Skip to main content
Musicians playing in front of a portrait of Charles Perkins
News_

Music to inspire: Something from Nothing

1 September 2022
A celebration of 10 years of the Charles Perkins Centre

A new musical composition, Something from Nothing, by acclaimed performer, composer and educator, Natalie Nicolas, has been commissioned to celebrate the first decade of the Charles Perkins Centre and its achievements.

Something from Nothing has been enabled by the Charles Perkins Centre’s Health and creativity research node and grew out of a number of conversations between Professor Stephen J Simpson AC, Academic Director of the Charles Perkins Centre, and Professor Philip Poronnik, collaborator on the Health and creativity research node and Natalie’s co-supervisor.  

“Something from Nothing is my creative response to the Charles Perkins Centre’s unique interdisciplinary approach which brings together researchers from science, the arts, and new media to explore ways in which music, creativity and health can interact. When Steve and Phil began discussions about a potential composition, I was delighted as it brings together everything I’m working on both academically and creatively,” said Natalie.

This is a spectacular composition from a very talented artist. Natalie’s piece is not only inspired by the Charles Perkins Centre’s building and research, but it reflects the importance of all disciplines coming together, as evidenced by the investigations of our Health and creativity research node. It’s wonderful to bring together all of these aspects of our work, reflected in this stunning composition.
Professor Stephen J Simpson AC, Academic Director, Charles Perkins Centre

Health and creativity 

Natalie Nicolas is a co-lead on CPC’s Health and creativity research node and is also completing her Doctor of Philosophy at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

“My PhD topic ­– Music Composed For Calm And Catharsis - Inspired By And Directed Towards Healthcare Contexts And Self-Managed ‘Wellness’, And Analysis Of Its Efficacy In These Contexts – looks at the importance of music in health, wellness and healthcare. It explores music and emotions, specifically with the aim of examining how music effects an emotive response in listeners to evoke calm and catharsis. The research is aimed at the layperson’s self-managed wellness, and various healthcare applications,” said Natalie.

Something from Nothing

Achievements

As well as completing her PhD at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, where she also tutors and lectures, Natalie is Composer in Residence at Loreto Normanhurst. Natalie’s impressive career includes appointments and commissions for the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, the Goldner String Quartet, the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, the Canberra Symphony Orchestra, the Australian String Quartet, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. She has been awarded the Harris Endowment for Medical Humanities Harris Award for her PhD work with music and healthcare. Nicolas also won the Flinders SQ Composition Competition in 2017 and 2019, and their ‘All That We Are’ residency.

“This is a spectacular composition from a very talented artist. Natalie’s piece is not only inspired by the Charles Perkins Centre’s building and research, but it reflects the importance of all disciplines coming together, as evidenced by the investigations of the Health and creativity research node. It’s wonderful to bring together all of these aspects of our work, reflected in this stunning composition.

“We have a decade-long tradition of working with writers as part of our Judy Harris Writer in Residence Fellowship at the Charles Perkins Centre which has enabled important works like Charlotte Wood’s The Weekend and Emily Maguire’s Love Objects so we are aware of the power of collaborations between outstanding artists and our researchers and the cross-fertilisation and knowledge translation that emerges. Something from Nothing is a wonderful composition and belongs wholly in our tradition of storytelling and communication,” said Professor Simpson.  

A Centre to inspire

The Charles Perkins brings together scholars from a range of disciplines to explore the interconnectedness of our environment, food, and health. In this unique way, the Charles Perkins Centre is finding solutions to ease the burden of diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease through innovative research collaborations, research partnerships and teaching.

In beginning to work on the musical composition, Natalie was inspired by the work that the Charles Perkins Centre has fostered in its first decade, in particular its collaborative, cross-disciplinary collegiality.

For me, Something from Nothing parallels the process of ideas that flow through the building. Interdisciplinary study and enquiry is the quintessential template for great, ground-breaking endeavours today,” said Natalie.

“The Charles Perkins Centre provides the ability to work in a space where your ideas, once restricted by boundaries, are brought together with like-minded academics with unbounded skills that complement each other. One might say that greatness comes out of the woodwork at the Charles Perkins Centre, to create something from what was initially, nothing.

“The piece begins with echoes of musical ideas emerging from various levels of the CPC. The cellist locks into one of these ideas and summons their peers to come together and join them on the stage to form a cohesive, magnetic and immense work. The various ideas are developed, shifted, pushed and pulled, until the final moments, where the musical cells are handed back to the players on the balconies, going back to where they came from—much like the researchers will at the end of a project, to form new ideas for the next collaboration,” explained Natalie.

Premiere

Something from Nothing premiered at the Charles Perkins Centre Atrium on 16 June 2022 – Charles Perkins’ 86th birthday – celebrating the Centre's tenth anniversary. It was performed by the Ensemble Apex string orchestra with guest violinist James Tarbotton. Based on Eora country (Sydney, NSW), Ensemble Apex brings together young artists from across the country to create impactful orchestral projects that inspire new audiences and engage with a more diverse community.

Listen to Something from Nothing on Spotify.