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Sea and sky

More from the Australian Festival of Chamber Music,


Some forty people turned up at the Perc Tucker Regional Gallery to 'meet the composer', Peteris Vasks, on Sunday morning. Chris Latham, Australian Artistic Director, chaired the session. He is new to the AAD's position so it was good to hear him articulate some of his programming rationale by way of an introduction to Vasks.

He is concerned, he said, by the gulf between living composers and their potential audience and would like to bridge it. The gulf opened, he believes, when composers traumatised by WW2 turned away from all that was old in search of something, anything, which offered the hope of a new beginning. What they turned to, however, was a dead end, so that they lost both the trust of the ordinary music-lover and their own way forward. Now that the next generation of composers has found ways to write music which connects with the emotions, audiences need to be made aware of the change: step forward, please, Peteris Vasks.

Vasks spoke most about Latvia's experience of World War 2 -- three successive invasions followed by a fifty-year Russian occupation -- and the difficulties of retaining artistic integrity and making life-affirming music under totalitarian rule. He illustrated it briefly by reference to his Piano Quartet, but then the session had to end so that his audience could get to St James Cathedral for the 11.30am concert featuring that work.

We chose instead to take the 40km drive to the Australian Institute of Marine Science for one of the Reef Talks and a look around the facility. (The Festival is essentially planned so that everyone can attend everything, but the time allowed for the trip from the Cathedral to AIMS was very tight.)

The good news from Dr Charlie Veron's talk was that the coral reefs will eventually regenerate: mass extinctions such as that which wiped out the dinosaurs have always hit the reefs first and hardest, but corals do come back after four to ten million years. The bad news is that it is already too late to save the world's existing reefs: the rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide has already doomed them.

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Copyright © 9 July 2005 Malcolm Tattersall, Townsville, Australia


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