Nardi Simpson and the Henrion piano at the ANU School of Music. Photo: Jamie Kidston

Nardi Simpson and the Henrion piano at the ANU School of Music. Photo: Jamie Kidston

Striking a new chord

Evana Ho reports on how Indigenous composers are confronting Australia’s colonial past with an antique piano.

In one corner of the ANU School of Music sits an unassuming piano. At around 250- years-old, the Henrion square piano is the oldest keyboard in the School of Music’s collection.  

The Henrion is the centrepiece of a new project coinciding with the 250th anniversary of James Cook's landing in Australia and led by Keyboard Institute manager Dr Scott Davie. It was deliberately chosen for its age, and to mark the beginning of Australia’s colonisation. 

“This skilfully crafted instrument is a product of a distant culture,” Dr Davie says.  

“To think of it being made as Captain Cook first explored this land seems weirdly anachronistic. Yet, it still works, is still capable of making music, which I think is extraordinary.”