Listen again - The October Revolution

ABC ClassicFM recording of the 2017 Canberra International Music Festival from 29 April 2017 at Fitters' Workshop

Listen Again (Link will open in new window)

Presented by Philip Sametz

Taking place in Canberra's Fitters' Workshop, this concert takes its name from the two evocative masterpieces by Dmitri Shostakovich.

Mozart's playful "Kegelstatt" Trio was suposedly named after the game of skittles (or bowling). And you'll also hear the World Premiere of Belgian composer Frank Nuyts' Piano Sonata No 20 "La Cucaracha"

Program information also available here.

CIMF goes behind the scenes for Game On!

 Game On! is dedicated to some of video gaming's greatest soundtracks

Game On! is dedicated to some of video gaming's greatest soundtracks

In the lead-up to Saturday’s Game On! concert, the Canberra International Music Festival’s Elsabeth Parkinson discussed games and music with someone who’s been behind the scenes of both worlds. Owain Bolt, game developer and instrumentalist, will not only be playing in the concert himself but will present some exciting previews of what he’s been working on in the digital realm…

CIMF: Tell us about the kind of work you’re doing with game programming. What do you find most enjoyable, and what do you find most challenging?

OB: Games development drew me as a means of telling a story, and of making it interactive with visual and sound components. I enjoy manipulating the characters and the animation – how they appear on the screen and respond to the players’ actions – as well as other events happening in the game.

Of the systems I've worked on over the last year, my favourite has been Character Customisation. I’ve had to explore ways to make all the system parts properly interchangeable, whilst minimising the impact on efficient performance.

A major challenge has been the trade-off between performance and the accuracy of the game physics. For example, when a character walks up stairs, the feet mustn’t go through the stairs, nor should they bounce off into space, but the movement and visuals have to be fast enough to look realistic… We’re constantly tweaking and finding workarounds to get the best balance!

 Great Helm Games

Great Helm Games

CIMF: Can you give us any teasers about the game you’re designing at the moment?

OB: My team has been working on our current major project Dismantle: Construct Carnage for about eighteen months. Dismantle is a “couch multiplayer” game in which players build ‘constructs,’ fantastical creations like robots, and have them fight in a tournament. As a construct takes damage, it’ll lose parts of its body, being forced to hop, crawl or even roll around as a head. The winner is the one that has not been reduced to tiny pieces by the end!

CIMF: Why is music so important to a game, and what sets it apart from other musical genres?

OB: Game music creates mood, time and place, representing characters and/or foreshadowing what is about to happen – in that way it’s similar to film music. However, unlike in film, the music can affect the players’ reactions, which affects how they play, and what happens in the game, which then affects the music again. So, the music is interactive with the player, as well as with the action of the game. Whereas film scoring is done for the completed footage, with each scene or cue having a set length, a game and its soundtrack may run differently every time they’re played.

CIMF: What sorts of things do you have to take into consideration when designing music for games?

OB: First of all, the style of the music needs to suit the worlds and characters of the game. For example, Kingdom Hearts includes Disney characters and uses themes and inspiration from the Disney films; the Dark Souls series uses symphonic, orchestral aesthetics; and Hotline Miami, with its retro, ‘neon art’ look, uses electronica or synthwave-style music. Due to constant variations in timing, intensity, choice and order of scenes and actions, the music has to be able to loop without getting dull. It also has to transition well between different elements, and should have plenty of variety whilst being cohesive as a whole.

CIMF: Which comes first, the chicken or the egg: does the game’s music ever influence the game’s development, or is it the game which decrees what the music will be?

OB: In our case, it runs both ways. Some of the music we've received from our lead composer, Daniel Kempton, has inspired us to plan out levels or arenas to suit it. Other times we've created a level and shown it to Dan, who then composed music to suit the scenario.

CIMF: What kind of involvement do you have with music?

OB: Aside from an interest in composing more music for games in future, I'm actively involved in community music in Canberra. This year, I’m playing with James McCusker Orchestra, Victoria Street Brass Band, Maruki Community Orchestra and the South Canberra Youth Wind Orchestra. I play trombone, French horn, tuba and other brass instruments as needed. On the games side, I've done composition for some of my own projects in the past, as well as being in charge of integrating the music into Dismantle.

CIMF: What are you looking forward to playing at the Game On! Concert?

OB: I'm most looking forward to playing the medley that's been specially arranged of our Dismantle music. It’ll also be great to hear the music from other games, particularly Kingdom Hearts and Halo, which were among my favourites as I was growing up.

Owain Bolt grew up playing instruments and video games, fostering an enduring love of both gaming and music. After finishing his studies at Canberra’s Academy of Interactive Entertainment in 2015, he founded Great Helm Games with three of his classmates. Their most recent project, Dismantle, has no scheduled release date as yet, but meanwhile you can get a preview of the game and its music at the Canberra International Music Festival’s Game On! concert, starting at 11 am on Saturday, 6 May.


2017 Canberra International Music Festival announces major changes to artist line-up

The Canberra International Music Festival (CIMF) regrets to announce that the Canadian Brass has cancelled its Australian tour and will not be appearing at the Festival in 2017. The group will be replaced in the program by the James Morrison Quintet for a feature concert at the Fitter’s Workshop on Saturday 29 April.

 The incomparable James Morrison

The incomparable James Morrison

The Festival’s Artistic Director, Roland Peelman, says “We are sorry for our patrons and supporters who were looking forward to the Canadian Brass concert, but the circumstances are completely beyond our control. However, we are delighted to welcome the James Morrison Quintet at the festival. Not only has he adjusted his schedule to make this possible,  we can hear him with his Quintet, a line up of talent that is rarely seen with James at the heart of it. He is a true force of nature, one of the all-time great brass players.”

 Canadian violin superstar Alexandre da Costa

Canadian violin superstar Alexandre da Costa

With the help of the High Commission of Canada, the Festival has been able to secure the remarkable Canadian violinist, Alexandre da Costa, for our Opening Gala concert. He belongs to that rarified circle of super star violinists working around the globe. Roland continues, "It will be an extraordinary occasion to have him at our Opening Gala alongside the Simon Bolivar String Quartet, and our very own Lisa Moore and William Barton.”

The Festival will offer patrons a direct transfer of their Canadian Brass ticket to the James Morrison Quintet, or a full refund if desired. All affected patrons are being contacted directly. If further information is required, patrons are asked to contact the Festival office on or (02) 6230 5880.

For more information about the 2017 Canberra International Music Festival, please contact Marketing Coordinator Krista Vincent at or 02 6182 0023.


CIMF talks about Chinese music with composer Nicholas Ng

Dr. Nicholas Ng is a composer, performer, and Chinese instruments scholar who recently appeared at our 2017 Festival launch. We were absolutely captivated by his performance, a spellbinding piece composed by Nicholas himself and performed a gourd flute - an ancient Chinese instrument many of us had never seen before! With such a strong focus on Chinese music and instruments in our upcoming Festival, we wanted to know more. We asked Nicholas some questions about the history and practice of Chinese music, how he got involved in the field, and what to listen for.

 Nicholas Ng performing at the 2017 Festival launch. Photo by Peter Hislop

Nicholas Ng performing at the 2017 Festival launch. Photo by Peter Hislop

Q How did you become interested in Chinese instruments?
This story doesn't start pleasantly: I had a breakdown on the piano in my early teens while preparing for an AMus exam, so my teacher suggested composing and studying the music of my cultural heritage. I started researching traditional Chinese music and kept this interest up during my BMus at Sydney University and PhD at ANU. This took me into communities in Australia and abroad where mainstream and not so mainstream Chinese instruments are played. I have come across many interesting instruments along the way!
Q How much of the songs are traditional and passed on through generations. How much is improvised?
There are many genres of Chinese music where traditional tunes have been passed down through the ages. This includes the various types of Chinese opera, the zizhu ('silk and bamboo') repertories, and other folk and sacred genres. A lot of this music was orally taught, but over time, a system of tablature notation evolved for each instrument family, mainly as a learning tool and memory aid. This notation does not include ornamentation and other musical elements of performance practice that only experienced performers are able to teach.

There is much improvisation found in folk and older genres of music, such as music composed for the qin (7-stringed zither). Meanwhile, the 'classical' genre that was developed and refined with the building of conservatories in the 1950s does not call for much improvisation at all. This music is notated in jianpu, a kind of cipher script brought to China via 19th century missionaries from Europe.

Q The gourd instrument you played in our Festival launch, does it work like the sheng (mouthorgan)?  
The hulusi (gourd pipe) is similar to the sheng (mouthorgan) in that it is a wind instrument with reeds in its drone pipes. Both instruments are built around a wind chamber. However, the hulusi has a main fingering pipe, quite similar to a recorder with 6 finger holes and 1 left-hand thumb hole at the back of the pipe.

Q All the Chinese instruments will be represented at our 2017 festival: pipa, erhu, zhang, sheng, dizi, etc…. Were they always meant to be played together?
There is a wealth of archaeological evidence (statues, paintings, murals) from roughly 500 AD depicting small and large ensembles of Chinese instruments played at court and at various ritual events. Many of these instruments were imported from the Turkish side of the Silk Road and eventually Sinicized (for instance the Arab zurna became the Chinese suona). Meanwhile all 'foreign' modes were stamped out during the purist Ming Dynasty so that only the pentatonic and heptatonic modes prevailed. Similar to other folk music genres around the world, there was no conductor while the performers played variants of the the same melody together in heterophony. This music is still heard in the zizhu ('silk and bamboo') ensembles of China.

Q Where does the notion of Chinese orchestra stem from?
The notion of a Chinese 'orchestra', where there is a conductor leading a very large group of musicians, stems from the late 18th to early 20th centuries. Many Chinese artists and scholars of the time began studying French art and music, and a kind of intellectual revolution erupted with the sentiment that Chinese music was antiquated, out of tune, and in need of major adjustment!

And so an orchestra of traditional instruments developed. Duplicate lines of carefully orchestrated music were executed by instruments organised en masse into sections of bowed, plucked and struck strings, and percussion (there is no brass section). French and Russian-flavoured triadic harmonies were adopted in arrangements of folk tunes and new compositions, and physical modifications were made to the instruments themselves for playing in equal temperament.

Q Is it important to understand the Chinese language and its syntax in order to ‘understand’ Chinese music?
I think there are numerous benefits from understanding the language, especially if the music you are trying to appreciate is sung. However, it is important to point out there are many genres of Chinese music and in fact many languages spoken amongst the Han Chinese majority group and 55 ethnic minorities. While Mandarin is the language spoken in the capital of Beijing and therefore all throughout China, many dialects of Mandarin are prevail amongst the Han majority itself, some so far removed and unrelated that they are mutually unintelligible.

The greatest divide in language, culture and music within the Han Chinese population is between the north and south. The language of the north, Mandarin, is a modern construct developed with many Mongolian, Manchurian and even Russian influences. It is spoken with 4 tones. The languages and dialects of the south are considered much older and closer to ancient Chinese, and their tones number up to as many as 9.

So to really appreciate Chinese music, I believe it is important to take into account the genre, its origin, and the language (or dialect) associated with it.

Dr Nicholas Ng is an award-winning performer, composer and researcher. Committed to the practice of Chinese music and the awareness of Chinese culture in Australia, Nicholas co-established the Australian National University Chinese Music Ensemble (2003) and edited ENCOUNTERS: Musical meetings between Australia and China, a book based on the festival that he curated while working at Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University (2010). He now teaches erhu at Sydney Conservatorium of Music in the newly established Chinese Music Ensemble course.

Nicholas's compositions can be heard in Concert 14: Harvest of Endurance, an evening of stories and music that commemorate Chinese immigration to Australia, inspired by the eponymous 50-meter painted scroll. Thursday May 4 at 6:30 pm, National Museum of Australia.

You can hear music performed on Chinese instruments at Concert 7: Red Dragon, a scenic outdoor concert featuring the Chinese Oriental Orchestra. Monday May 1 at 11am, Embassy of Peoples Republic of China.

 Singapore's Ding Yi Company

Singapore's Ding Yi Company

Singapore's Ding Yi Ensemble mix traditional Chinese music with Western influences for a truly modern sound. You can hear them on Tuesday 2 May at 11am with Concert 9: Taking Flight, a free musical showcase hosted by the Canberra Airport. And don't miss their headline concert the following day with Concert 10: The Lion's Roar, your chance to experience an intimate performance with this unique ensemble. Tuesday 2 May at 4pm, Ainslie Arts Centre.

Two new faces for the Canberra International Music Festival

 Krista Vincent

Krista Vincent

The Canberra International Music Festival welcomes two new key staff with the hiring of Production Manager Rachel Gould and Marketing Coordinator Krista Vincent. Rachel and Krista bring a wealth of arts sector experience as well as an international perspective that will strengthen and enhance the festival team. These two new positions are made possible in part by substantial public investments following the success of the 2016 season. Defying industry trends, the 2016 Festival enjoyed record attendance with sell-out concerts and attracted over 6,400 attendees with its reputation for excellence and sense of adventure.

Rachel Gould is well known in Canberra, where she has worked as a professional musician and arts administrator for the past 10 years. Graduating from the ANU School of Music with a BMus Performance degree in clarinet, Rachel has performed with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra and also worked as the Orchestra Manager for the Canberra Pops Orchestra. Rachel has a strong background in event management, working as the Production Manager of the 2008 Pacific School Games Opening Ceremony, Operations Manager of the National Folk Festival (2009–12) and delivered hundreds of events in 2013 as part of the Centenary of Canberra team. More recently Rachel has been working for Musica Viva in an outreach role and is regularly seen backstage at Llewellyn Hall as a stage manager for various local and touring productions.

I’m thrilled to be returning to CIMF, which I have had a strong association with over many years. In fact I’ll be returning to the production manager role which I held from 2005–08 with then Director Nicole Canham. It’s amazing to see how much the festival has grown and flourished over the years, and I can’t wait to be part of what is shaping up to be a very exciting 2017 program.” Rachel Gould, Production Manager.

Marketing coordinator Krista Vincent comes to us by way of St. John’s, Newfoundland. With over 20 years of performing experience throughout Canada and Europe, Krista holds music and ethnomusicology degrees from McGill University, the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, and Memorial University of Newfoundland. She spent eight years in the Netherlands, working with leading composers and internationally renowned groups including Martijn Padding, Leine Roebana and ZT Hollandia. In Canada, Krista worked as a collaborative pianist and was artistic director of the Ora Ensemble, creating performance events that blended elements of new music, visual art and performance theatre. For the last two years, she held the role of General Manager of the Tuckamore Chamber Music Festival.

I am so impressed with the vibrancy and sophistication of the music scene here in the ACT, and look forward to working with the staff and volunteers in attracting many more new music lovers to the wonderful adventure that is the Canberra International Music Festival.” Krista Vincent, Marketing Coordinator.

The upcoming 2017 Festival, titled Revolution: A Music Adventure from the Barricades of Time, will span 11 music-filled days and nights between 27 April and 7 May. Artistic Director Roland Peelman brings together a program of expertly curated performances that tell the story of major societal upheaval throughout history, told through the powerful, provocative, and oftentimes transcendental music these events have inspired. More information about the 2017 Festival, including complete schedule and ticket information, will be announced in December. For all the latest news, stay tuned to, join our mailing list, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

On behalf of the entire CIMF Team, we warmly welcome Rachel and Krista. We are delighted to have you with us!