Past Alfred Hook Lectures/Recital Series


Genevieve Lacey: Life in music – Field notes from a practitioner
Friday 29 September (Part of the Best Practice in Artistic Research in Music Symposium)
Recital Hall East

Brigid Cohen: Testimony, Facticity, and Musical Truth-Telling
Thursday 10 August, 5:30pm
Recital Hall East


Dean Sutcliffe: How Haydn clinches closure
Thursday 6 October, 6:00pm
Recital Hall East
Watch this lecture again on the SCM YouTube channel

Payi Linda Ford: New ways for old ceremonies: An archival research project
Wednesday 11 May, 5:00pm
Charles Perkins Centre Lecture Theatre
Watch this lecture again on the SCM YouTube channel


Richard Widdess: Cognitive research and South Asian music
Monday 13 April 2015, 5:00pm
Recital Hall West, Sydney Conservatorium of Music
Watch this lecture again on the SCM YouTube channel

Gary Tomlinson: The Deep History and Near Future of Music
Saturday 3 October 2015, 4:00pm
Verbrugghen Hall, Sydney Conservatorium of Music
Watch this lecture again on the SCM YouTube channel


Watch the 2013 Series on the SCM YouTube Channel

Professor Richard Cohn, “A Platonic Model of Funky Rhythms, Or How To Get That Swing”
22 March

Plato’s Republic reconciled the powers of 2 and 3, acoustically manifest as octaves and fifths. An analogous reconciliation is characteristic of African-diasporic repertories, where chains of dotted rhythms threaten to rupture a duply generated metric frame. Based on insights of the late Australian theorist Jeff Pressing, this presentation illustrates with examples from ragtime, samba, jazz, funk, and film music.

Richard Cohn is Battell Professor of Music Theory at Yale University, and Honorary Professor at the University of Sydney. He is author of Audacious Euphony: Chromaticism and the Triad’s Second Nature (Oxford, 2012). Two of his scholarly articles have earned the Society of Music Theory’s Outstanding Publication Award. Cohn is series editor of Oxford University Press’s Studies in Music Theory, and was recently appointed Editor of the Journal of Music Theory. His current research models metric states and syntaxes in classical and world-music repertories.

Professor Paul Thom, “Works Of Music And Their Interpretation In Performance”
17 May

Are works of music (e.g. operas in the standard repertoire) timeless artworks whose proper performance leaves no room for creative interpretation, are they historical entities that constantly change under interpretation – or is there a third possibility?

Paul Thom is an Honorary Professor of Philosophy in the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry at the University of Sydney. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanites, and a recipient of the Centenary of Federation Medal for service to Australian society and the humanities in the study of philosophy of the arts. His books include For an Audience: A Philosophy of the Performing Arts (Temple University Press 1993) and The Musician as Interpreter (Pennsylvania State University Press 2007). His recent articles include Opera and Authenticity in Performance in The Routledge Companion to Philosophy and Music, and The Aesthetics of Opera, Philosophy Compass (2011).

Professor Tim Carter, “Performing Monteverdi: Some Problems (And A Few Solutions)”
7 June

The music of Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) has long been at one cutting edge of the HIP (Historically Informed Performance) movement. A new look at sources and contexts, however, suggests that musicologists still have much to learn from performers, and vice versa, when exploring his Mantuan operas—including Orfeo (1607)— madrigals, and sacred works (the 1610 Vespers), and also his Venetian ones.

Tim Carter is a Distinguished Visiting Fellow with the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions.

Tim Carter is the author and editor of various books on music in late Renaissance and early Baroque Italy, including Monteverdi’s Musical Theatre (2002) and The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Music (2005), and also of the Cambridge Opera Handbook on Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro (1987) and of Oklahoma! The Making of an American Musical (2007). He has just published a critical edition of Kurt Weill’s first musical play composed in the U.S., Johnny Johnson (1936), and is currently collaborating with the economic historian Richard Goldthwaite on Orpheus in the Marketplace: Jacopo Peri and the Economy of Late Renaissance Florence, based on a treasure trove of materials newly found in the archives.

Dr David Larkin, “Dancing To The Devil’s Tune: Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz And The Power Of Virtuosity”
2 August

As a pianist, Franz Liszt exerted an uncanny power over his audiences. In Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz, the devil manipulates the behaviour of his hearers through his playing. This lecture/recital explores the Waltz as an allegorical representation of virtuosity, and the potentially sinister impact a skillful player might have on listeners.

David Larkin is a musicologist based at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music since 2010. A native of Ireland, he studied at University College Dublin and the University of Cambridge, where he completed his doctorate in 2007. He specializes in nineteenth-century German music, and has published articles on the compositions of Richard Strauss, Wagner and Liszt. Outside of academia, he has given public talks for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Musica Viva, and many Sydney based operatic societies. He also writes concert reviews for the online database, Bachtrack, and sings with a variety of Chamber choirs around the city.

Dr Raymond Holden, “The Iconic Symphony: Conducting Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony Wagner’s Way”
9 August

Wagner’s approach to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was seminal to the performance styles of later conductors, such as Hans von Bülow, Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Otto Klemperer and Sir Charles Mackerras. Raymond Holden will investigate the effect of Wagner’s approach to this symphony on subsequent conductors with the aid of their marked scores, sound documents and other performance artefacts.

Raymond Holden was born in Australia in 1954, studied at Sydney, Cologne and London and has worked as a conductor, writer, broadcaster and lecturer. He has performed with the Philharmonia Orchestra, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestra of the Emilia Romagna and the New Symphony Orchestra of London; has been published regularly by ICA Classics, EMI Classics, Hans Schneider Verlag (Vienna) and Oxford, Cambridge and Yale University Presses; has appeared on BBC Television, BBC Radio, ABC Radio and Classic FM (South Africa), and has spoken at many of the world’s leading universities, conservatoires and research institutes, including those in London, Oslo, Helsinki, Singapore, Stellenbosch, Sheffield and Garmisch-Partenkirchen. He is currently The Sir John Barbirolli Lecturer in Music at the Royal Academy of Music, London.

Associate Professor Michael Halliwell and David Miller AM, “Bards Of Empire: Kipling And Grainger, Kipling’s Life And How Works As Reflected In The Music Of Grainger And Others”
30 August
This presentation traces the controversial life and works of Rudyard Kipling as represented in musical settings by Percy Grainger and other contemporary composers. Kipling was writing as the British Empire was at its height and he soon became inextricably associated with it. Percy Grainger, more than any other composer, engaged with Kipling’s output in a variety of forms including solo songs.

Michael Halliwell studied at the London Opera Centre and with Tito Gobbi in Florence. He was principal baritone with the Netherlands Opera; Hamburg State Opera, and Nürnberg Opera, singing over 50 major roles. He has given papers on music and literature at many international conferences in Australia, South Africa, the United States, Britain, Germany and Austria, and has published widely.

David Miller studied in Australia (Max Olding and Alexander Sverjensky) and the United Kingdom (Paul Hamburger) and has been described as the “role model of Australian accompanists”. He has been on staff at Sydney Conservatorium of Music since 1980. David regularly conducts master classes and lectures for universities, conservatoriums, music organisations and music conferences in Australia and Asia.

Professor Raymond MacDonald, “We Are All Musical: A Celebration Of Human Musicality And Its Importance For Health And Wellbeing”
27 September
Every human being has a biological and social guarantee of musicianship. From the earliest communication between a parent and a child through to advanced forms of improvisation there is now convincing evidence to show how musical communication is universally accessible. This lecture will discuss current research and the importance of music listening and participation for health and wellbeing.

Raymond MacDonald is a saxophonist, composer and academic whose work explores the boundaries and ambiguities between what is conventionally seen as improvisation and composition. He is Professor of Music Psychology and Improvisation in the Department of Music at the University of Edinburgh. His ongoing research focuses on issues relating to improvisation, musical communication, music health and wellbeing, music education and musical identities. He runs music workshops and lectures internationally and has published over 60 peer reviewed papers and book chapters. He has released over 50 CDs, and toured and broadcast worldwide. His work is informed by a view of improvisation as a social, collaborative and uniquely creative process that provides opportunities to develop new ways of working musically.

Associate Professor Stephanie McCallum, “Charles Valentin Alkan (1813-1888) 200 Years On”
25 October
Stephanie McCallum discusses the works, reception and performance history of Charles Valentin Alkan (1813-1888) in his bicentenary year. After several years preparing and recording his five sets of character pieces, Receuils de Chants, her recordings and performances of his monumental sets of Etudes, and the impact of her original article about Alkan’s mental state, Stephanie evaluates Alkan’s contribution to Romantic piano literature and his relevance today.

Stephanie McCallum is Associate Professor in piano at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, University of Sydney. Her live performances of the Concerto, the Symphony, and other works from Alkan’s Op. 39, have been described by critics as ‘titanic’, ‘awe-inspiring’, ‘stupendous’, ‘virtuosic pianism of the highest calibre’ and ‘one of the glories of Australian pianism’. With the release in 2006 of a 2 CD set of Alkan’s Douze études dans les tons mineurs, (described by Hugh Macdonald as “the Alps and the Himalayas of pianism, the one superimposed on the other”) she became the first pianist to have recorded Alkan’s complete studies in the major and the minor keys (opus 35 and opus 39). Her most recent release is the first of a two volume set of Alkan’s complete Chants. For a complete list of recordings visit


Show 2012 events

Watch the 2012 Series on the SCM Youtube Channel

Dr Neil McEwan AM FRSCM, “The Mysteries of Gregorian Chant Revealed”
20 April

Only a very few medieval music manuscripts remain from the tenth and eleventh centuries which give us extremely fine detail in how to interpret and sing Gregorian chant. By the twelfth century most of these subtle nuances had disappeared, and it was not until the publication of the Graduale Triplex in 1979 did we begin to understand what had been lost for over a thousand years. Through the use of a mens’ singing Schola, McEwan will demonstrate these mysterious subtleties by the “sounding out loud” of Gregorian chant.

Paul Grabowsky, “Jazz or Post-Jazz? The ‘J’ word in the 21st century”
25 May

The word jazz has confounded simple explanations throughout its relatively short history. Is it a definable musical genre and, therefore, subject to precise definition, or does it describe an approach to music with specific processes and outcomes? Is it necessarily the property of a specific time and place, or is it a living, changing, organic phenomenon? What is its place in the current politics of music and of art in general?

Lieven Bertels, “Lab coats, sound aquarelles and war loot: The history of early electronic music and its links to today’s electronic music scenes”
31 August, 2012

After a few attempts by individuals to create ‘electronic’ instruments such as the Trautonium and the Theremin in the early 20th century, a more systematic approach to the creation of a new electronic sound world took off after the Second World War on three remarkably different tangents and with very distinct influences on the electronic music of today.

Bob Reece & Anne Boyd, “The Sounding of Australian History: ‘Daisy Bates at Ooldea’ – A new opera by Bob Reece and Anne Boyd”
21 September, 2012

Bob Reece (librettist) and Anne Boyd (composer) explain their opera on iconic and semi-mythological yet controversial Irishwoman, Daisy Bates (1859-1951), during the 16 years she spent living in a tent at Ooldea Siding on the edge of the Nullarbor Plain (1919-1935).

George Palmer AM QC, “Structure in music – What’s the law got to do with it?”
26 October, 2012

From Telemann to Tchaikovsky, an astonishing number of lawyers have been successful composers. Is there something in common between the structure of legal argument and the structure of musical composition? This lecture explores the use of structure in music, what happens when you abandon structure, and why rhetoric, used by lawyers from Cicero onwards as a tool for persuasion, is a valuable study for composers too.


Show 2011 events

Elena Kats-Chernin, ‘On Inspiration’
March 4, 2011

Elena Kats-Chernin shares questions about the roots of her inspiration. Where do the ideas come from? Is it disrespectful to use works by another composer? How does a gesture, a thought, or even just a colour or a noise from the outside world make a transition into the internal composing world? If an idea is exceptionally good, can one use it in more than one piece?

Roger Neill, ‘From Melba to Sutherland: Australian Singers on Record’
April 8, 2011

Roger Neill will play and discuss rare recordings by Australian singers from the well-remembered to the fascinating but forgotten. His subjects include Nellie Melba, Florence Austral, Joan Hammond, Peter Dawson, Joan Sutherland, Syria Lamonte (who made the first female vocal recording outside the USA) and Violet Mount, who went on the music halls masked as L’Incognita.

Dr Leslie Howard, ‘Discovering Liszt’
May 6, 2011

Liszt is the only great composer of the nineteenth century to still suffer from detractors, this despite the acknowledged debt of almost every composer who followed him. Many distrusted his fame and wealth. Others accused him of religious posturing and of lacking compositional depth. Dr Howard shares his new insights into Liszt as a complex nineteenth-century artist.

Michael Nyman, ‘Music, Art, and Commerical Film’
May 27, 2011

Bob Barnard, ‘My History of Jazz in Australia’
August 19, 2011

A personal take by a musician who is perhaps the most closely associated of any living proponent with jazz in Sydney. Immediately following his talk, Bob will join with musicians from the SCM jazz faculty in a performance that we expect to be a celebratory and appropriate paean to the vibrant jazz heritage of this great city.

Nigel Butterley, ‘Writing Music – And Titles, Too!’
September 19, 2011

A title can be concise and adaptable, like Sculthorpe’s Sun Music, or vague and poetic. John Cage wrote more than 40 works with numbers as titles. Butterley reflects on the challenges of finding the right title for a piece of music.

Rainer Bischof, ‘The Relationship between Mahler and Schönberg’
September 30, 2011

Bischof uncovers the enormous influence of Mahler on Schönberg’s development of dodecaphonic method, revealing Mahler as one of the forerunners of twentieth-century composition.

David Throsby, ‘Making Art, Making Money: The Elusive Economics of Music’
October 14, 2011

Financial considerations have never been far from the production and consumption of music. In this lecture, Throsby shows how economics can illuminate the processes of creation and performance of music, with particular reference to the current economic circumstances of composers, singers and instrumental musicians in Australia and of the orchestras and other ensembles in which they work.


Show 2010 events

Richard Toop, ‘Ten Years In: a European Perspective on 21st Century Composing’
March 26, 2010

In the era of Internet streaming, we have unparalleled and often instant access to what is being composed and performed, especially in Europe. While there may well be a ‘thousand blossoms’ stylistically very diverse, it seems that modernist, innovative aspirations are far from exhausted.

Keith Howard, ‘ What is world music: Whose world and whose music?’
April 23, 2010

Music, like language, is a species-specific attribute of man: every human group has music. But, with increasing globalization, it is clear that many of the musics of the world are struggling for survival. Today, the genre of ‘world music’ markets indigenous traditions less than mediated mixes of the exotic and the familiar that are commodified and commercialised by a multi-national industry. Whose music is this?

Judy Bailey, ‘Music and Language’
May 14, 2010

The celebrated jazz pianist Judy Bailey presents a discussion on the relationship between music and language. Human beings have an inherent need to communicate, and it is a society’s and government’s duty and responsibility to nurture the ability to communicate through education. But how? While academia feeds the intellect and sport feeds the body, it is music that feeds the soul.

Martin Jarvis, ‘The Application of Forensic Document Examination Techniques to the Manuscripts of J. S. Bach’
13 August, 2010

Martin Jarvis presents the results of a forensic document examination of the manuscript of BWV1127 – the manuscript discovered in a box at Weimar in 2005 – to answer the question of whose handwriting is present. The results pose interesting questions and challenge the traditional position that Anna Magdalena Bach was merely a copyist of J. S. Bach’s music.

Peter Sculthorpe, ‘Writing music about climate change’
10 September, 2010

Australian composer Peter Sculthorpe has been commissioned to write a new work for string orchestra as part of the SCM’s 101 Compositions project. His life-long concern with landscape is well known, and in this lecture he will reflect on writing music at a time when the world is fast reaching a critical point in respect to our future survival unless we act on climate change.

Roy Howat, ‘Chopin and his legacy in France’
24 September, 2010

Chopin, who lived to the age of only 39, turns 200 this year. Even a generation ago, he was hardly deemed respectable in some academic circles, having composed no symphonies and no operas. Yet it is arguable that no composer more fundamentally changed the course of Western art music; Debussy, indeed, argued this in terms of Chopin’s very lack of symphonies and operas. This lecture takes up the cudgels and the musical evidence, including some of the case put by Chopin’s ‘grand-pupil’ Paul Dukas 100 years ago on the occasion of Chopin’s first centenary.

Andrew Ford, ‘The Second Viennese School in the 21st Century: still new?’
22 October, 2010

Andrew Ford asks what was so modern about Schoenberg, Berg and Webern. Should they still matter to composers as much as they once did?

More Information

For more information about the Alfred Hook Lecture Series please contact the Series Coordinator:

Christa Jacenyik-Trawoger
Research Services Manager
T: +61 2 9351 1442