In the words of the late great Indigenous Australian composer Jimmy Chi, whose music will close this year’s Festival, ‘We’re all one mongrel breed’. It feels important to remember sentiments like that in the face of rising Nationalism and fractured geo-politics, what with the idea of ‘the common good’ being increasingly quashed.
If you trace back the DNA in the maternally inherited mitochondria within our cells, all humans have a theoretical common ancestor. This woman, known as “mitochondrial Eve”, lived between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago in southern Africa. She makes an appearance in the work that opens this year’s Festival – My Mother’s Mother – a work that looks at the first few generations back towards this Ur-woman, as a means of recognizing our shared and intertwined histories. I have written this work in collaboration with Tara Tiba, whose own story of arrival from Iran is both compelling and deeply moving. She is trained in the Persian classical tradition, I in the Western classical tradition.
Music, unlike language, has the ability to support simultaneous conversation whilst maintaining cohesion and reasoned argument. Not only this, but the component musical statements can be of wildly different provenance yet still find common ground – be it musical (harmonic, rhythmic, motivic) spiritual or psychological. There is a rare joy in successfully distilling a common thread between disparate musical worlds – a contentment that for me far outweighs any work created by myself in isolation
At its most successful, collaborative works give audiences raised in one particular cultural practice a way of comprehending another. We hope that is the case with My Mother’s Mother .
The aim with this work, as with many cross cultural collaborations, is to create musical stories that celebrate a multitude of cultural backgrounds but also speak of the things that bind – they are intrinsically more powerful than divisions.
As Tim Winton’s character Quick Lamb says in Cloudstreet –“It’s us and us and us. We all join up in the end”
Iain Grandage 2017