Our Music, Performing Place,
Listening to Sydney


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Julia Torpey was inspired to create Our Music, Performing Place, Listening to Sydney with Kevin Hunt after attending his performance 'Ancient & New' at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music on the 1st of June 2011.

The aim of Kevin's performance was to "bring together the Stuart & Sons piano and Sydney's Aboriginal music history, the newest Australian instrument playing the oldest Australian music." His performance 'Ancient & New' included the historical melodies Barabul-la, Chant, and Harry's Song-Chant performed with musicians Clarence Slockee - voice / clap sticks, Alison Morgan – soprano voice, Jenny Duck-Chong mezzo soprano voice, Andrei Laptev – tenor voice, Corin Bone – bass voice, Darryl Pratt – vibraphone and percussion, Karl Dunnicliff – bass, and Dave Goodman – drums.

Following this idea of ancient and new, Julia and Kevin created a partnership between The Sydney Conservatorium of Music and The Deepening Histories of Place Project to bring together Indigenous artists who call Sydney home to perform their own works, tell their own history through music and have access to perform, interpret and learn historical Aboriginal music relating to country and their ancestors and to be mentored by Kevin to perform at the Sydney Conservatorium during a live concert event.

Our Music, Performing Place, Listening to Sydney was held on 30 June 2012.

The first of its kind held at Sydney’s iconic Conservatorium of Music, this day-long event provided an opportunity for both established and emerging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander musicians who call Sydney home, to come together to perform and discuss their personal, family and community history, their connection to place, and their musical practice.

With its commanding location on a hill high above Sydney harbour, the Sydney Conservatorium of Music is part of an historic landscape redolent of Sydney’s colonial and Aboriginal history. It is believed that a bora ring or Aboriginal ceremonial ground once occupied the gardens close by.[1] Such a site would have facilitated gatherings from people near and far.

For both performers and their audience, Our Music Performing Place, Listening to Sydney, offered a profound experience of being together in place, to make new and old kinds of music heard afresh on that old hill.

The day was jointly sponsored by the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, and the Australian Research Council Linkage project Deepening Histories of Place: Exploring Indigenous Landscapes of National and International Significance, led by Professor Ann McGrath Director of the Australian Centre for Indigenous History at The Australian National University, with Professor Peter Read of The University of Sydney.

This site provides an online record, and a platform, for Our Music, Performing Place, Listening to Sydney that enables it to be experienced on demand by an online audience.

All artists have generously given permission to share their music via this website with a wide audience, following the Deepening History Project’s research protocols.

Making journeys through time and place, the performers in Our Music, Performing Place, Listening to Sydney have created a variety of performances and presentations. These reflect the fluidity and layered associations experienced through biographical and emotional expressions of often-contested storytelling, history, identity and, place.

Many of the musicians connect themselves with their own places of country, and their more recent connections with the Sydney Aboriginal community. Other artists comment that their families have never left this place. Our Music, Performing Place, Listening to Sydney’s online site is an opportunity to listen to the artist’s performance on the day, their oral history, reflections on their own performance, and reflections on and/or in their own place.

Performances include expressions of lived experience: the dynamic social, environmental, cultural, political and historical layers that make up place, the performer’s own story, and their wider connections to the Sydney community and those further afield. Through original classical, jazz, contemporary, biographical and historical composition, these performances embody a biographical and emotional expression of place.

To listen to the performances and interviews of the artists involved in the day, please click on the icons within the photo.

Acknowledgment and thanks to:

The Sydney Metropolitan Land Council and the Darug Aboriginal Tribal Corporation for supporting Our Music, Performing Place, Listening to Sydney; the Sydney Conservatorium: Kevin Hunt, Julie Simonds, recording engineers on the day John Bassett and Jarrad Salmon,  and Professor Anna Reid; Eora College, Chris Sainsbury and students; The Deepening Histories of Place Project: Professor Ann McGrath and Professor Peter Read, Mary-Anne Jebb, Terri Janke, Jason Ensor, Karen Maber, to Mr Stuart Clegg, for his work in post-sound production; the NSW Department of Climate Change, the Commonwealth Director of National Parks, The National Sound and Film Archive,  Ronin Films and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies and Stuart and Sons Pianos Australia; Thank you to Warmun Art Centre and the artist Rusty Peters, for providing Our Music, Performing Place, Listening to Sydney with the beautiful image Rai, that little magic man and our songs, and to all the musicians, and artists for sharing their stories with us, contributing to the day, and making this day possible.

Alberts, Siva Ahosivi, Renata Arrivolo, Kasey Astill, Katrina Ball, Rick Ball,  Mert Balkani, Riley Barnes, John Bassett, Djakapurra Beatty, Chris Beltram,Taya Biggs, Helen Bub-Connor, Elissa Buttsworth, Davina Captain, Helen Cheah, Rosie Clark, Marlene Cummins, Rafal Dabrowski, Mary Daniels, Mary Drummond, Brian Debus, Maria Dimitriou, Matthew Doyle, Cindy Drummond, Coby Duncan, Matt Fergo, Robert Ferguson, Kerry Foster, Richard Green, Margaret Gummow, Peter Dunbar Hall, Jimmi Hand, Tracy Hand, Lynette Hand, Heavenly Hand, Octavia Hand, Gloria Hand, Xanthi Hand, Ray Hand, Tygah Hand, Mikhala Harkins, Margaret Helman, Courtney Hempel, Ziggy Hort, Shane Houston, Kevin Hunt, Donna Ingram, Hideki Isoda,  Walangari Karntwarra, Fiona Kelly, Kayleen Kerwin, David Kinney, Carmel King, Debra King, Karl Kramar, Aunty Sandra Lee, Robert Lindsey, Maureen Lombardo, Maria Lopes, John Luna, Ana Mafi, William Mafi, Nishcal Manjunath, Jody Marsden, Alison Marshall, Helen Mayhew, Guy McEwan, Dr Peter McKenzie, Maree McMurray, Peter McMurray, Rohan Mellick,  Tevita Newman, Vincent Newman, Telo Ofa, Ane Ofata, Doris Ofati, Jarrad Osei, Matt Paxton, Chris Phang, Tahlia Philp, Axel Prowie, Julia Reidy, Mary Rodda, Geraldine Rolton, Kris Rush, Troy Russell, Chris Sainsbury, Jarrad Salmon, Rika Ali Satrick, Craig Scott, Prekash Shrestha, Vic Simms, Alex Slater, Clarence Slockee, Karen Smith, Keith Vincent Smith, Sandra Spalding, Tim Stephen, Katie Stuart, Wayne Stuart, Jacinta Tobin, Charles Trindall, Fehi Tupola, Kim Walker, Tarsha Williams.

[1] Melinda Hinkson, "Exploring 'Aboriginal' Sites in Sydney: A shifting politics of place," in Aboriginal History, vol. 26 (2002), p 62.


About Researcher

JULIA TORPEY is a PhD candidate at The University of Sydney. Her PhD is titled History in the making: re-imagining heritage, identity and place across Darug and Gundungurra lands. The project will explore Darug and Gundungura people’s experience of making sense of Australia’s colonial history, its impact on place and its influence on the creation of contemporary Aboriginal identity making for people of the Blue Mountains and Western Sydney.

Julia has completed a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne, majoring in Indigenous and Development Studies, and has also completed a Masters of Urban Planning, also from the University of Melbourne. She has worked as a social and cultural planner and social researcher. Her interests lie in storytelling and social justice, and she has successfully merged these interest with community arts and theatre projects including Urgent (2004, Random House), and collaborative theatre projects for the 2008 Next Wave Festival (Melbourne), 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions (Melbourne) and 2010 Fringe Festival. In 2011 she completed studies in Indigenous Arts Management at the Victorian College of Arts to support these interests.

This website is located within the context of Ann McGrath's and Peter Read's ARC Linkage Project (LP100100427) “Deepening Histories of Place: Exploring Indigenous Landscapes of National and International Significance”, The Australian National University and Sydney University, 2011-2013.