Jessica Horton B. Music ’19 was part of a composition class that jointly submitted a piece to the National Australia Day Council for the music that would play during the presentations of the 2020 awards.
She imagined winning one of these awards and thought about what music would be playing behind her as she walked to the stage.
Jess imagined winning one of these awards and thought about what music would be playing behind her as she walked to the stage. She came up with an individual musical idea that she couldn’t let go of. She put it forward, and her initiative paid off: her composition forms the basis of the music that was played at the state and territory ceremonies and for the accompanying promotions.
You’ve said before that your piece is sort of like “Enya meets Oscars”. Can you tell me the different components of the piece and describe how it sounds?
J: It starts with the strings, then maybe about 30 seconds into the piece, the voice – which is me singing – becomes a little bit more prominent. So its joyful, strong, and almost a bit proud I guess. There’s a bit which goes,
‘Heya-heya-heyyyya’, and I think that ascending voice is singing praise to the hard work and all the effort that has gone into what the awardees have accomplished.
It has quite a strong finish. It’s very proud, triumphant, and then there’s almost like a fist pump in the end. Like at the end of the Lion King theme, with a ‘Duumph’ at the end.
Did you compose your piece on the piano, or was it done entirely on the computer? Take me through the process of making it!
J: I started by doing research. I went onto YouTube and listened to a variety of different award music to get a feel for what is generally played at those kinds of events. However there wasn’t a whole lot aside from stuff from the Oscars and Grammys, which is very orchestral and probably a little too Hollywood for what the Council wanted.
Then I sat down at the piano and played with different progressions until I found something that fit and felt uplifting.
I played it on the piano, and then sang different melodies over that until I found something that worked. From there I moved to using Logic on the computer and wrote in string parts and other things to try to fill it out, and went from there.
After your piece was chosen as the basis for the theme music, how long did it take to put together the final version?
J: I think we really only had two weeks to get it all together. My composition teacher Professor Frank Millward and Head of the School of Music Associate Professor Kim Cunio oversaw the project. I would send them drafts and they would give pointers on what they thought the Council wanted.
We were in the studio really quickly with Matt Barnes as our sound engineer. Then it was a matter of being able to find time with Kim, Frank, and Craig Greening – who did the mixing and mastering of the piece.
How do you feel about the final version?
J: I love the piece - I’m very proud of it. To work under pressure and have those re-writes, to work in the studio and be in the studio and then mixing and mastering – it was just an overall really incredible experience. I’m happy that the final piece we created does justice to the people who are receiving the awards.
Making the glass trophies
For Cathy Newton, working on the Australian of the Year Awards trophies has been a privilege – but also incurred its share of blood, sweat and tears.
Cathy, an alumna of the ANU Glass Workshop, has been the production manager for the awards for the past three years, as well as contributing to their design and production.
“It represents the bringing together of the Australian states and territories and tying in closely with the Australian flag, adding another layer of meaning to the 2020 awards,” Cathy says.
This year’s production team included former head of the Glass Workshop Associate Professor Richard Whiteley, technical officer Sean Booth, student Nyx Stone and alumnus Yusuke Takemura.
Cathy says: “One of the best moments with the awards production is seeing the recipient’s reaction when they are first handed their awards, and the knowledge that I have played a part in acknowledging these great Australians.”
This year’s awards include the star of Federation, which represents the bringing together of the Australian states and territories and tying in closely with the Australian flag, adding another layer of meaning to the 2020 awards.
"I feel very privileged to be a part of this exciting project. Each year I have worked with different students and staff from ANU and AOTY council. It has been great to be part of such a diverse team, working through ideas and systems to deliver a trophy, the physical acknowledgement of the great, inspiring work done by Australians.
"One of the best moments with the awards production is seeing the recipient’s reaction when they are first handed their awards, and the knowledge that I have played a part in acknowledging these great Australians."