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Larry Sitsky

In their own words

Recorded 1967

Larry Sitsky
Audio: 2 minutes

My attitude to musicology is that, if it can be allied to something living, that is to performance, to composition, then it’s significant. A work written in the 13th century can be as significant as one written in the 20th, providing I think it’s good music and it’s worth playing.

My methods of composition have altered a little bit over the years. The early works were mostly for piano, which was quite natural I suppose, and were written as a direct result of playing a lot of romantic piano music. The present method is that first of all there’s an impulse to write a piece, the original impulse might come from a number of sources, for instance, someone might say, ‘Would you write a sonata for such-and-such a concert?’ and I’d say yes, or someone would say, ‘Would you set these words?’ or I want to set some words or I’m commissioned to write a piece for a particular occasion, so there’s a preliminary impulse.

I then find that I think about this, sometimes for a few months. In other words, there’s something that happens in one’s subconscious, I suppose, because I don’t work at the problem on paper, I simply carry it around in my head. Sometimes one gets a clear mental picture of musicians sitting on stage and picking up their instruments, and that’s when the first notes come. Sometimes it’s just a general sound that you hear in your head. At any rate, I tend to carry this round in my head for quite a while and then one day, a little voice says, ‘Well, you’d better sit down and start putting blobs on paper’. In other words, the time has come when the mental working out has reached its conclusion and can go no further and you now have to try and transcribe the sounds that you have in your head onto paper, which in my case is, although a reasonably fast process, is a very painful one. From the initial impulse to the final note written down to me seems an eternity.

Acknowledgements

This oral history of Larry Sitsky is from the De Berg Collection in the National Library of Australia. For more information, or to hear full versions of the recordings, visit the National Library of Australia website.

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Professor Larry Sitsky AO

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

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