musica viva | ross edwards

Discussing the commissioning process, the pair laughed easily over anecdotes and exchanged recollections of a shared artistic past. They could very well have been chatting without onlookers – such is the style of these two men who have become part of the cultural fabric of Australia.

Their conversation, centred on the relationship between composer and commissioner, touched on the difficulties of writing music full time. A freelance composer since 1980, Ross Edwards has been fortunate to work ‘mainly to commission’ for his entire career. He has been lucky to focus on commissions that ‘inspire his creativity’, an outcome attributed in no small part to Kim Williams’ generosity and understanding of what the composer himself calls his ‘musical quirks’.

Ross’ fascination with the environment prompted an interest in bird song and the sounds of wildlife – ‘things that for me represent the very earliest songs’. This instantly recognisable compositional aesthetic is part of the drawcard for Kim, who encourages Ross to explore ideas when a piece is in its early stages. ‘There are all sorts of commissioners,’ Kim observes, ‘and while some want to give the composer lots of ideas and tell them what they want to hear, I have never been like that. I trust Ross to create something fantastic.’

Becoming a freelance composer is not a straightforward path. ‘We need more people to commission music,’ Ross believes, noting the importance of understanding both sides of the commissioning coin: ‘Kim has been in both worlds – the artistic and the financial, and he has a great understanding of not only why we need the art, but how to make it happen.

Written for Musica Viva.