Musical mavericks : the work of Roy Agnew and Hooper Brewster-Jones as an Australian counterpart to European modern music 1906-1949 / Kate Bowan Bowan, Kate

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Bowan, Kate
Agnew, Roy E. (Roy Ewing), 1893-1944; Music - Australia - 20th century - History and criticism.; Brewster-Jones, Hooper, 1887-1949
In 1920 the Lone Hand reported that Sydney composer Roy Agnew (1891-1944) had “after much anxious consideration been forced to abandon the limitations of key and tonal relationship.” For this transgression, he was branded, among other things, a musical Bolshevik. Three years later in Adelaide, Hooper Brewster-Jones (1887-1949) wrote the first of his “formula” pieces which are part of a larger body of works that experiment with various aspects of musical language. In this thesis, I will argue that together certain works of these two isolated composers constitute an instance of what is known in conventional music history terms as “progressive” or “innovative” music. As such it can be seen as part of the wider international scene concerned with developing new means of musical expression at this time. This significant fact has been overlooked by musicologists and historians dealing with this interwar period, long dismissed as stagnant, producing only second-rate work: a pale imitation of British pastoralism and “light” salon music. This study seeks to revise that longaccepted story and show that there was an Australian musical intelligentsia in the early decades of last century. Drawing from a wide array of primary sources, including contemporary newspapers, journals, letters, memoirs, unpublished music manuscripts and other archival material, I will first, through analysis of selected works, demonstrate how the music fits into a broader international framework, then, using biography as a lens, reconstruct their worlds in Sydney, Adelaide and London, describing networks and important relationships that provide a context for this music, and finally examine aspects of the two composers’ public output such as performance, radio broadcasts and newspaper criticism that strengthen the picture of these two composers as individuals who enthusiastically engaged with international modernism. Central themes that emerge to underpin the study of these two figures are: the relationship between exoticism, occultism and modernism (demonstrating that exoticism and occultism were driving forces behind the development of early modernism); exoticism as a process by which that from the outside is brought into and reinterpreted for the local and particular; an interpretation of the diverse meanings and uses of that much-contested term modernism; and the broad informal network of dissemination, communication and bi-directional influence offered by the transnational British world and direct engagement with America and Europe.
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