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Our Patch

How is Australian sovereignty being acted out at home and abroad in the second century of federation? In this agenda setting book, Suvendrini Perera brings together leading thinkers to map the imaginative and political space claimed as  'Our Patch'. Contributions by Tim Anderson, Ruth Balint, Anthony Burke, Maxine Chi, Maria Giannacopoulos, Suvendrini Perera, Henry Reynolds, Jon Stratton, Dinesh Wadiwel and Irene Watson. To order, please contact Network Books at 08 9266 3717 with your order details. ...
Wednesday, 23rd July 2014
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API Review of Books

Altitude BirdIssue 44
Features reviews by Kathleen Broderick, Linn Miller, Christine Choo, Bill Thorpe, David Ritter, Eve Vincent, Stephanie Bishop, Alison Miles, Richard Kay, Amanda Day, Bernard Whimpress, Mads Clausen, Marion May Campbell, Sylvia Alston, Catie Gilchrist, Eva Chapman, Lucy Dougan, Stephen Lawrence and Nathanael O'Reilly. Click here for more details.


Altitude BirdPopular Music: Practices, Formations and Change - Australian Perspectives
The papers collected here in this special edition of Altitude offer a brief snapshot of popular music research broadly connected with Australia. The essays demonstrate the variety of theoretical and methodological approaches used by researchers in the fields of popular music studies and cultural studies to explore themes of popular music practice, formation and change in an Australian context. Click here for more details.


Sounds from the Stables: A history of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music

By Diane Collins, St Leonards: Allen and Unwin, 2001, 274 pages, hardback, $49.95. Reviewed by Joanna Besley in the June 2002 issue.

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In the introduction to her engaging history of the Sydney Conservatorium, Diane Collins makes a thought-provoking statement: 'Music has been disgracefully neglected in most conventional histories of Australia' she declares, arguing that Australian historical scholarship is 'substantially diminished' by the neglect of 'aural history and culture'. This idea of aural history is intriguing -- what might this history be like and is this account, the first published history of Sydney's Conservatorium, a taste of the aural history that Collins advocates? More than just an historical account of the life of an institution, Sounds from the Stables skilfully captures how art music operates in the broad matrix of cultural life. Together with other relatively recent work such as Clinton Walker's uncovering of the history of indigenous country and western in Buried Country, Collins' work signals an attempt towards a sensate rendering of Australian history.

The narrative relating the founding and growth of the Conservatorium -- never lacking in controversy -- is woven together with local, global, personal and political events and experiences. Any number of interesting facts arise. This was the only state-sponsored conservatorium in the British Empire for many decades, for instance, and the Conservatorium's first orchestra was also the first state-supported orchestra in the English-speaking world. However, facts are secondary to Collins' efforts in capturing the full assemblage of disparate parts that constitute the Conservatorium -- issues such as its relationship to its site, its building, the city and state it is part of, the experiences of students, staff and supporters as well as its links to the greater world of music in both an international and intensely local sense. The story is told chronologically and structured around the Conservatorium's succession of directors. Whole chapters are dedicated to the important figures of Henri Verbrugghen and Eugene Goossens whose terms as director not only captured the essence of life at the Conservatorium at the time, but also revealed much about Australian urban culture in their respective periods. It seems difficult to depict Verbrugghen's time as anything other than a golden age for the institution and this part of the book shimmers with optimism, reflecting the widespread esteem for Verbrugghen and his efforts as founding director. Goossens' contribution is assessed in a more measured way as Collins disentangles the forces of celebrity and scandal from the actuality of his decade in Sydney. She contextualises the fluctuating fortunes of Goossens and the nascent Australian cosmopolitanism he represented, by showing how the post-war Conservatorium struggled with modernism and issues of identity in a rapidly changing society.

Throughout this chronology Collins destabilises perceptions of the Conservatorium relative to notions of popular and high culture. The boundaries between these categories are shown to have been constantly blurred, due largely to the economic realities of operating the institution and also to the evolving relationship between the institution and emerging broadcast technologies, new forms of music and performance and a variety of other popular cultural forms. From early on, the Conservatorium was preoccupied with promulgating what Collins calls 'true musical citizenship'. Hence its role was not only to train musicians but also to train the ear and musical perceptions of the public through a program of public concerts in a range of unexpected venues, country tours, high school and kindergarten visits, publications and, later, broadcasting. For many years, the instruction of keen amateurs was of equal importance to the development of professional musicians, and indeed there was almost a disinterest in 'gifted' students. The encouragement of the enjoyment of music, in the home as well as publicly, was a fundamental aspect of the Conservatorium's mission. The constant negotiation between this role and the training of professional musicians and music teachers has been a continuing tension in the life of the institution.

Another important dimension of the book depicts the interior world and 'lived experience' of the Conservatorium. Although imaginatively written, this aspect shows how difficult it is to try to re-construct these stories 'from below' when primary sources are elusive. Without undertaking some sort of extensive oral history project or the like, the author must rely on a smattering of photographs, biographies and other sporadic publications to piece together an impressionistic account of what could in itself constitute a fascinating tale. Yet the book would be much the poorer without the descriptions of staff members' overseas travels or the snippets recounting how Isador Goodman, Professor of Piano by day, would play all night at jazz clubs in the company of 'hardened drinkers and SP bookies'. Indeed, the latter part of the book suffers from a lack of this sort of colourful detail as the historian's task becomes increasingly difficult in dealing with the more recent past.

The institution has always been subject to the vagaries of the diverse expectations of the many people with a stake in both is operation and symbolic position. In more recent decades the particular circumstances of the Conservatorium's relationship to the state government and other institutions such as the ABC and the University of Sydney become increasingly fraught and dominate the tale. A specific intensity is brought by the 'ambiguous endowment' of the infamous Greenway building that is the Conservatorium. Collins vividly describes the power of the relationship between the institution, its building, its landscape setting and the city beyond. Controversy has been part of this relationship since it was first suggested that the Conservatorium occupy the site. By challenging the logic and orthodoxies of notions of 'heritage', Collins exposes the highly contested processes of both institutional and urban change and development. It seems that the very commissioning of this history by the Conservatorium is an attempt to understand this process of contestation and Collins has tackled the task with imagination and vitality. The story she tells has parallels with all institutions, especially those associated with the arts or university sectors. But does it truly resound, or can only music do that?


  • Joanna Besley. 'Review: Sounds from the Stables: A history of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music by Diane Collins' [online]. Network Review of Books (Perth, Australian Public Intellectual Network), June 2002. Availability: <please cite the web address here> ISSN 1833-0932. [accessed 23 July 2014].

Back Cover Blurb

  • Designed by the convict architect Francis Greenway, Sydney's Conservatorium of Music, picturesquely situated on the edge of the city's verdant Botanic Gardens, was constructed as a stables for the horses and carriages of early New South Wales governors. Described by one early critic as being of 'useless magnificence', this castellated Gothic building fell into crumbling disrepair in the late 19th century, only to be rescued and refurbished at the beginning of World War I as the site of Sydney's newly founded music school.

    Eighty years later, this building, no longer adequate for the function it served, was again refurbished and extended amid much public controversy. This book, the first history of the institution to be written, will be published to coincide with the official opening of the new, larger and thoroughly state-of-the-art Conservatorium.

    Controversy is a major theme of this landmark history. Turbulence rather than tranquillity has characterised this institution for most of the 85 years of its existence. Not surprisingly for an institution that has employed or nurtured some of the finest Australian musical talents of the 20th century-among them Roger Woodward, Joan Sutherland, Alfred Hill, Don Burrows and Richard Bonynge-and been directed by such strong-minded individualists as Henri Verbrugghen and Eugene Goossens, egos have often clashed spectacularly. Despite this, Sydney's Conservatorium has served its community with distinction. It has launched hundreds of young musicians into successful careers and given countless others an abiding love and understanding of music in many different styles and genres. It is also an integral part of the musical life of the city and was for many years the main venue for musical events.Diane Collins' evocative history beautifully captures the flavour and tone of this important educational establishment in successive eras and brings to life many of the predominant players in its development.

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    Stuart Cunningham and Graeme Turner's new collection represents a transformation of their The Media in Australia: Industries, Texts, Audiences. Both are teaching texts and both seek to address the complexities of the relationship between industry development and practice, policy formulation, social formations, textual understandings, and the formation of 'new' academic and research disciplines. The collection avoids the simple approach of amending/revising the previous edition. Rather it approaches the initial brief in a considered manner given the rapid transformations of the disciplines and industries under consideration. Reflecting the emergence of new disciplinary fields and creative ... read more.

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Allen and Unwin

  • Allen & Unwin commenced publishing in Australia in 1976 as part of the UK-based parent company of the same name. In 1990, following the purchase of the UK parent company by HarperCollins, Allen & Unwin's Australian directors effected a management buy-out and the company became fully independent, owning the Allen & Unwin imprint throughout the world. This year we will publish 220 titles, ranging from fiction and general non-fiction through an academic list specialising in the social sciences and health, to the Allen & Unwin children's list.

NRB June 2002

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