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Winter 2013 Issue
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Melding music and words

Growing up in Adelaide Anna Goldsworthy was convinced she would have to make a painful choice - music or writing.

She was struggling with the notion that it was "possibly wrong" to commit her life to both her passions, it had to be one or the other.

"Being a concert pianist is demanding and you have to be absolutely committed to your instrument and the discipline," she said. "Then I just gave up trying to decide. I realised I needed both because each nourished and inspired me. I tried to find a way to make it work."

Anyone following Dr Goldsworthy's career knows she succeeded - and at the highest level.

An award-winning classical pianist and writer, Dr Goldsworthy's creative endeavours successfully straddle both music and literature.

But her talents were effectively lost to Adelaide until the University of Adelaide took the unusual step of establishing the J.M. Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice - a cultural hub of intellectual excellence which aims to dissolve barriers separating the two disciplines.

It was a creative opportunity Dr Goldsworthy couldn't resist and she returned to Adelaide after a 17-year absence to take up a two-year position as Research Fellow at the centre.

"When this popped up I found it quite bizarre because the two practices don't normally go together - and this was all happening in my home town," she said.

Her return has allowed Dr Goldsworthy to renew work with her great friend, teacher and mentor Eleonora Sivan, the Russian migrant pianist who taught at the Elder Conservatorium.

Ms Sivan has her own idiosyncratic and poetic way of describing music, an approach which inspired Dr Goldsworthy's award-winning memoir Piano Lessons and also Maestro, the book which won great acclaim for her father, Peter Goldsworthy.

Both books have been adapted as plays with Anna Goldsworthy taking to the stage as piano soloist and to perform her own words when Piano Lessons tours

Queensland in July. It's the perfect medium for her to express that intersection between literature and music.

Dr Goldsworthy's research at the Coetzee centre takes the form of creative practice and she has multiple projects underway involving both her chosen disciplines.

During 2013 she is performing in the Seraphim Trio Series under the umbrella of the centre at Elder Hall. She takes full advantage of the concert performances to introduce the spoken word to engage the audience.

"My own personal belief as a classical musician is that you have to be not just an advocate for your music but also to some extent an evangelist," she said. "That sounds a bit fanatical but I do feel a strong ambassadorial responsibility to classical music."

Dr Goldsworthy is also co-ordinating a colloquium called Last Words with composer Andrew Ford in October, a libretto for Victorian Opera's new production The Magic Pudding and is directing the Port Fairy Spring Music Festival.

On the writing side she is assisting with the planning of the 2014 J.M. Coetzee Symposium under the auspices of the J.M. Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice, releasing a new memoir Welcome to Your New Life and has just finished a major Quarterly Essay on misogyny, for Black Inc.

She has also just started work on a new Chopin project and is setting herself the challenging goal of conveying musical thought in words.

"What I'm seeking to do is find a way of mapping through language the physical experience of playing Chopin," she said. "I'll be trying to find a language which is musical as well as physical - a sort of choreography of the hand.

"I'm not yet sure whether we'll be focusing on a particular musical text such as the Chopin Études or whether it will be a general survey of his music and aspects of his pianistic approach."

Dr Goldsworthy said there may also be an opportunity to record a CD.

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