Why We Should Still Study Classical Music In Australia

Dec 3, 2020 | Announcements, News & Media

Conductor, Singer, Author, Professor Peter Tregear OAM to deliver final Ramsay Lecture for 2020

Sydney, Thursday 03 December 2020: The Ramsay Centre is proud to announce that the conductor, singer, and author, Professor Peter Tregear will deliver our final Ramsay Lecture for 2020, pressing the case for classical music just days ahead of the 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven.

Professor Tregear is a former Fellow of Music at Fitzwilliam College Cambridge, Principal Fellow of the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, and the inaugural Director of Little Hall, University of Melbourne.

In his lecture ‘A matter of some notes, or why we should still study classical music in Australia’ Professor Tregear will discuss the importance of, and the changes to, the study of classical music in our universities and wider society.

Lamenting the recent decision by Monash University School of Music to disestablish its musicology and ethnomusicology specialisations, he will argue that music graduates should not just be performers, but also historians, analysers, critics, and explorers of the musical culture they inhabit, so they can understand their art form in its broader historical and cultural context.

If we disengage with a millennium’s worth of Western musical culture, he says, we face “… the prospect of a post-modern dystopia where what remains is just an endless flow of the present, one in which our choice to engage with different styles of music is no more meaningful, ultimately, than the choices we make in a well-stocked shopping aisle. Everything is reduced to mere ‘taste’ decoupled from any imperative that we engage in any in-depth consideration of the context or content of what we choose.”

Professor Tregear will discuss how lack of knowledge of our musical past and the context in which music has been written has affected media coverage of classical music performances, and emboldened ‘cancel’ culture proponents. As we mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of Beethoven, amid calls to cancel his music, he argues that those in the classical industry must make tectonic shifts in articulating the value of classical music to ensure its accessibility and survival.

“…the underlying case we should be pressing is that great music in all its forms, in all its genres, wherever it is found, and however it is ultimately labelled by us, should properly be understood, like other aspects of a mature egalitarian society, belonging to, speaking for and challenging, each and every one of us.”

A graduate of the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, Professor Tregear undertook doctoral studies at King’s College, University of Cambridge, and from 2000 to 2006 was Lecturer and Director of Music at Fitzwilliam College.

Since returning to Australia he has served as Executive Director of the Academy of Performing Arts at Monash University and Head of the School of Music at the Australian National University. He has performed as a soloist or conductor with Melbourne Opera, Victorian Opera, Kronos Quartet, The Rolling Stones, Australian Chamber Orchestra, and Australian Youth Orchestra, among other leading ensembles. This year he was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for services to music education.

The Ramsay Lecture Series hosts speakers from all walks of life who have important and interesting perspectives relating to the world and our western heritage.

Due to COVID-19 this lecture is recorded. It will be available via our website www.ramsaycentre.org on Wednesday 9 December.

Media contact: Sarah Switzer 0407 816 098 / sarah.switzer@ramsaycentre.org