"But the thing about artists, and musicians, and dancers, and anyone within the arts is that we are – what are we? We’re creative. And what is creativity? It’s the capacity to invent. We have invented the most extraordinary things as a response to the pandemic. In some ways it’s been terrible, devastating, but there’s been resilience, and renewal, and resurgence, and it’s just been amazing." UNSW Art & Design Professor Anna Munster tells us what silver linings she has found in 2020.
Professor Anna Munster: Well, yeah, I guess this wasn’t the year to join a new choir, was it? [laughs]
Alex Siegers: Professor Anna Munster joined Collegium Musicum Choir at the start of 2020. And while it hasn’t been the year of music-making she anticipated, Professor Munster has still managed to find inspiration and joy in singing.
AM: I’m Anna Munster. I’m a professor in the Faculty – School of Art and Design at UNSW.
What led you to joining Collegium Musicum Choir?
AM:I took up music late in life – I’ve always loved it, because I’m a sound designer and so, of course, sound has always informed my practice – my artistic practice. And about 7 or 8 years ago I thought “I need some music in my life.” [laughs] And, so, I started, I did a few short courses and learnt very quickly that you couldn’t do theory without applying it. So, I thought, I’d better get an instrument. Then I thought, “Oh, do I buy a grand piano? Or do I just use my voice?” And so I decided to start using my voice. I hadn’t really ever sung before, and I discovered I absolutely loved it.
How will the impacts of 2020 affect your research?
AM: So, things have been very, very hard. I’m luckily - I’ve been in, you know, the university, and I’ve continued with my research and teaching but I’ve seen people struggling all around me and, you know, I’ve had my moments too. But the thing about artists, and musicians, and dancers, and anyone within the arts is that we are – what are we? We’re creative. And what is creativity? It’s the capacity to invent. We have invented the most extraordinary things as a response to the pandemic. In some ways it’s been terrible, devastating, but there’s been resilience, and renewal, and resurgence, and it’s just been amazing.
What do you enjoy about having a choir on campus at UNSW?
AM: Well, yeah, I guess this wasn’t the year to join a new choir, was it? So, I joined, you know, at the beginning of Term 1 in 2020 only to leave campus 5 weeks later, which was just so disappointing because I just loved being in a large choir. I mean, it was just great. I mean, the feeling is incredible, it's so exhilarating.
How have you adjusted to reheasing online?
AM: The capacity to come back on in Term 2, in the kind of onscreen space, while, in some ways, you know, that’s not the same and it doesn’t replace being together, and, you know, the physical thing of singing with other people, which is, you know, the whole point of singing. Nonetheless, I think the things that have been really positive about it is that I’ve actually gotten to know people in other sections that I wouldn’t – you know choir sections – that I wouldn’t have gotten to know, because people get a bit ‘sectional’ in choirs. And, so, it’s lovely to actually get a whole gamut of people with their voices.
AM: Of course, you know, as everybody knows, singing over Zoom is not ‘singing’. But - and somebody’s got to solve that network lag problem at some point in time – but I take it as a real tool for rehearsing. So, it’s about really learning you part and having the space to actually practise and practise the part. You can’t rely on other voices and I think that’s really, really good cause it makes you stronger, it makes your singing stronger. You have to know your – know your part well. So, I think those things have been – it’s just a different aspect of music making and singing and I think, it’s not bad to be put into a situation where you have to learn those things.