Intercultural perspectives for composition, performance, cultural policy and music education

Submitting Institution

University of Huddersfield

Unit of Assessment

Music, Drama, Dance and Performing Arts

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Creative Arts and Writing: Film, Television and Digital Media, Performing Arts and Creative Writing
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies

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Summary of the impact

University of Huddersfield research into intercultural exchange and cultural constructions of identity has led to technical innovations in composition and performance, giving vibrancy to work that has been taken up by some of the world's pre-eminent orchestras and soloists and so reaching a broad international audience. These studies have contributed to the policy work of an international think- tank, Cologne's Akademie der Künste der Welt, leading to greater participation in the arts among youth and artists from disadvantaged communities, and have also benefited Australian secondary school students in bringing a discussion of Indigenous culture into curricula in creative composition.

Underpinning research

Led by Professor Liza Lim (Professor of Composition, 2008-present), research by the University of Huddersfield has sought to create a space for different cultural epistemologies in art and music and to reflect on, implement and act on ethical frameworks for collaboration. Lim's publications since her move to Huddersfield's department of music in 2008 - including orchestral works, an opera and a song cycle — are part of her ongoing cross-cultural research, which began in the late 1990s and is to some extent a critique of enduring post-colonial attitudes in relation to issues of intellectual property rights and cultural exchange. Lim's research is underpinned by her work published together with scholars of ecological musicology, allowing her to bring a nuanced approach to collaborations with a wide range of institutional partners.

The research has been pursued within the context of four large-scale projects (2008-2012).

  1. Themes of embodiment, identity and transformation were explored in Lim's opera project, The Navigator. A grant of AUD$600,000 was awarded by the Major Festivals Initiative/Australia Council, enabling the commission, creative development and production of the opera in 2008 and 2009 (Brisbane, Melbourne, Berlin, Moscow, Paris). Lim collaborated closely with the ELISION Ensemble, Australia's foremost international contemporary music ensemble, bringing together performance practices from several cultural traditions to investigate multiplicity and complexity in sonic behaviour allied to explorations of narrative slippage on the larger operatic canvas.
  2. Lim's research into aesthetic prioritisations in Aboriginal art and ritual, particularly the centrality of `shimmer' and structures of hiddenness/revelation in a knowledge economy, was carried out with the support of a grant from the Ian Potter Cultural Trust (AUD$80,000, 2008-2009). This work involved ethnographic studies of cultural models and ritual forms in Bardi and Yolgnu Aboriginal culture, leading to new insights into the ethical dimension of cross-cultural collaboration as well as into the formal and aesthetic organisation of sound.
  3. Intercultural research was also at the centre of Tongue of the Invisible (2011), a work commissioned by the Holland Festival for jazz pianist Uri Caine and German ensemble musikFabrik. The piece made innovative use of improvisational strategies modelled on Sufi poetics. The composition was a case study for an AHRC Centre for Musical Performance as Creative Practice project on `distributed creativity'. Lim's related article in Music & Letters (2013) discussed participatory structures and reflected on relations of social and political power in the creative decision-making process between composer and performers. Drawing on the work of cultural anthropologist Professor Tim Ingold, Lim also formulated a new model for thinking about the collaborative process.
  4. The composition The Guest (2010) was part of an ongoing exploration of Sufi poetics (see above), as well as a wider project investigating ideas of presence, mimesis and embodiment. Lim collaborated with recorder player Jeremias Schwarzer to work with a number of late-Renaissance and Baroque instruments and drew upon elements of their performance practice to propose ways in which these early instruments could interact musically/socially/politically with the more `powerful' instruments of the orchestra. Together with Pearl, Ochre, Hair String (2010), the compositions represent a substantial engagement with the orchestral medium as a musical/socio-cultural framework for investigating intercultural issues.

References to the research

All outputs are submitted to in REF 2.

1. Lim, L: The Navigator (2008), opera, 90', Ricordi London, RICL082.

2. Lim, L: Pearl, Ochre, Hair String (2010), orchestra, 18', G Ricordi & Co. München, Sy4041.

3. Lim, L: Tongue of the Invisible (2011), ensemble, 60', G. Ricordi & Co. München, Sy4063.

4. Lim, L: The Guest (2010), orchestra + recorders, 20', G. Ricordi & Co. München, Sy4062.

5. Clarke, E, Doffman, M, and Lim, L (2013): `Distributed Creativity and Ecological Dynamics: A Case Study of Liza Lim's Tongue of the Invisible', Music & Letters, Vol.94 no.4. DOI 10.1093/ml/gct118.


6. Lim, L (2012): `Patterns of Ecstasy', Darmstädter Beiträge zur Neuen Musik, 21, 27-43.

Related grants and evidence of quality:

1. Grant: Major Festivals Initiative/Australia Council, AUD$600,000 (2008) Performances: July 31 to August 2 2008, Brisbane Festival; November 9-12 2008, Melbourne Festival; June 25-27 2009, Chekhov International Theatre Festival, Moscow; December 8 2009, Opera Bastille/Festival d'Automne à Paris; excerpts at 2008 Maerzmusik Berlinerfestspiele, Berlin

2. Grant: Ian Potter Cultural Trust, AUD$80,000 (2008-2009) Performances: July 9 2010, Bavarian Radio Orchestra, c. Lothar Zagrosek, Munich; November 25, 26, 27 2010, West Australian Symphony Orchestra, c. Paul Daniel, Perth; March 17 2012, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, c. Otto Tausk, Glasgow

3. Grants: Holland Festival, musikFabrik and Kunststiftung NRW commission, €18,000 (2011); ARD Musikwettbewerb, €5,000 (2010) Performances: June 8 2011, musikFabrik with Uri Caine (pianist) and Omar Ebrahim (baritone), c. André de Ridder, Holland Festival, Bimhuis, Amsterdam; June 25 2011, WDR Cologne

4. Grant: SWR/Donaueschinger Musiktage commission, £8,000 (2008) Performances: October 15 2010, SüdWestRundfunk Sinfonie Orchester, c. Rupert Huber, with Jeremias Schwarzer (recorder); November 9 2013, Orquestra Sinfónica do Porto Casa da Música

5. Grants: British Academy small grant, £1,000 (2011); John Fell Foundation, £1,000 (2011)

Details of the impact

The impact of Lim's research falls into three areas: (1) significant take-up of her compositional work in the classical music industry; (2) shifts in cultural policy in the German centre of Cologne, leading to greater opportunities for participation in the arts by youth and artists from disadvantaged ethnic groups; and (3) enrichment of Australian music education provision through understanding of ethical frameworks in Indigenous intercultural exchange.

Cultural impact and international reach

A number of high-calibre organisations have commissioned, produced, performed and documented Lim's compositional work since 2008. These include the Bavarian Radio Orchestra, rated among the top 10 orchestras in the world; the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, renowned for its work in contemporary music; and pre-eminent soloist ensembles the ELISION Ensemble and musikFabrik. Lim's compositional outputs have also engaged the general public through performances at prestigious festivals, including the 2011 Holland Festival, Amsterdam; the 2009 Festival d'Automne à Paris; the 2009 Chekhov International Theatre Festival, Moscow; the 2008 Maerzmusik Berlinerfestspiele; and the 2008 Melbourne and Brisbane Festivals. All of these have helped bring awareness of work informed by transcultural practice to a wide international audience [1]. During the past five years Lim's operatic work — nominated for a Robert Helpmann Award in 2009 and Winner of the 2012 Music Theatre Now Award — has been performed live for a total audience of around 6,500, her orchestral work for around 8,000 and her ensemble work for around 3,500.

Lim's work has also been the subject of a number of radio and TV broadcasts [2]. Since 2008 it has featured sixteen times on ABC Radio (Australia), three times on BBC Radio 3 and DeutschlandRadio and once each on SWR, Radio Bremen, WDR (Germany) ORF (Austria) and France Musique — a combined listenership of around 15m. Two documentaries about Lim's work, made in 2009 by Pandore TV/Festival d'Automne à Paris and Bayern-Alpha TV, were screened by the Mezzo channel (five broadcasts) and BR-Alpha (two) in 2011 and 2012, reaching an estimated total audience of around six million viewers. The Navigator has also been made available via the Institute of Musical Research's New Music Insights web resource.

International think-tank policy impact on youth and disadvantaged ethnic groups

As a result of her research, Lim was invited to be one of 13 founding members of the Akademie der Künste der Welt, an international think-tank focused on intercultural dialogue based in Cologne and officially launched in October 2012. General Secretary of the institution says: `Liza Lim has brought a broad range of perspectives from her Asian and Australian heritage and intercultural research which have contributed to the policy directions of the institution resulting in positive impact in the establishment of the international fellowship programme, the Youth academy (involving 11 young Cologne artists from diverse cultural communities) and the `open-call' project by which new opportunities have been established for communities of artists who have not traditionally had access to such funding. The Akademie receives ca. €1million euros annual funding of which more than half is devoted directly to project activities and support of artists'. [3] Extensive media coverage of the official opening included praise in Deutsche Welle for Lim's curatorial work: "The Australian-born composer was concerned... to find music that emphasises unity — music that says this cultural aspect is not only the foreign, the other, but also something that belongs to us. Musically at any rate, the Akademie has succeeded in bridging the gap." [4] Lim's specific contribution to the Akademie's framework policy discussion on transcultural exchange and Indigenous culture has led to wider participation from cultural/demographic groups that have typically not accessed funding from grant bodies in Cologne and Germany's North-Rhine-Westphalia region (population: 18m). Her curatorial work has directly brokered new partnerships between international and local artists and arts organisations in Cologne.

Benefit to Australian cultural practice and secondary education

Lim's work has contributed to shifting attitudes to Indigenous culture in Australia. Writing in 2012, Dr Timothy McKenry, a music researcher at Australian Catholic University, described her as "one of the first music practitioners to set out what can be described as an ethical framework to govern the interaction between Indigenous and non-Indigenous music and musicians". [5] Contemporary music writer Tim Rutherford Johnson, writing in Tempo in 2011, commented: "In enacting an understanding, expression and critique of global multi-cultural reality, this music reveals something of value to us all." [6]

This framework, which posits the need for collaboration as the basis for intercultural exchange, is at the heart of a resource kit, The Music of Liza Lim (Australian Music Centre, 2012), created for use within the music curriculum in Australia (upper secondary to A-levels). [7] The kit focuses on the work related to Australian Aboriginal culture, comprising background cultural information, score excerpts, audio and video materials, analyses and related composition exercises. The resource was used in the teaching of the Higher School Certificate/Victorian Certificate of Education curriculum in New South Wales and Victoria in 2012 and 2013, reaching 47% of A-level music students in New South Wales and 27% in Victoria (20% of the AMC's national school network overall). Kim Waldock, co-author of the Australian national curriculum implemented in 2013, said: "It is important to be able to provide students with an understanding of the music of their time. Liza Lim's music reflects not only her cultural and Australian roots but an understanding of how one's environment and life experiences will feed richly into the composition process, no matter who you are and what you do." [7]

Sources to corroborate the impact

  1. CEO, Australian Music Centre
  2. TV and radio broadcasts, 2008-2013 (specific details available)
  3. General Secretary, Akademie der Künste der Welt (reference available)
  4. Görtz, B (2012): `Kann Kunst Brücken bauern', Deutsche Welleücken-bauen/a-16339818
  5. McKenry, T (2012): `Probing the Boundaries',
  6. Rutherford Johnson, T (2011): `Patterns of Shimmer', Tempo 65 (259), 2-9
  7. Davis, J. (2013): Assessment of Education Resource, Australian Music Centre. (report with statistics provided)