To give further insight into The Summers Night Project, Tura spoke to composer, performer and Head of the Sir Zelman Cowan School of Music at Monash University, Professor Cat Hope, about why she was compelled to put the spotlight on female composers, and what this project means to her.
“The Summers Night Project is something I have been trying to off the ground for a while. When I took part in Soundstream’s Emerging Composers Forum in 2016, Artistic Director Gabriella Smart and I decided teaming up to support composers was a good idea, and that focusing on composers identifying as women – irrespective of their musical style, age or level of experience – was an important focus for a mentorship project at this time. I reached out to Anne Summers, whose work in support and recognition of women in Australia has been an enormous inspiration to me, with the name idea – and so with her approval, and Tura’s facilitation, the project is finally underway.
I believe we need to support and nurture composers who are fighting to be visible. Recent statistics show us that on average, music created by women is programmed and performed less often than that by men, and that is why we have made this project to support women in their endeavours as composers. Mentoring builds confidence in a unique way that I really believes adds something important to the development and presentation of new creative work.
The mentors are a mix of men and women, composers and performers. I think the composition and performance link is an important one, as many of us work as both, and the emphasis may shift depending on the project or career point. Likewise, we work in a field with men and women together, and so a mix of mentors was important. Having members of Soundstream and Decibel new music ensembles work closely with mentees means not only the experience of writing a new work is covered, but also the need to enable repeat performances on the road is part of the preparation too. Commissioning new works for a single premiere performance is a shame, so I am pleased we are able to offer not one, by three significant national performance opportunities in which the composer will be a part, and will hopefully begin a longer life for these works in Australian music communities.
For the inaugural year, the focus is in the Australian states that host the instigators and mentors on the project – South Australia, Western Australia and Victoria – the latter being where I now live and work. I hope that it can expand to other states in the future and become a truly national project with an even broader impact on composers and audiences alike.”