The inaugural Adelaide French Festival is not only an opportunity for audiences to develop a greater understanding of French culture; the Zephyr Quartet’s show, 'Art Stories', is a chance to delve into a lesser known chapter in Australia’s early history: Nicolas Baudin’s voyage from Napoleonic France to a continent then known as New Holland.
Jennifer Greer Holmes, the Creative Producer for the acclaimed and innovative quartet, discusses the contemporary relevance of this nautical tale.
What can audiences expect from Zephyr Quartet’s show at the inaugural French Festival?
It’s a really interesting project, the show that’s going to be at the inaugural French Festival is a conversation [bookended by music] about the work that we’re going to be making for the next French Festival.
Throughout the Baudin expedition, the crew took musical notations of Indigenous ceremonies that they encountered. To what extent will that material form the basis of the compositions of the show?
At this stage we’re not sure how much of the work that Baudin’s musicians and composers did will end up in the show. What we know is that we’ll be using that work and those ideas as a starting point for new compositions. We’re really passionate about making new music and we do that in a range of ways. What we’ve got from the music of the voyage and the notations that the musicians took throughout Australia and the rest of the world is the basis for a new concert and a new series of compositions. We’ve got digital versions of the original scores. I was fortunate enough to be able to visit the Le Havre Museum in France and speak to the people who curate and look after the scores.
There is a discussion or debate that has emerged regarding the Baudin voyage regarding the tangible difference between the French and British interactions with Indigenous people and native fauna. What are your thoughts on that question of whether history could have potentially turned out differently?
Some of the conversations that we’ve been having have certainly caused us to ask that question. The way the French approached coming to Australia and engaging with the people who already here was very different. It appears as though, through the conversations that we’ve had with historians and people involved at the Maritime Museum that they were far more respectful of the culture and were very interested in the cultural exchange, which is where the working title of our project: Exchange. It’s that idea that music can transcend language that we’re really interested in and which for us makes it an interesting contemporary story. We’re very passionate about telling contemporary Australian stories, so to do a project about a voyage that took place almost 220 years ago, it had to be relevant now. We feel that now is a really good time to remind Australian and global audiences that using music for cultural exchange and as a way of peaceful interactions with people who don’t perhaps share the same culture is really timely.
What panellists do you have participating in the forum?
We’ve got a couple of academics and someone from the Maritime Museum, myself representing the quartet and facilitating the event is Chris Drummond who is from Brink Productions.