27 July 2022

Words and music: CSO brings young Australian voices into the chamber

| Ian Bushnell
Andrew cox

Canberra poet and performance artist Andrew Cox: the Australian identity is a key question. Photo: CSO.

The Canberra Symphony Orchestra continues to break new ground in its Australian Series concerts championing home-grown talent including the spoken word in its latest outing at the National Museum of Australia on 28 July.

The intimate chamber concerts showcase contemporary Australian composers and artists and this time young Canberra performance poet Andrew Cox will deliver a new work specifically written for the occasion, and rapper, drummer, composer Rhyan Clapham, aka DOBBY, will perform a new CSO commission and world premiere, HISTORY MEMORY POWER, with the CSO Chamber Ensemble.

Both will present works that come out of their mixed-race background – Cox as Australian / Filipino and Clapham as Indigenous Murrawarri /Filipino.

The event, Collective Memory, will also feature Yorta Yorta composer Deborah Cheetham’s work Bungaree, named after the Kuringgai man who played a vital but often unacknowledged role in Matthew Flinders’ circumnavigation of Australia.

The CSO Chamber Ensemble will present Harry Sdraulig’s Speak, which explores domains of language; Yitzhak Yedid’s Lament – In Memoriam of Ora Boasson-Horev for solo viola; and Bardju (Footprints) by South Coast Yuin composer Brenda Gifford.

Cox – the driving force behind Canberra Slam, a local poetry slam launched this year – told Region the spoken word and classical music did not usually cross paths so it was really exciting to be asked to be involved in such an event.

His work will speak to his experience growing up in Australia as Indigenous and Filipino and people asking him what his background is.

Cox recently interviewed Clapham and found they shared the same experience and frustration about that, and the question of what it means to be Australian.

“The Australian identity is different for every single person who calls himself an Australian,” he said.

Rhyan Clapham a.k.a. DOBBY

Rhyan Clapham, aka DOBBY. His performance will be a world premiere. Photo: Luke Currie Richardson.

While DOBBY will perform with the ensemble, Cox will rely on his voice and narrative, somewhere between hip hop or rap but with a traditional underpinning.

“I emphasise the power of the human voice and the power of just words on their own. So it’s going to be a really nice breath in the programming after the emotion of the music,” Cox said.

He said spoken word performance was undergoing a resurgence thanks to poetry slams and their promotion through social media.

“Some have described it as sort of a renaissance of literature,” said Cox, whose own event has experienced completely organic growth.

The concept of a nation’s changing story as new perspectives emerge, such as Australia’s frontier history, intrigues and inspires him, as well as the importance of art to tap into a different space of understanding.

It’s a theme also taken up by Clapham in his new work, which, in a blend of hip hop and classical, explores the notion of truth and how it forms tradition.

“History is written by those in power,” he tells Cox, “and that informs our collective Australian memory — but that’s not necessarily the truth.

“With this work, we are attempting to bring together and question the ideas of history, power and memory. I want to bring forward an understanding, ultimately, of what is truth, and who can tell truth.”

Patrons will also enjoy after hours access to the Great Southern Land exhibition.

The concert starts at 6:30 pm. To learn more visit the CSO website.

Original Article published by Ian Bushnell on Riotact.

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