Des Cowley

Des Cowley
Des Cowley is Principal Librarian at State Library Victoria. He is co-curator of the Library’s permanent exhibition World of the Book and co-author of The World of the Book, published by Melbourne University Press in 2007.

2015 Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues

ABR Arts 09 November 2015
2015 Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues
This year's Wangaratta Festival delivered two outstanding performances of extended works composed for large ensembles: Dave Douglas's suite Fabliaux and Lloyd Swanton's Ambon, inspired by his uncle's experiences as a prisoner of war from 1942–45. American trumpeter Dave Douglas has been a leading figure in jazz since the early 1990s, when he first rose to prominence as a member of John Zorn's M ... (read more)

Des Cowley reviews 'Life'

October 2015, no. 375 10 September 2015
It is tempting to draw parallels between Anton Corbijn’s Life and the director’s own personal history, in particular his series of striking 1979 black-and-white photographs of UK band Joy Division. The Dutch photographer, upon hearing the band’s first album, Unknown Pleasures, was convinced something great was in the offing, and set out for England intent on capturing the band with his camer ... (read more)

2015 Melbourne International Jazz Festival (part two)

ABR Arts 12 June 2015
Wednesday, 3 June It is a clear sign of a strong festival program when you find yourself wracked with indecision about what to see. Fact is, on this night, I was spoilt for choice. On offer was the première of Paul Grabowsky’s multi-part suite Nyilipidgi, performed by the Monash Art Ensemble, the Australian Art Orchestra, and the Young Wagilak Group from South East Arnhem Land. Previous colla ... (read more)

2015 Melbourne International Jazz Festival (part one)

ABR Arts 04 June 2015
Thursday, 28 May It was certainly a canny move to snare Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea for the opening night concert of the 2015 Melbourne International Jazz Festival. Few people interested in music, let alone jazz, would be unfamiliar with these names. Now in their mid-seventies – though both looking sprightly for their age – they have, between them, clocked up more than a century of music- ... (read more)

Des Cowley reviews 'Possibilities' by Herbie Hancock

May 2015, no. 371 29 April 2015
Des Cowley reviews 'Possibilities' by Herbie Hancock
In the opening pages of his memoir, Herbie Hancock recounts an onstage episode in Stockholm in the mid-1960s, when he was playing with Miles Davis. In a few brief paragraphs, he sums up Davis’s genius as only a musician deeply conversant with his music could. It is this sort of privileged entrée into Hancock’s musical world that makes Possibilities a worthy addition to jazz literature. ... (read more)

Des Cowley reviews 'After Naptime' by Chris Edwards

April 2015, no. 370 30 March 2015
Des Cowley reviews 'After Naptime' by Chris Edwards
Chris Edwards is an enigmatic presence in Australian poetry. Part of a generation of poets who came of age in the 1970s, he co-edited the short-lived Beyond Poetry (1974–76) but then abandoned publication for many years. With the onset of a new millennium, he unexpectedly re-emerged, publishing a series of chapbooks that culminated in his first full-length collection, People of Earth (2011). If ... (read more)

Des Cowley reviews 'Axis, Book 1' by a.j. carruthers

March 2015, no. 369 02 March 2015
Des Cowley reviews 'Axis, Book 1' by a.j. carruthers
With Axis, his first full-length publication, a.j. carruthers explicitly aligns himself with the lineage of the long poem. It is a bold move, if we consider that the major exponents of the form, from Ezra Pound to Anne Waldman, had invariably produced significant bodies of work prior to embarking on their poetic marathons. But ambition is fundamental to the long poem, and Axis, comprising thirty-o ... (read more)

2014 Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival

ABR Arts 10 November 2014
2014 Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival
There was a genuinely celebratory air to this year’s Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival, and why not, given that the Festival was marking its twenty-fifth birthday. When the city first hit upon jazz as the basis for a festival back in 1989 – a somewhat arbitrary decision, based on the fact that most other musical forms had already been snapped up – few could have predicted it would attain th ... (read more)

Des Cowley reviews 'Australian Poetry Journal', vol. 3 no. 2 edited by Bronwyn Lea

June–July 2014, no. 362 01 June 2014
Des Cowley reviews 'Australian Poetry Journal', vol. 3 no. 2 edited by Bronwyn Lea
My first encounter with concrete poetry came via Apollinaire’s Calligrammes (1918), specifically his eye-catching poem ‘Il Pleut’. With its gently cascading words falling down the page, it was immediately clear that the typographic arrangement of the poem was of far greater import than its semantic content. Although the term was not coined until the 1950s, concrete poetry draws upon traditi ... (read more)
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