Sound Heritage Sydney: Videos & Abstracts

On the 28th of March 2017, an international forum of invited experts
spent a day at Elizabeth Bay House sharing their knowledge about
music making in historic houses.

Curating the Colonial Musical Museum

Dr Graeme Skinner, University of Sydney

Why should we want to eavesdrop on our musical ancestors? And how can we reliably reimagine the lived sonorous world of early Australian settler colonists, and of their British homeland relatives? This brief overview reconsiders the types of physical and musical artefacts available to us, the kinds of historical documentation and other records that we can access, preconceptions and prejudices we should abandon, existing tools we can use or adapt, and the real and virtual resources we need to devise and develop to bring the colonial musical museum to new audiences.


Graeme Skinner is an Australian musical historian, and an honorary associate in musicology at Sydney Conservatorium of Music, University of Sydney.  He is author of the biography Peter Sculthorpe: the making of an Australian composer (UNSW Press; ebook 2015).  In his regularly updated research website, Australharmony, he documents the musical history of Australia's colonial and early Federation eras, and curates a complementary virtual archive of Australian colonial music resources and user tags inside Trove.  With co-author Michael Noone, he is also completing a catalogue of the plainsong and polyphonic choirbooks of Toledo Cathedral, Spain.

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Music from Home: Sydney Living Museums’ Sheet Music Collections and the Scots in Australia

Dr Brianna E Robertson Kirkland, University of Glasgow

In this paper, I will discuss the late 18th and early 19th-century tradition of collecting and preserving Scots songs in print. These print editions including music treatises intended to teach early 19th-century music-making practices were not frequently intended for the professional or less wealthy amateur musicians. Rather they were designed and printed for the use of domestic music making for the rising middle class. The Symonds sheet music collection held by the Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection, Sydney Living Museums (SLM), contains some of the the earliest surviving examples of Scottish music brought to Australia in the nineteenth century.  This collection gives insight into the Scots musical tradition that existed in Australia and the type of music being disseminated in the domestic setting through tuition and more general music making. Through an examination of SLM’s music collections, this paper will test previous scholarly assumptions that the Scots did not maintain their nationalistic identity after emigrating and consider Cliff Cumming’s findings in his 1993 paper 'Scottish National Identity in an Australian Colony’ that ‘the Scots in these foundation years deliberately sought to maintain their identity, asserting their national distinctiveness.’


Brianna Kirkland works as both a singer and researcher and recently completed her PhD research on the 18th century castrato singer Venanzio Rauzzini and his students, funded by the University of Glasgow College of Arts Internship scholarship.  Earlier this year, she gave a talk about her research at the sold out event, TEDxGlasglow, which is a locally organised event licensed by the famous TED organisation. She has sung in master classes and private lessons with early music specialists including Emma Kirkby, Nicholas Clapton and Robert Toft, and regularly performs lecture-recitals at conferences and events.  Her research interests span a wide variety of topics and in September 2016 she organised an interdisciplinary workshop at the Glasgow Women’s Library which explored ’Women and Education in the 18th century’. Brianna was granted The Ross Fund from the University of Glasgow to allow her to do a one month research project examining the sheet music collections at Sydney Living Museums.  She will continue to research the role of music education when she embarks on a research project at Chawton House in April 2017, supported by the British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Visiting Fellowship award.

Performance Video

Both of these songs appear in Haidee B Harris’s volume of music. The first ‘If a body meet a body’ is better known by Burn’s title ‘Comin’ thro’ the rye’. However, if you listen closely, the publisher John Watlen has subtly changed a few of the words, perhaps to add his own stamp to the song. The volume also included a couple of Scottish Gaidhlig airs, which are rare to find in similar collections currently held in British libraries and archives. ‘Morag’ is pastoral love song about a young man lusting after a Scottish beauty with ‘a good head of hair’!

Performed by Brianna Robertson-Kirkland (voice) and Katrina Faulds (piano).

The Dowling Songbook Project: Making Music Matter at Elizabeth Bay House

Dr Matthew Stephens, Sydney Living Museums

For almost four decades, music has played an important part in the interpretative and programmatic communication of Sydney Living Museums’ historic properties. Music has appeared in individual house recitals, larger music series, interpretative soundscapes, indigenous programs or as entertainment at public programs and events. A tendency to rely on the German musical canon when making music in our historic houses has recently been challenged by a better understanding of SLM’s own extensive sheet music collections. In a project led by the Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection (CSL&RC), sheet music in a number of SLM’s historic houses and in the CSL&RC has been assessed and a small percentage recatalogued and digitised.

A better understanding of SLM’s music collections, including the discovery of a number of significant items, has prompted SLM to bring to life some of this repertoire within a 19th-century domestic context. Between July and October 2016, SLM collaborated with Professor Neal Peres Da Costa, Historical Performance Unit, Sydney Conservatorium of Music, and his students to perform in Elizabeth Bay House from an extraordinary volume of sheet music bound together in Sydney in c1840. Belonging to a well-known Sydney couple, the volume not only contained songs purchased in Sydney in the 1830s but also ‘Grosse’s Instructions in Singing’ - a singing treatise published in London but of which no other surviving copy is known. Coupled with handwritten ornamentation on some of the songs, the Dowling songbook offers a rare opportunity to explore musical taste and performance practice in 1830s Sydney. This paper describes the development of the Dowling Songbook Project and its potential impact on future music performance in SLM’s historic properties. 


Matthew Stephens is Research Librarian at the Caroline Simpson Library & Research Collection, Sydney Living Museums (SLM).  He commenced his tertiary studies at the music department of the University of Sydney, followed by library studies and a doctorate in Australian library history. Matthew leads a project which involves evaluating, cataloguing and digitising sheet music collections held in SLM’s historic house museums and promoting their performance.  In collaboration with Professor Neal Peres Da Costa, Matthew recently led the Dowling Songbook Project at Elizabeth Bay House.  In 2016, SLM was awarded the National Trust Heritage Award for Research and Investigation for ‘The Elizabeth Bay House ‘Lost’ Library Project’, which had derived from Matthew's doctoral research. Always keen to explore the intangible heritage of SLM's historic houses, Matthew looks forward to sharing more of this fascinating world of our reading and music-making history.

Performance Video

  • I Love Thee Still (1830s) by Jonathan Blewitt.  Performed by James Doig (voice and piano).  Link to score.
  • Light my Heart with Joy is Bounding (1838) by Carl Maria Von Weber.  Performed by Nyssa Milligan (voice) and Katrina Faulds (piano).  Link to score.

Listening to the Past – Performing the Past: Restoring the Voices of Lanyon Homestead, Mugga Mugga and Calthorpes’ House.

Dr Jennifer Gall, Australian National University

Listening to the Past: Music in Historical Places (2015) and the subsequent project, Performing the Past (2016) represent a new concept of engagement with heritage properties.  Performing music from house museum music collections on restored historical instruments and incorporating recorded sounds in audio guides provides alternative ways to access house museum collections, opening a unique window into past lives. In the words of Mark Smith [‘Futures of hearing pasts’, Morat: 2014]:

To their credit, museum curators and curators of historical homes are, increasingly it seems, turning to historians of the senses for advice about how best to incorporate the senses onto their spaces [and into their spaces]. The most thoughtful curators are anxious to historicize the senses so that visitors get a sense not only of the sounds of the late nineteenth century … but what they meant to people at the time. … their reproduction can tell us not only about the nature of the past, but about our own intellectual preferences and prejudices

This paper discusses how Performing the Past builds on Listening to the Past to translate the musical heritage of historic houses into the present through four interconnected performances, featuring new music commissioned for historic instruments:

  • Lanyon - Settling In: transportable music
  • Lanyon - Art in Isolation: classical keyboard music in the bush
  • Lanyon - The Piano Speaks: Old sounds in new music
  • Mugga Mugga - Musical Ghosts : Old and New Sounds in old spaces


Jennifer Gall is assistant curator of documents and artefacts at the NFSA and an ANU Visiting Fellow. She was awarded her doctorate, ‘Redefining the Tradition: The Role of Women in the Evolution and Transmission of Australian Folk Music’, at the ANU School of Music in 2007. She researches the relationship between music and popular culture; particularly the intersections of traditional music, popular and western art music in Australian settler society, with a focus on the music of forgotten Australian women musicians. Jennifer is music critic for The Canberra Times; she co-edited Antipodean Traditions: Australian Folklore in the 21st Century (2011) with Professor Graham Seal and has written several books for the National Library of Australia.

Performance Video

  • ‘Suite for the Lanyon Broadwood’ (2016).  Written and performed by Sandra France.

Commissioned by Jennifer Gall, the Lanyon Suite is a collection of five short pieces composed for the 1800s Broadwood at Lanyon Homestead in Tuggeranong, ACT.

  • 'How many ships sail in the forest?’ (2016).  Written and performed by Ian Blake.    

For several decades the 1840s Broadwood at Lanyon Homestead had been going its own way: preparing a distinctive soundworld and nurturing a range of bell-like tones, creaks, rattles, and the kind of woody groan that puts you in mind of old sailing ships. Hence the title, lifted from a riddling English folk song.

See concert program for more information about these pieces.

Rediscovering Dance and Dance Music in Historic English Houses

Dr Katrina Faulds, University of Southampton

Dance was part of the fabric of genteel social and cultural life in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century England.  Both town and country houses played a significant role in hosting dance, ranging from intimate family gatherings through to balls that catered for hundreds of guests.  In doing so, dance was woven into narratives of luxury, display, patronage and class.  The act of staging a ball had implications for how exterior and interior spaces were emphasised and repurposed, and for how objects (including guests) were displayed.  While such occasions have largely been lost to time, dance music in domestic collections can help bridge the gap.  These scores offer an insight into the pedagogical value of dance, the rich manner in which dance intersected with operatic and balletic culture, and the propagation of dance music in the provinces.  As a material reminder of an ephemeral art form, domestic dance music can inspire both recreation of the past and creation of contemporary works.  Boughton House in Northamptonshire has creatively devised dance events that simultaneously reflect the large music collection in-situ and encourage collaboration with leading artists. Notwithstanding logistical issues, historic properties have a real opportunity to engage with dance history and invest in a marginalised aspect of cultural heritage.


Katrina Faulds studied music at the University of Western Australia and Australian National University.  She subsequently completed postgraduate studies on fortepiano and clavichord at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam, during which time she also performed in the Fringe concert series of the Utrecht Oude Muziek Festival.  She completed a PhD, ‘“Invitation pour la danse”: Social dance, dance music and feminine identity in the English country house c.1770-1860’, at the University of Southampton in 2015 on social dance and dance music at Tatton Park (Cheshire), under the supervision of Professor Jeanice Brooks.  During this time she was granted a scholarship to attend the Attingham Trust Summer School, an intensive residential course devoted to the history of English country houses and their collections.  Most recently, she was administrator for Sound Heritage network, an Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK) funded network overseen by Professor Brooks and Professor Jonathan Wainwright (University of York), which brought together scholars of domestic music collections, and curators and heritage-sector professionals, to discuss the role of music and musical interpretation in historic properties.

Dancing in Fetters: The Culture of Convict Dance

Heather Clarke, Queensland University of Technology

One of the aims of historical research is to provide new perceptions and illuminating insights.  The notion of convicts having a life which included music and dance is strikingly at variance with the prevailing image of convict heritage.  However, dance was an integral part of everyday life in the lower orders and one of the most popular forms of recreation in the early colony.  Convicts danced to escape the drudgery and harshness of their existence; it provided social cohesion, a sense of belonging and a cultural identity in a strange, new land. They were encouraged to dance on the long voyage to the colony for their good health and some danced to the music of their jangling chains.  In the settlement the authorities commented on their rowdy, disorderly dancing in the proliferation of public houses. Even in punishment convicts referred to dance, where the treadmill became known as the ‘dance academy’, and on the hangman’s noose, the condemned danced the ‘gallows jig’.  This research offers a range of unexpected perspectives on the cultural life of early Australian convicts.


Heather Clarke is a dance teacher and historian who has been actively involved in early Australian colonial dance for over three decades.  She has been awarded six research scholarships at national and international levels, frequently presents workshops, and regularly publishes articles on her website  Research includes dances associated with the discovery of New Holland, particularly in relation to William Dampier and James Cook, and the elite dance culture of the early colony.  She is currently undertaking a doctorate to research the intriguing topic of convict dance.  By combining a comprehensive understanding of the many dance traditions relevant to early Australian history, she is able to bring a deep insight to this fascinating study.

Pleasure Garden: Listening, Through Time

Dr Genevieve Lacey

A year ago, I premiered Pleasure Garden in the grounds of Vaucluse House. It was the culmination of two years of work, and my relationship of more than thirty years with a seventeenth-century musician, Jacob van Eyck.

Pleasure Garden is a listening garden – a gently interactive instrument. It responds to the movement of passers by – different layers of the composition are triggered by their presence, and move subtly across the garden as visitors explore it, or sit a while and listen.

The source material comprises van Eyck’s own music, field recordings collected from the places in which the work was made, and layered new works, with improvisation at their core. The composition is sparse and delicate. Its space allows the environment in which it is installed to become a vital part of the sound world.

This presentation tells the story of Pleasure Garden’s origins and making, and features some snippets of the composition. Hovering somewhere behind the work is a quote from Jeanette Winterson, which inspires much of my life with historical material:

If truth is that which lasts, then art has proved truer than any other human endeavour. What is certain is that pictures and poetry and music are not only marks in time but marks through time, of their own time and ours, not antique or historical, but living as they ever did, exuberantly, untired.

Art Objects: Essays on Ecstasy and Effrontery


Genevieve Lacey is a recorder virtuoso, serial collaborator and artistic director. She has a career as an international soloist, a significant recording catalogue, and a growing body of large-scale collaborative works to her name. Genevieve performs music spanning ten centuries with collaborators as diverse as the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Danish pipe and tabor player Poul Høxbro, filmmaker Marc Silver, playwright-director Scott Rankin, iconic Australian singer-songwriter Paul Kelly, and indigenous musicians the Black Arm Band. She has won two ARIAs (Australian Recording Industry Awards), a Helpmann Award, Australia Council, Freedman and Churchill Fellowships and Outstanding Musician, Melbourne Prize for Music. She holds degrees (including a doctorate) in music and English literature from universities in Melbourne, Switzerland and Denmark. Genevieve is inaugural Artistic Director of FutureMakers, Musica Viva Australia’s artist development program, Chair of the Australian Music Centre board, guest curator and artistic advisor to UKARIA, and professional mentor for the Australian National Academy of Music’s fellowship program.

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Silence and Listening: An Introduction to The Sounds and Music Collection of Rouse Hill Estate, 1813-1980s

Nicole Forsyth, University of Sydney

Music and the people who made it sound are currently quiet on the heritage site of Rouse Hill Estate, managed by Sydney Living Museums. It is, however, far from a ‘silent’ history —from its Dharug traditional owners to the six generations of Rouse-Terry family who inhabited its built environment from 1813 to the 1980s.

In this introduction, Nicole Forsyth will explore place, music and sound, the collection, context and possible interpretive ways of hearing Rouse Hill Estate once more.


Nicole Forsyth is a violist/researcher/curator/educator with a 30 year freelance career encompassing historical performance, chamber music, new music/cross-platform work, community cultural development, teaching and orchestral performance. She has played for all groups in historically informed performance in Australia: including Orchestra of the Antipodes-Pinchgut Opera, & co-founded Ironwood in 2006, managing the group from 2011-2015, including extensive education program work, national & overseas touring, and developing programs for regional communities. Her current research, bringing music, performance practice, storytelling and history together, in collaboration with Sydney Living Museums, looks at how we put music back into heritage sites & historic places, particularly Rouse Hill Estate 1813-1986, on Dharug country, north western Sydney.  In February, as artists-in-residence at the Bundanon Trust, Nicole, Damien Barbeler and John R. Taylor will explore  and develop sound installations that can be deployed to give a more organic, and hyper-real immersive experience of historical sites, museums and houses.

Performance Video

London Bridge (1879?) by James Lynham Molloy, from Rouse Hill House & Farm.

Performed by Matthew Stephens (voice) and Katrina Faulds (piano).

Musical Soundscapes in the Historic House Museum

Professor Jeanice Brooks, University of Southampton

Music is a powerful tool for shaping emotion and environment, suggesting and inspiring action, and colouring narrative.  These uses, widely familiar from film, television and video games, are relatively common in cultural heritage contexts.  But outside the musical museum sector (musical instrument museums, popular music collections, composer residences) music has most often been used to create atmosphere or mood, rather than to evoke former residents' use of music in specific times and places.  The music employed may have no provenance to the space, and it usually functions as a background element, almost never fully engaged in interpretation.  Music's role in the human, historical soundscape of the house remains inaudible and ignored.

Recently, this situation has begun to change, partly through international partnerships and leadership from Sydney heritage institutions. This paper explores these new developments by reviewing experiments in recovery and interpretation of the musical past of English country houses.  It describes the activities of Sound Heritage, a research and interpretation network of academic music historians, early music performance experts and heritage professionals from the curatorial and visitor experience domains, before focussing on a series of interpretation experiments at Tatton Park (Cheshire) based on the house's historic music collections.  Music was an important daily activity for past residents, and evoking this activity can help to people the properties in visitors' imaginations, while at the same time providing a powerful antidote to the static sense that historical settings convey for some audiences.  Better knowledge of the role of music in country house architecture, decoration and social life, and of musical links to artefacts and objects, can provide powerful new interpretive tools and highlight connections between tangible and intangible heritage.


Jeanice Brooks is Professor of Music at the University of Southampton (UK).  She is co-founder of the Sound Heritage Network, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council of Great Britain, and director of the Austen Family Music Books digitisation project.  She has worked extensively on the musical history and interpretation of National Trust houses including Tatton Park, Killerton House and Mottisfont, as well as independent and privately owned historic houses.  Her scholarly research includes articles on music, collection and display in 18th- and 19th-century domestic settings.