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Des Cowley

Des Cowley

Des Cowley is former Principal Librarian at State Library Victoria, and author of The World of the Book, published by Melbourne University Press in 2007. He regularly publishes on music for Australian Book Review, Rhythms, Dingo, and other journals.

Des Cowley reviews 'The Anthology of Australian Prose Poetry' edited by Cassandra Atherton and Paul Hetherington

December 2020, no. 427 25 November 2020
What is it about English language poetry that has proved so resistant to the lure of the prose poem? The French, it appears, held no such qualms, finding themselves besotted with the form ever since Aloysius Bertrand and Charles Baudelaire began dispensing with line breaks and stanzas. Of course, the very existence of English-language works like Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons (1914) or William ... (read more)

Leaf and Shadow (Australian Art Orchestra)

ABR Arts 24 September 2019
This year the Australian Art Orchestra (AAO) celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary. Originally conceived as a jazz ensemble, it has developed – first under the visionary leadership of founder Paul Grabowsky, and now under artistic director Peter Knight – into one of the country’s leading new music ensembles. Leaf and Shadow inaugurates the AAO’s Meeting Point Series 2019–20, a cycle o ... (read more)

2019 Melbourne International Jazz Festival

ABR Arts 12 June 2019
In 1959, Miles Davis entered Columbia’s 30th Street Studio in New York, with his sextet, and recorded what many consider to be the greatest jazz album of all time: Kind of Blue. It was an inspired idea to program a performance of this music, in celebration of the album’s sixtieth anniversary, at the twenty-second Melbourne International Jazz Festival (MIJF). And yet, it begged the question: ho ... (read more)

The 2019 Stonnington Jazz Festival

ABR Arts 21 May 2019
It was a bold move by Stonnington Jazz to program an all-female/non-binary performance for the Festival’s opening concert: War Cry. Jazz, like much else, has come in for its fair share of criticism in the #MeToo era, its historical icons – bar a few exceptions – made up mostly of male musicians. The issue was highlighted during the recent International Jazz Day Global Concert held in Melbour ... (read more)

Cold War

ABR Arts 20 December 2018
Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War picked up a slew of prizes at the recent European Film Awards, and is already being talked about as a major contender for this year’s Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, a prize he won with his previous film, Ida (2015). The Cold War from which the film takes its title lasted the best part of half a century and impacted upon the lives of ... (read more)

2018 Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues

ABR Arts 12 November 2018
Now in its twenty-ninth year, the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues continues to deliver programming that is innovative, ambitious, and far-reaching. That a long-running Festival of this scale and significance takes place annually in a regional Victorian city says much about the tenacity and dedication of the Festival’s artistic team, its board, its many volunteers and supporters, and the ge ... (read more)

Kites of Tianjin (fortyfivedownstairs)

ABR Arts 01 August 2018
The Kites of Tianjin was the fifth and final set of performances by composer and multi-instrumentalist Adam Simmons in his series The Usefulness of Art, inaugurated back in March 2017 with Concerto for Piano and Toy Band. It has proven to be an ambitious cycle, with each concert unveiling a recent or newly composed work, written specifically for a large ensemble. In composing these new works, Sim ... (read more)

2018 Melbourne International Jazz Festival

ABR Arts 14 June 2018
One of the key issues addressed by the twenty-first Melbourne International Jazz Festival (MIJF) is the role of women in jazz. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, there has been much debate around gender equality in jazz, including inevitable references to jazz as a ‘boys’ club’. While there has never been a shortage, historically, of renowned female singers, it is sadly the case that most o ... (read more)

The Calling (fortyfivedownstairs)

ABR Arts 07 May 2018
The Calling is the fourth in a series of five large-scale concerts, each featuring a different ensemble, being performed at fortyfivedownstairs by multi-instrumentalist and composer Adam Simmons throughout 2017–18. The overarching title of the series, ‘The Usefulness of Art’, is inspired by a quote from sculptor Auguste Rodin: ‘I call useful all that gives happiness.’ In an age when the ... (read more)

Travelling Tales (fortyfivedownstairs)

ABR Arts 11 December 2017
Travelling Tales is the third instalment in a series of five concerts, entitled ‘The Usefulness of Art’, by multi-instrumentalist Adam Simmons, all taking place at fortyfivedownstairs. The first, Concerto for Piano and Toy Band, was performed in March this year, and the second, The Usefulness of Art, in August. The final two instalments are scheduled for May and July 2018. Travelling Tales wa ... (read more)
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