The State of the Art of Electronic Music in Australia Seminar, 1971
Keith Humble promoted the discussion of contemporary music aggressively, creating a new climate of excitement in Melbourne around the avant-garde. The most significant event he organised to this end was the national seminar The state of the art of electronic music in Australia, held at the Conservatorium of Music and the Grainger Centre in 1971. This seminar brought many Australian composers together, focused for the first time in this country on the topic of electronic music. Humble arranged for the distinguished American composer, Milton Babbitt, to participate as a keynote speaker. A performance in Melba Hall of Babbitt’s Philomel for soprano and electronic tape was a highlight of the conference. The papers presented, on topics ranging from the commercial use of electronic music to the value of synthesizers in tertiary musical education, were all recorded on tape. Grainger Curator and composer Ian Bonighton and post-graduate student Agnes Dodds typed up the proceedings on a typewriter in the back office of the Museum.
A key aspect of the seminar was the presentation of International Tape Samples, which were played via speakers in the Grainger Museum for six hours each of the three days of the conference. Participants listened to works by well-known composers such as Luciano Berio, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Milton Babbitt and Iannis Xenakis, as well as lesser known musicians. The seminar, in the words of the organisers, ‘did much to remove a popular fallacy, that in electronic music it is the medium above all else which has to be contended with by the listener, a notion which outlaws the music.’