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Sacrificing a Symphony: Malcolm Williamson’s protest against the Franklin Dam and the implications for the world’s first ‘transcontinental’ symphony


Philpott, C, Sacrificing a Symphony: Malcolm Williamson's protest against the Franklin Dam and the implications for the world's first transcontinental' symphony, Social Alternatives, 33, (1) pp. 7-15. ISSN 0155-0306 (2014) [Refereed Article]

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The nineteenth Master of the Queen's Music, Malcolm Williamson (1931-2003), was one of the most gifted and prolific Australian composers of the twentieth century; however, several of his most significant large-scale works attracted more controversy than critical acclaim due to their association with contentious political issues. Among these was his Symphony No. 6 (1982), the world's first 'transcontinental' symphony, which was commissioned by the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) and written for all six of its capital city orchestras and the ABC Sinfonia to celebrate its Golden Jubilee in 1982. Initially designed to form part of a television film that showcased Australia - its landscape and natural environment, as well as its orchestras - the project was aborted after Williamson used the symphony as a bargaining tool in his high-profile protest over the damming of Tasmania's Franklin River. While the plans for the dam were eventually quashed, Williamson paid the ultimate artistic sacrifice - the film project featuring his Symphony No. 6 was abandoned completely and his relationship with the ABC was severed beyond repair. This paper investigates the role that Williamson's Sixth Symphony played in the environmental activism surrounding the damming of the Franklin River and the implications of this for the composer and the world's first 'transcontinental' symphony.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Research Division:Creative Arts and Writing
Research Group:Music
Research Field:Musicology and ethnomusicology
Objective Division:Culture and Society
Objective Group:Arts
Objective Field:Music
UTAS Author:Philpott, C (Dr Carolyn Philpott)
ID Code:92369
Year Published:2014
Deposited By:School of Creative Arts and Media
Deposited On:2014-06-17
Last Modified:2017-11-17

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