Over a varied career spanning two New World countries and over 40 years, composer, scholar, writer, and broadcaster Vincent Plush has pursued his passion for ideas
in music, reflected in his writings, lectures, performances, pursuits, enthusiasm, tangents and hunches and, most of all, in his music. This passion emanated from his student days at the University of Adelaide, then passed to his decade in Sydney, where he worked for the ABC and taught at the Sydney Conservatorium and other institutions. In 1976, he founded the Seymour Group at Sydney University, which was the longest surviving contemporary music ensemble in Australia. From 1981-99, he was based in North America, principally in the USA, living in some fifteen cities, notably Orlando, Colorado Springs, Charleston S.C. and Seattle. During these year he taught at several institutions, all the while composing, researching and working in broadcasting and journalism. During that time, he oversaw the Australian musical presence in North America during the Australian Bicentennial year 1988 and at the Atlanta Cultural Olympiad in 1996.
Much of Plush's music is animated by his interests in the byways of music history, shared elements in Australian and American histories in particular. Many of his over 200 compositions are couched in terms of historical figures and events. His first orchestral work, Pacifica, premiered by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, elicited the comment from composer Gyorgy Ligeti that in time Pacifica will be seen as one of the most important orchestral works of the late 20th century. Pacifica has now been performed over 20 times by some of the finest orchestras in Europe and North America. Thus far, the composer himself has conducted the work only once, with the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra when conductor Eduardo Mata was unable to appear at the eleventh hour. In 1986, after a performance of his ensemble piece On Shooting Stars in New York, writer and New York Times critic John Rockwell described Plush as possibly one of the most interesting composers and musical figures of his generation, anywhere.
In February 1999, Plush made his first visit to London, creating music for the Commonwealth Institute’s Symphony ’21
, performed by several hundred musicians from many Commonwealth countries, directed by fellow Australian Geoffrey Simon, before an audience which included H.M. the Queen and H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh. Returning to Australia several weeks later, he became the MacGeorge Professor
at the University of Melbourne
, delivering the Annual Grainger Lecture in May 1999, which subsequently became the ABC radio series, Grainger in America
. He then created a large-scale community work for Mackay at the first of the Queensland Biennial Festivals of Music. Deciding to remain in Australia, he was initially based in Lismore for several months as Visiting Professor at Southern Cross University, before moving to Brisbane in August 2000.
In Brisbane, Plush pursued an array of activities for several years. In addition to teaching and organizing special events at the Queensland Conservatorium of Griffith University in Brisbane, he was the on-air voice of ABC Classic FM broadcasts, as well as the Brisbane music commentator for several publications, including The Australian and limelight, and the Australian correspondent for several international publications, including Gramophone, Japan Times and the Washington Post. In July 2002, he directed the Mini^Max festival of post-Minimalism at the Brisbane Powerhouse, and in September 2004 produced the Voices series of Australian music concerts for the Brisbane Writers Festival, an enterprise for which he was given the Most Significant Contribution by an Individual at the 2005 APRA-AMC Awards.
In February 2007, Vincent Plush moved to Canberra to take a newly-created position as Manager of the Recorded Sound branch of the National Film and Sound Archive. In creating and producing events for the NFSA, he has initiated or renewed contact with many of the leading figures in the Australian film and sound industries [pictured at the opening of the NFSA's Arc cinema in August 2007 with director Rolf de Heer, a former student of his at the Australian Film, Radio and Television School]. In December 2008, he became the
Head of National Cultural Programmes at the NFSA and subsequently its Director of Research and Development. Over some 18 months, he created a wide variety of ideas-driven events at the NFSA, notably The Voss Journey
, a four-day exploration of the cultural legacy of the novel by Patrick White which drew together an historic consortium of fifteen national institutions.
In coming years, Vincent Plush plans to focus more on personal creative projects, writing music and words (he has written several librettos and plays) and further research into aspects of Australian musical heritage.