continue to study there and, at various time, there have been centres that have attracted our most talented musicians (e.g. Hill and Grainger in Germany in the 1880s and 90s; Boyd, Wesley-Smith and Edwards in York in the 1970s). And yet Australian composers have an increasingly ambivalent attitude to Europe. Working out that attitude seems still to be one of the defining features of Australian composition.

Featuring the voices of composers Anne Boyd, Gerard Brophy, Ross Edwards, Mary Finsterer, Peggy Glanville-Hicks, Moya Henderson, Miriam Hyde, Peter Sculthorpe, Larry Sitsky, Carl Vine and Martin Wesley-Smith, and the Emeritus Professor of Music at the University of York, Wilfrid Mellers.


Grainger is Australia's best-known composer. His music and his life seem to embody many of the recurrent trends in Australian music: emigration, experimentation, and larrikinism. Grainger was also among the first to identify the unique potential of musical composition in Australia and to recommend that composers in this country look to the north (i.e. Asia) for inspiration and affinity.

Featuring the voices of Percy Grainger, Brian Allison, Ros Bandt, Stephen Banfield, Warren Burt, Naomi Cass, Gerald Gentry, Wilfrid Mellers, Vincent Plush, Peter Sculthorpe, Alessandro Servadei, Roger Smalley and Martin Wesley-Smith.

04Looking North20011024

In spite of Grainger's urgings, it was really not until the 1960s that Australian composers began to turn their gazes away from Europe and tap Asia as a musical resource. Some of these tappings were consciously "oriental" (Sculthorpe, Conyngham, Boyd) while others were more aesthetic (Meale). What have been the advantages of embracing influences from Indonesian gamelan to Japanese gagaku? What have been the effects on music in Australia?

With the voices of Anne Boyd, Barry Conyngham, Roger Covell, Peggy Glanville-Hicks, Liza Lim, Richard Meale, James Murdoch, Vincent Plush, Peter Sculthorpe and Elizabeth Silsbury.

05Looking Around20011031

The landscape has always been central to the visual arts in Australia. In music too, composers have drawn inspiration both from the landscape itself and the fauna it supports. Birdsong, for example, has been a feature of Australian composition since its earliest days. A composer like David Lumsdaine can even make musical works that consist entirely of edited recordings of birdsong. But there are other sorts of landscape besides the Outback and the Bush, and Barry Conyngham inspiration has been the cities in which the majority of Australians live.

Featuring the composers Anne Boyd, Warren Burt, Barry Conyngham, Brett Dean, Chris Dench, Ross Edwards, Alan Lamb, David Lumsdaine and Peter Sculthorpe.

06 LASTComings And Goings20011107

The earliest Australian composers came from overseas and many continue to come. Equally, composers who were born here often find, like Grainger, that they can work more effectively in another country. How does the expatriate experience affect a composer? And how does it affect the composer's view of Australia?

Featuring Don Banks, Alison Bauld, Warren Burt, Tristram Cary, Brett Dean, Chris Dench, George Dreyfus, Elena Kats-Chernin, James Murdoch, Vincent Plush, Peter Sculthorpe, Larry Sitsky, Roger Smalley, Peter Tahourdin, Felix Werder, Malcolm Williamson and Julian Yu.