Skip to main content

Coming to visit? Ticketed entry is in place to safely manage your visit so please book ahead. Need to cancel or rejig? Email bookings@npg.gov.au

Menu

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 both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Peter Sculthorpe

In their own words

Recorded 1967

Peter Sculthorpe
Audio: 2 minutes

Any note I write – even if people accuse me of all kinds of mathematical things – everything I do is only concerned with my heart, or with the heart. When I listen to music I only hear it with my heart. Of course, it goes through the ears and the brain and so on and so on, but if it moves me, well, that’s all. I don’t want to analyse it. Of course, one has to for students and so on but that’s irrelevant, I just want to soak it in. And that is all, surely, that music is about. And so everything that I write comes from my feelings or my experience of life and of living.

It’s getting started that is the difficulty, and almost always I get started through some, well, feeling in my heart, that sounds vague but it means something to me anyway, or something that I see, even something that I smell, but rarely anything that I hear, oddly enough. Once I’ve got started, I’m right. And I am a slow worker, but then to be a composer it’s just sheer hard work.

You have to forget technique or else you maybe just get beyond it, in a sense be as a kind of sieve, although I don’t believe in spiritualism, shall we say, I’ll use the word medium, in that it comes through you in some way. Because if I am being occupied with the technique, somehow the message just will not get across or the heart thing. It’s very hard to explain, and this is why I can’t really talk about method.

I suppose I have lots of little secrets and I suppose that this is why my music always sounds like me, because it has the same faults and the same virtues, if any, whatever kind of piece it may happen to be. This is something that I try to get across to my students, they’ve just got to write and write and write until they can handle notes and juggle them about, and then just forget all about it and abandon themselves to being what they are.

Acknowledgements

This oral history of Peter Sculthorpe 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.

Related people

Peter Sculthorpe AO OBE

Related information

Peter Sculthorpe

'Brings in the sun'

Portrait story

Legendary Australian composer, Peter Sculthorpe, describes the development of his career.

Cultural kaleidoscope

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2006

The complex connections between four creative Australians; Patrick White, Sidney Nolan, Robert Helpmann and Peter Sculthorpe.

Creative space

Magazine article by Eric Smith, 2004

Eric Smith describes the agony and finally the ecstasy of winning the 1982 Archibald Prize with the portrait of Peter Sculthorpe.

© National Portrait Gallery 2021
King Edward Terrace, Parkes
Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
ABN: 54 74 277 1196

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 both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency