The Froebel Gallery is pleased to be supporting the performance of a work by composer Ron Nagorcka for harpsichord, didgeridoo and Australian bush sounds
Composer, performer, ecologist and naturalist
Ron Nagorcka spent much of his childhood exploring both music and the natural world on a sheep farm in Western Victoria. He went on to study history, pipe organ, harpsichord and composition at Melbourne University and then composition and electronic music at the University of California, San Diego.
During the 1970s he was active as a composer in Melbourne. He founded the Clifton Hill Community Centre, providing a venue of considerable importance to many emerging composers and musicians of the time. He also taught at the Melbourne State College (now part of Melbourne University). He has toured Europe and the USA on three occasions as a composer and performer.
In 1986 Nagorcka was a tutor at the National Young Composers School in Hobart, and since 1988 he has been living and working in a remote forest in Northern Tasmania, where he has built his own house and solar- powered studio, and from where he records the sounds of the natural world which surround him. As the President of the Central North Field Naturalists, he also takes a keen interest in the science, as well as the aesthetics of the Australian bush and is locally active in attempts to preserve it. As well as recording Tasmanian bush sounds, he has made three long camping trips - once to the Northern Territory and twice to Western New South Wales to collect bird recordings.
With the aid of sampling technology he then builds music from these recorded sounds - the melodies, the rhythms, even the instrumental quality of the music are generated by the painstaking analysis of natural Australian soundscapes.
This technology also allows him to explore a long held interest in the tuning known as “just intonation”. Usually he designs a specific scale for each piece, based for instance on an analysis of the birdsong that is the inspiration for the music and then explores its peculiar melodic and harmonic possibilities.
It was the influence of Australian indigenous culture - in particular the aboriginal didgeridoo players that he occasionally worked with, which Nagorcka acknowledges sent him back to the bush of his childhood to develop more of an understanding of the Land, and to reflect this in his music. He makes and plays his own didgeridoos, and has incorporated this into his music since 1974. The influence of traditional Aboriginal music is most evident in his rhythmic techniques.
Since 1990, much of Nagorcka’s output has been performed by the ensemble NYET, which began as a collaboration with Tasmanian poet, Bruce Roberts and currently includes Megan Cavanagh-Russell (keyboard), Teresa Beck-Swindale (flute and saxophone) and Kim Clark (sound engineer, guitar and theatrics). They have often been joined by keyboard player, Rob Williams from Melbourne, who has collaborated with Nagorcka on a regular basis since they worked together at the Melbourne State College in the early 1980s. NYET has become a feature of the artistic life of Northern Tasmania. In December 1994, they presented an hour of music live-to-air on ABC FM and performed a highly-successful concert in Hobart’s Peacock Theatre in July 1995.
During the Summer of 1996, under a grant from the Australia Council, NYET were joined by other artists whose work is directly inspired by Tasmania’s natural heritage in a series of public workshops and concerts in national parks and remote areas of northern Tasmania.
In 1996 a collaboration between Nagorcka, Sieglinde Karl (artwork), Kate Hamilton (photography) and Hazel Smith (performance text) resulted in the installation Secret Places, which was presented in Hobart, Launceston and Melbourne, and is soon to be presented in Sydney. A CD was produced, including the music from this installation, along with other works presenting “music from the sounds of Tasmania”.
In October 1997, he was invited to perform his works as part of the Sounding Sphere Festival in Harima, Japan. This programme was toured in Tasmania in 1999 with the aid of a grant from Arts Tasmania.
In 1998, his Tasmanian Toccata for didgeridoo, sampler and pipe organ was performed in the Melbourne International Festival of the Arts. Ron Nagorcka is currently on a “wilderness residency” for two months at Eddystone Point on Tasmania’s East coast under the sponsorship of Arts Tasmania.
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