Students from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music’s Contemporary, Composition for Creative Industries and Classical performance degrees have collaborated with Indigenous-Artists-in-Residence Nardi Simpson and Troy Russell to produce a collection of works celebrating contemporary First Nation’s music. Presented by the Con’s New Music Ensemble, the concert also features new music by emerging Gamilaraay singer-songwriter and contemporary music student Amelia Thompson.
One of the provocative works on the program is ‘Lullabies for Blak Babies’ written by Nardi Simpson. It takes five common Aboriginal protest chants – Pay the Rent, Still Waitin, They Say Justice, Too Many Coppers & Wadda We Want. Simpson weaves them into lullabies to be sung by a ‘white’ classical singer to an imagined Indigenous child to achieve a stark juxtaposition of content and delivery.
These confronting sentences are part of the colonial inheritance of our blak babies. By placing these ideas within a baby’s body, parents pass on the baton of resistance to your young, just as our parents and grandparents have done for us.
“However, I hope to keep listeners guessing as to who is performing the role of parenting our kids. These lullabies give our children uneasy rest on the bed of Black Deaths in Custody, Land Rights, Stolen Generations and Unceded Sovereignty.”
Final-year student Amelia Thompson has stepped out of her usual context as a contemporary music singer to perform in front of a small orchestra drawn from the Con’s classical performance students.
Thompson offers her voice to two of Troy Russell’s songs in a generous intergenerational gesture and addresses questions of identity and connection in her own work. “My songs are about how it feels to be a younger Aboriginal person today.”, She comments on one of her songs, in the context of trying to figure out how her generation fits in and appears- ‘Still Tea’: “no matter how much milk you put into tea, it is still tea.”
The featured First Nations artists have collaborated with students from the Composition for Creative Industries degree who have assisted with orchestrating the music for the large ensemble. Project director Damien Ricketson states: “In creating a space for new First Nations music to flourish, we’ve also opened a space for different musical specialisations at the Con to interact and support one another. It is an honour to present this all First-Nations program on a site that has witnessed the making of music and culture for millennia before us.”
7 pm, Thu 3rd November, Music Workshop, Sydney Conservatorium of Music
Troy Russell – The First Shot
Troy Russell – You Don’t Know
Troy Russell – Nucoorilma
Troy Russell – The Chant
Nardi Simpson – Lullabies for Blak Babies
Nardi Simpson – The Binary
Amelia Thompson – Still Tea
Amelia Thompson – Take Me Home
Project director – Damien Ricketson
Conductor – George Ellis
Arrangements & orchestrations – Tim Doubinski & Harry O’Brien
Classical voice – Ines Paxton
Contemporary voice – Amelia Thompson