Archiving new music performance

Archiving new music performance
How the Western Australian New Music Archive brings a creative community to life
13 April 2017

Guest blogger Dr Adam Trainer from the State Library of Western Australia introduces us to a wonderful music collection, now available in Trove. The inclusion of this unique collection significantly adds to Trove's coverage of Australian musical life. Bringing these records into Trove links you to this fascinating collection.Photograph of a piano

Illari, Peter & Tura New Music (Firm) (production company.) & Ruined Piano Convergence (2005 : Goomalling) (2005). Ruined piano in open grassland, Goomalling

What does a creative community look like and how does it work? These are some of the questions at the centre of the Western Australian New Music Archive (WANMA). The project originated at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts in 2000.

It began through a partnership between the Academy and its parent institution, Edith Cowan University, under the leadership of Professor Cat Hope. Project partners include the State Library of Western Australia (SLWA) and new music advocacy organisation Tura, with contributions from both the National Library of Australia and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The project team has created an online web portal that collects and represents digital documentation of new music practice and performance from Western Australia. This includes audio and video recordings, photographs, and various documents including events posters, flyers, program notes and eventually graphic scores. The vast majority of the original set of collection items were donated to SLWA by Tura, but one of the main aims of the project is to seek new items from across the new music scene, to further engage the community the archives represent.

Photograph of a man playing an instrument

Tura New Music (Firm) (production company.) & Scale Variable 04 (2004 : Perth Concert Hall) (2004). David Pye playing tubular bells while performing with Pi at Scale Variable '04, Perth Concert Hall,

For the uninitiated, ‘new music’ is generally thought of as a stream of western art music that originated in the twentieth century. It focuses on the expansion of the compositional and performance possibilities of music. Experimental, conceptual and sometimes downright strange, new music is about breaking new ground. This is exactly the approach taken by the composers and performers whose work is collected in the archive. They choose a range of approaches to their work, as demonstrated by the broad plethora of material collected in the archive.

Picture of burning piano

Tura New Music (Firm) (production company.) & Ruined Piano Sanctuary (2006 : York) (2006). Burning piano, with cast iron plate exposed, at Ruined Piano Sanctuary launch,

WANMA can be broken down into two halves. The first half is comprised of the collection items themselves, which are accessed via the SLWA catalogue and embedded into the WANMA web portal. Collection items are video and audio recordings of live performances of new music works by Western Australian composers or performers, photographs, and various kinds of documents that relate to these activities. Each of these items is tagged with keywords according to its content to make it more easily searchable, and is linked to the various ‘entities’ that it relates to. ‘Entities’, the second half of the WANMA portal, are the individuals, ensembles, organisations, locations and events that relate to and are included in the collection items. WANMA provides profiles of these entities, enriching your experience by providing biographical and bibliographical context to the collection items displayed.

When these two halves intersect, the WANMA web portal realises its potential to display the complex web of networked connections that actually create a community. These connections between content make it possible for you to click through and view or listen to a range of collection items, as well as find connections between the various individuals and groups involved in Western Australia’s new music. You can also get involved in contributing to the archive, and in editing existing content.

We hope that the WANMA web portal will not only provide an opportunity to showcase the work of a specific creative community, but will also offer an opportunity for that community to be involved in shaping its own recorded history. Just as this very specific community has its own distinctive way of representing itself as an archived collection, we hope that a resource such as WANMA can provide a blueprint for other interactive collections that speak to, for and about specific creative communities. Trove, as the home for the archives of so many Australian communities, is a natural place for our portal to be found.

Picture of dancer and cellist

Tura New Music (Firm) (production company.) & Club Zho 53 (2004 : Hellenic Club of WA) (2004). Melanie Robinson and dancer perfoming at Club Zho 53 at the Hellenic Club of WA, 2004,

We hope you enjoy exploring this collection. Let us know what you find in the comments below.