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June 20, 2016

My Adelaide with Anna Goldsworthy

Celebrated concert pianist and critically acclaimed author Dr Anna Goldsworthy returned to her home town of Adelaide three years ago to find a city that she now feels is purpose-built to foster originality.

Anna Goldsworthy
  • Picture: Brendan Homan

“I left,” says Anna.

“When I was young, I went to America and then I was in Melbourne and then I came back three years ago, partly because I had small children and I realised this would be a nice place for them.

“But it goes beyond that – it’s not just the lifestyle choice for a young family. I actually think Adelaide’s a good place to create.

“There’s just so many things about this city that lend themselves to being a terrific hub for arts practice. Even this area, this cultural precinct – it’s beautiful for me to be working here at The Con [The Elder Conservatorium].


 Anna is a lecturer at The Elder Conservatorium and a research fellow at the JM Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice – both at the University of Adelaide.

She will be performing in Adelaide on July 21, playing Beethoven works in concert with acclaimed violinist Niki Vasilakis at the Adelaide Festival Centre’s Lyrics Room.

“I can walk to the State Library and explore partnerships with them, which I do, and the Festival Centre is just down the road. There’s that terrific opportunity for symbiosis across cultural institutions which I think is something lovely about they way this city is designed.

“A lot of what interests me artistically is cross disciplinary too. My role here at the JM Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice is about collisions between, for instance, creative writing and music. And sometimes when people from different creative practices collide there can be wonderful ideas generated. I think those spaces that offer the opportunity for creative people to come together are really important.

“And I think Adelaide remains human-sized.

“We live in this era of neo-liberalism and economic growth. In the larger cities there’s a lot of interesting activity in the arts and so on but big cities are essentially about money, I think.

“Adelaide has the opportunity not to just be another business centre but to seek to define itself in other ways that have to do with pursuits like music or science.

“It’s naïve to imagine that the arts could exist in a financial vacuum. We need to be creative about building relationships with philanthropists and I guess by extension with industry, but I think there is room – not just in Adelaide but throughout the Western world – for a large cultural shift away from valuing the dollar above all else.

“We need to be reaffirming the importance of humanities and reaffirming the importance of human connection and that’s what the arts does so beautifully. That’s what I love about music – it restores these really important values that have to do with human lived emotional experience and not just the bottom line. Not just having, having, having.

“One of the beautiful things about music is it’s fundamentally non-materialist. You create something that vanishes into the air and it’s about the moment, its about the connection, it’s about sitting in that Hall [Elder Hall], for instance, and collectively inhabiting the space.

“I think I used to really cut myself up thinking I have to choose between music and writing, mostly because of time. It’s about focus and about how does one distribute the available hours in the day as well as bringing up two young boys and having a significant teaching load and so on.

“I suppose in the main my musical life is interpretive so I’m immersing myself in these great master works – Beethoven, and Chopin and whoever, and providing deep readings of what I think they’re doing artistically and coming to grips with their own concepts of form and expression. And I love doing that and it is a source of continued nourishment to me.

“Whereas my writing is more purely creative in the sense that I do my own stuff, mostly non-fiction though I am dipping my toe into fiction now.

“I used to think I had to choose but as time goes on, the more I think I can’t. They do speak to each other and I love them both and I love projects in which I can bring the two of them together.

“What I find so restorative about the classical music tradition is I think there’s an idealism and even a sincerity and earnestness at its hub and I think those things have become a bit of a casualty of modern life. It’s very easy, and I’ve found it very easy in my own writing, to be paralysed by irony and trying to be too clever by half and in some ways music has taught me how to reveal more of myself in my writing and be more comfortable with being more naked in my writing.”

 We need to be reaffirming… the importance of human connection and that’s what the arts does so beautifully.

Anna Goldsworthy

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