PALMYRA flautist Saskia Willinge was tired of playing classical music written by “dead white men” from nearly 500 years ago, so she co-founded Tenth Muse Initiative.
They commission pieces by local composers who have been “traditionally excluded” – women, non-binary and other marginalised folk – and hold concerts in accessible, modern venues instead of stuffy old concert halls.
“Our aim is to make art and music more accessible, by presenting concerts in interesting and welcoming ways,” Willinge says. “We only programme music by diverse and underrepresented composers, as the majority of classical music events perform the same small pool of composers over and over.
“We want to be part of increasing the diversity in the classical scene locally…we don’t want to play more music by ‘dead white men’ because finally it is possible to hear music from the last 400-plus years by other people.”
Tenth Muse’s latest show is Symbiosis, a mix of poetry, music and visuals, which will be held at Fremantle’s DADAA, an arts hub for people with disability or mental illness.
All the musicians are classically-trained, but it isn’t a classical concert and will feature everything from folky guitar to ambient electronica and manipulation of cassette tapes.
All artists performing are young emerging talent aged between 20-23, with most living in Greater Fremantle.
Willinge is particularly excited about a performance by Taonga Sendama, who was recently selected for the coveted Fremantle Arts Centre Groundwork program.
“Her piece with Izzy French, a brilliant exploratory musician, is a really cool exploration of technology/processed sounds as a way to consider the natural world, and existing within it,” Willinge says.
“Izzy is a transgender composer who has been winning a lot of opportunities recently, she was part of the Incoming Fremantle Biennale programme last year, and has performed in concerts by the likes of Tone List and Outcome Unknown.
“Their collaboration Down South/Here is a real meeting of minds by two boundary-pushing artists on the rise.”
Willinge is also excited about seeing Freo singer/guitarist Lara Pollard, who played in the band Honour Culture at Hidden Treasures.
“Lara’s a brilliant guitarist with a tendency towards improvised folk-adjacent music and their voice hits you in the guts,” Willinge says.
“They’re also an excellent poet. I’m excited to hear their collaboration with poet Kieran Fischer and see Lara perform music and poetry solo as well.
“Lara and Kieran’s piece Mobius Strip is an exploration of reconciling multiple identities and selves, and finding ways to be home when caught between two places.”
A student at the UWA Conservatorium of Music, Willinge co-founded Tenth Muse in 2019 with classically-trained soprano Hannah Lee Tungate, holding their inaugural concert on International Women’s Day.
“The catalyst was Hannah’s honours research at UWA into Baroque composer Barbara Strozzi, which snowballed into her discovering vast amounts of repertoire by women which was brilliant, that she and her peers had never heard of, and sharing this online on instagram @womencomposerproject,” Willinge says.
They are working towards holding an Australian Premiere of a Jewish and Sapphic chamber opera over the summer, and are developing merchandise and educational resources featuring Australian women composers with a local artist.
Symbiosis will be held at 7pm on Friday July 29 at DADAA, 92 Adelaide Street Fremantle. Tix at http://www.tickettailor.com. For more info on Tenth Muse see tenthmuseinitiative.com.au
by STEPHEN POLLOCK