On the Couch with Anne Cawrse

Anne-Cawrse-On-the-CouchWho is Anne Cawrse?
I’m a composer of chamber, choral and orchestral music. I grew up in Freeling, a small farming town north of Gawler, but since my student days, I have lived in Adelaide. I’m wife to Andrew, mother to Oscar, and when I’m not composing, I teach composition and theory at the Elder Conservatorium of Music in Adelaide.

What would you do differently from what you do now?
I really can’t imagine doing anything else, to be honest. I never seriously considered following any other path, and through a lucky combination of encouragement, mentorship and opportunity, wound up combining composition with music teaching. The ratios between the two are forever changing, which certainly provides challenges, but a great deal of diversity as well. I can’t imagine doing the same thing in the same place every day! If I could do what I do now but get there in a slightly different way, I would encourage my younger self to take a few more risks and back myself more.

Who inspires you and why?
Anyone in the arts – especially music – who demonstrates excellence in their field, operates with integrity, humility and grace, and who stubbornly and whole heartedly believes in the power of art to inspire, move, challenge and provoke.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
I’d love to know that music I had written, lessons I’d taught, and conversations I’d had with others had offered moments of clarity, insight and comfort.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
I don’t have a favourite destination as such, though one of my most memorable and enjoyable holidays was hiking in the Grampians, followed by camping in Lorne and driving home via the Great Ocean Road. Good food and wine, good company, fresh air and a change of scenery really cannot be beat.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
Brunch at the Adelaide Central Markets, followed by a browse, a shop, coffee, and cheese tasting. Then we’d go for a drive to either the Barossa Valley or McLaren Vale to visit some of my favourite wineries. Hopefully they’d be here for at least two days so we could go to both!

What are you currently reading?
Clara by Janice Galloway. It’s a retelling of the life of composer and pianist Clara Schumann. Whilst it reads as fiction, it is thoroughly researched, and Galloway regularly quotes Clara and her husband Robert through text from letters and diary entries. Its portrayal of an exceptionally talented woman composer in the early part of the 19th century is illuminating, inspirational, and at times heartbreaking.

What are you currently listening to?
I’m working on a new piece for the Benaud Trio, Songs Without Words – which responds to the music of and relationship between brother and sister composers Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn, so I’ve been listening to their respective piano trios and solo piano works. Non work-related listening varies immensely – this morning, I listened to my friend and colleague Mark Simeon Ferguson’s latest album, Songs from an Imperfect World, while cooking breakfast for my family.

Happiness is?
Sun on my face; seaside breezes; good coffee; walking whilst holding hands with my beloved; playing board games and reading with my son; experiencing thought provoking and moving music and theatre; sharing a meal with people I care about.

What does the future hold for you?
There’s plenty of music to be written, and I’ll be releasing an album of original works for String Quartet some time next year. All the things that got cancelled this year will hopefully go ahead, so the scores that currently sit on my desk in a weird, as-yet-unperformed limbo will finally make it out into the world. Other than that, I hope to stay curious, keep learning, and have opportunities to work with like-minded performers and artists to make a solid, meaningful investment in Australia’s classical and new music culture.


Anne’s new work, A Room of Her Own’ will receive its world premiere by the Australian String Quartet at Elder Hall, Adelaide on Saturday 17 October 2020. For more information, visit: www.asq.com.au or www.annecawrse.com for details.

Image: Anne Cawrse (supplied)

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