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An Australian composer abroad : Malcolm Williamson and the projection of an Australian identity


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Philpott, CJ (2010) An Australian composer abroad : Malcolm Williamson and the projection of an Australian identity. PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Malcolm Williamson (1931-2003) was one of the most successful Australian composers of
the latter half of the twentieth century and the depth, breadth and diversity of his
achievements are largely related to his decision to leave Australia for Britain in the early
1950s. By the 1960s, he was commonly referred to as the “most commissioned composer
in Britain” and in 1975 he was appointed to the esteemed post of Master of the Queen’s
Music. While his service to music in Britain is generally acknowledged in the literature,
the extent of his contribution to Australian music is not widely recognised and this is the
first research to be undertaken with a strong focus on the identification and examination of
the many works he composed for his homeland and his projection of an Australian identity
through his music and persona. This study draws on previously-unexplored primary
source material, including correspondence and manuscript scores, to support the assertion
that Williamson projected an Australian identity and to provide insight into the
construction and manifestations of that persona and the effect that these elements had on
the reception of his works. Major works examined in this study include Symphony for
Voices (1960-62), The Display (1964), the Sixth (1982) and Seventh (1984) symphonies,
The True Endeavour (1988) and The Dawn is at Hand (1989). To place the discussion of
Williamson’s expressions of national identity in context, the composer’s expatriate
experience and views of his homeland are examined and compared to the journeys and
opinions of numerous other high-profile Australian expatriate creative artists.
Significantly, many parallels are discovered that can be interpreted as characteristics of the
reverse-migration experience and are indicative of the prevailing cultural attitudes towards
Australian expatriates during the twentieth century; confirming that Williamson’s situation
was not particularly unique. This research has permitted a reassessment of Williamson’s
creative life and work and as a result, his contribution to Australian music can now be
contextualised and more comprehensively understood and acknowledged.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Philpott, CJ
Keywords: Malcolm Williamson, Australian composer, Australian music, expatriate, Australian musical identity
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2010 the author

Additional Information:

The author has requested that the PDF of this thesis only be made available for downloading by UTAS staff and students.

Date Deposited: 20 May 2011 06:53
Last Modified: 05 May 2017 02:40
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