Experimentation

Experimental music has been a part of the musical scene at the University since the 1950s. Barry Humphries started his career on the stage of the Melbourne University Union Theatre in 1952, and with his Melbourne Dada Group made the first recordings of experimental improvised music in Australia.

When music graduate Keith Humble returned to Melbourne to take up a lectureship in 1966, after a decade of avant-garde activity in Europe, he set up the Society for the Private Performance of New Music, providing a context for regular performances of experimental music held in the Grainger Museum. Humble set up the first electronic music studio for the Faculty in the early 1970s, which became a key part of the New Music programs. Between 1975 and 1979 Barry Conyngham (composer and former-Dean of the Faculty) created and led the New Audience series, with four or five concerts held per season in Melba Hall. Performed by a small group of students and staff, the concerts featured works by Keith Humble, George Dreyfus, Don Banks, and Peter Sculthorpe and were conceived as a way of getting new Australian music into a public forum.

While intervarsity jazz festivals had occurred from the 1960s, it wasn’t until the School of Music at the Victorian College of the Arts opened at Southbank in 1974, that improvisation and jazz found an institutional home in Melbourne. Melbourne University graduate Brian Brown was appointed as lecturer in post-1950’s music at the VCA in 1978 and established the renowned VCA Improvisation course in 1980. Experimental music takes many forms in the present day: in 2012 the Interactive Composition program was established at the VCA and later moved to the Conservatorium. It’s current staff and students work in collaborative cross-art modes of music and sound making and production for events, film & television, animation, theatre, music theatre, dance, pop song production, advertising, video gaming, installation art and sound design.


Where Our Stories Began 2020

Grainger Museum · Where Our Stories Began 2020

Kotolute Forest Introduction and Fragmentia by Paul Fletcher


Philip John Nunn, I Heard The Owl Call My Name 1987

Grainger Museum · Philip John Nunn, I Heard The Owl Call My Name, 1987. Courtesy Move Records, Melbourne

Ian Bonighton, Sleep 1968-69

Grainger Museum · Ian Bonighton, Sleep, 1968–69, from Sequenza, Courtesy Move Records, Melbourne

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