Head of the University of Newcastle’s School of Creative Arts, Professor Frank Millward, presented Transformations: the Creative Arts and Technology as part of the New Professors Talk public lecture series on 28 May 2014.
Professor Millward answers our questions this week, including how he became involved in creative and performing arts and where he sees the future for artists.
Tell us about your background, including what drew you into music and the creative arts?
I grew up in the northern suburbs of Brisbane. As a youngster my father inspired me to learn and recite poems form memory. The first poem I learnt was The Leap of Roushan Beg by Henry Longfellow. It is a classic Victorian style epic poem with a galloping rhythm and rhyming couplets, like The Man From Snowy River in form.
I think that was where it started – I developed an appreciation for rhythm and the spoken word performance and went on to sing and recite poems in Eisteddfods. I also learned the piano and played the cornet in the school brass band.
In grade eight I started a band playing the cornet with a piano player, a trombonist and a drummer. We did Herb Alpert covers. I got a lot of ‘rubbishing’ for not being ‘groovy’. Herb Alpert was not cool at the time of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, so I decided to teach myself to play the guitar. Eventually I made a bass guitar – I was interested in how the electronics worked. Later I joined a band called The Purple Haze doing Jimmy Hendrix, Cream and Kinks covers – we got into the finals of the Brisbane Hoadley’s Battle of the Bands and played Festival Hall – by fourteen my future had been set in place – main interests: how things perform – technology – sound.
[For a full list of Frank’s works, click here. ]
What are you passionate about? Can others in the community get involved? How?
I continue to develop large scale outdoor site specific events – Happenings – celebrations about a place or a site – engaging people in representing and sharing their collective memories. People in Newcastle have mentioned the Pasha Bulka to me on a number of occasions now – that is a very strong image in the collective memory of this community. I am currently taken with ideas around Landscape and Memory. In the future I definitely will be doing projects where I will ask people to get involved in collaborative large scale site specific projects.
Do you draw on any people or resources for inspiration?
When I was younger I found Charles Ives to be an inspiration – I went to America in search of the spirit of the transcendentalists – Hawthorne, Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman ….. for me Ives was the great musical visionary of 20th century sonic modernism. Since then I have had an endless line of inspirational artists and innovators – Miles Davis – Francis Ford Coppola – Dali – Puccini – Quincy Jones – Charlie Parker – Yo-Yo Ma – Bobby McFerrin – John Lennon – John Cage – Duchamp ……
What does the future hold?
I think the future will continue to challenge the creative artist to be more pragmatically self sufficient. At the same time society will go on making demands on the artist to imagine or dream new ways of looking at the world.
Artists are now as much involved in transforming media technologies as technologies are in transforming art practices. Mobility is driving the agenda at the moment. The future presents as an environment dominated by intergrated interactive computer interfaces which take care of us – sort of like in the film HER. Narratives that predict a possible future are dreams with very short life span. Alvin Toffler on the other hand has proved that describing yourself as a ’futurist’ will always have a future!
Can you name a local hero?
Best place to getaway to?
I love to make work in my studio. It is a great place to getaway and find solace and peace.
Your #1 Newcastle insiders tip?
G&G Gelato at 67 Hunter St sells the best ice cream in the world – well, outside of Italy.