How musical is Australia? A maverick's contemporary sound portrait of the fifth continent

Hollis Taylor*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Violinist/composer Jon Rose builds on How musical is man?, ethnomusicologist John Blacking's classic monograph on the Transvaal Venda people, with the question, ‘How musical is Australia?’. To answer his provocation, in 2002 Rose developed Australia Ad Lib, a website that advocates for a wide concept of what constitutes contemporary music praxis. The Ad Lib website coincides with a time when game-changing innovations to technology and society are on the threshold. Subsequent closure of the site prompts questions concerning the institutional theory of art, the politics of music vis-à-vis marginalised voices, and the perpetuation of cultural cringe. Underpinned by a series of multimedia pieces by Rose, the live show Pannikin features a selection of soloists from Australia Ad Lib—a practical outcome of the website and his research (including lost histories of Australian indigenous and colonial history that he reimagines and resurrects).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-389
Number of pages19
JournalContemporary Music Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2018


  • Australia Ad Lib
  • Cultural cringe
  • Jon Rose
  • Musicality
  • Pannikin


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