February 2 - 8, 2020: Issue 436


Kirsten Milenko

Website: www.kirstenmilenko.com
Soundcloud:  soundcloud.com/kirstenmilenko
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/kirstenmilenko

Kirsten Milenko is an Australian composer based in Copenhagen, Denmark. Milenko works with vocal, instrumental and electronic media to express music as environmental phenomena. Working intimately with movement, her music embodies a constant synergy between sound and motion to capture perceptions of space. 

In December 2017, her single ‘Ex Aere’ released on Spotify, Bandcamp and iTunes. 

Samples of her works feature as the Pittwater Online February 2020 Artist of the MonthHer debut album ‘Caeli’ is scheduled for release on February 22nd, 2020 - so there will be more to come.

Album cover for  ‘Caeli’ - image by Kirsten Milenko

As a graduate from Barrenjoey High School, and a University of New South Wales and Sydney Conservatorium student, Kirsten has allowed herself to evolve, to let her nature and interests coalesce to produce sounds that allow you to immerse yourself and be lifted. Born in 1993, her current studies at the Royal Danish Academy of Music under Niels Rosing-Schow and Simon Løffler, mean she will graduate from the Master’s programme in 2020. 

From her previous studies, she was awarded the 2015 Ignaz Friedman Memorial Prize from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music where she studied under Liza Lim, Natasha Anderson and Rosalind Page.  Premieres of Kirsten’s work have been given throughout Australia and Europe. Her music has received performances by ensembles and orchestras including: Danish National Vocal Ensemble, Esbjerg Ensemble, Scandinavian Guitar Duo, Ensemblage, E-Mex Ensemble, Judgement of Paris Quartet, Adelaide Wind Orchestra, Sydney Conservatorium of Music Wind Symphony, Modest Orchestra. 

On November 23rd 2019 her by the Symphony d'aere had its South Australian premiere and was one of the featured works performed by the Adelaide Wind Orchestra as part of their Australian Stories concert at the Concordia College Chapel. Violinist Jacqui Carias joined the AWO as guest performer in Symphony d’aere by Kirsten Milenko. This symphonic soundscape was debuted by the Sydney Conservatorium Wind Symphony in 2017, and is inspired by how the environment has been afflicted by humanity.

Kirsten has performed her own work as a pianist at venues such as: Staatsoper Hamburg - Opera Stabile, Associació Cultural Sa Taronja; and conductor at Verbrugghen Hall and the Royal Danish Academy of Music. 

In addition to her tertiary studies, she has attended composition and conducting masterclasses including:

  • Dartington International Summer School Advanced Composition with Sir Harrison Birtwistle (UK 2019)
  • International Masterclass for Orchestral Conductors with Professor Johannes Wildner and the Berlin Sinfonietta (Germany 2019)
  • Hatched Academy, Ensemble Offspring (Australia 2018)
  • Dartington International Summer School (UK 2018); the John Amis Award 
  • NORD+MIX Workshop (Lithuania 2018)
  • Conductor’s Workshop with Jessica Cottis and the Royal Philharmonic Society (UK 2017)
  • Conductor’s workshop with Mark Shiell and Melbourne Youth Orchestras (Australia 2017)
  • Synthetis International Summer School for Composition (Poland 2016) 

The potential that music holds to link an audience with both the seen and unseen worlds of human perception has been a fundamental point of focus since I first began composing. To present the unknown in a way that entices both curiosity and gentleness of the human spirit is an integral idea constantly present in my work. 

There is poetry between a musician and their instrument which has led to the creation of an ongoing collection entitled the ‘Artefact Series’ as a means of further exploring this dialogue. A series of etudes, sound and movement often hidden beneath broader structures are uncovered to show unique embodiments. Recently, compositions with light have been added to the series. 

I have long been interested in the architecture that music is capable of being. The interplay of movement and sound, both physical and perceived, in the definition of space is a recurring point of focus. -Kirsten Milenko

In 2019 Kirsten was selected for the Roche Young Commission 2021 by Wolfgang Rihm, Artistic Director of Lucerne Festival. The Roche Young Commissions series was established for the first time in 2013 as a new and unique form of cooperation between Roche, Lucerne Festival, and the Lucerne Festival Academy. Roche Young Commissions gives two young composers under the age of 30 the opportunity to write orchestral works every other year alternating with Roche Commissions.

This week, and to inspire all students who have just headed back to school, one of our own - who you possibly saw on the beach or the bush tracks this Summer, enjoying being home.

Where did you grow up?

I was at North Avalon during most of my younger years and then we moved to Newport.

What was the best part about growing up here?

It feels so free, I love all the nature and the coast, the waves, trees, forest. It feels very free compared to somewhere that’s more urban. 

While on nature - Karla the Koala – is that yours?

Yes it is, that’s my idea of a hobby; I started writing a series of books, the first one being ‘Karla the Koala’. I decide to look at different environments around Australia, there are so many (variations and kinds). It’s about this girl who wants to go adventuring, so she builds herself an aeroplane to get there and every book features a new location.

Karla the Koala is located on the North Shore of Sydney, the Mosman, Kirribilli area because there are some there in a zoo. I wanted to fly further north, up here, and then on to Queensland. 

That one is currently out of its run – is another print run scheduled?

I think so – the next couple of months it should be available again. You can buy it at Avalon and Warriewood at present.

Where did you go to school?

I went to Avalon Public School and then on to Barrenjoey High School.

What was attending BHS like?

It was nice, very relaxed. My parents wanted to send me to Queenwood, but I was doing a lot of ballet and music locally and so the time sitting on a bus travelling to and from school would have cut into those other interests and time available to practice, so it was better to study closer to home. 

The Music Program at Barrenjoey High School – was that productive for you?

Yes, it was. We had people who weren’t only Classical musicians; there were a lot of Jazz and Rhythmic musicians as well, so a great mix with a lot of opportunities for different perspectives. I was there when John Stone was leading the music program– so he had his eyes on lots of different musicians and genres and they hosted lots of music showcase nights at school and combined these with art galleries of students work. 

When did you first tweak that you had an interest in music?

Well, I actually tried to leave music three times but always came back to it. I started learning piano when I was 5 tried to leave around the age of 10 and again in year 9. I think it was about a week before I was back to it both times. I started practicing more and it stuck with me after that. I tried to leave it professionally (the third and final time) so it would be a hobby but then decided that wasn’t the best idea and so stuck with it. I practiced more than I was studying so it made sense to pursue music and properly dedicate my time to it.   

So, it’s in your nature, your make-up?

Yes, whether I like it or not it’s part of my life, of me.

Is there a family history of being involved in music?

Everyone on my dad’s side of the family played a musical instrument but no one is an actively professional musician. My mum learnt violin briefly as a kid. My parents listen to a lot of music and often took me to gigs when I was growing up which was really fun. I grew up going to a lot of classical concerts and ballet – which was really fun.

What made you choose to be a Composer, or did everything else just coalesce and you realised ‘I’m a Composer’?

I started learning classical piano and jazz at the same time. Around 14 or 15 I realised I couldn’t really be a fully-fledged professional classical pianist as my time was split already between jazz and classical disciplines. What was nice about this though was I had a technique from my classical training that doesn’t exist in jazz, just as there’s technique in jazz that doesn’t exist in classical. They came together and I started improvising and started squiggling down ideas and it gradually happened. I think I was about 16 when I wrote my first properly scored piece (as opposed to improvising). 

Some of your early pieces have a really ethereal sculptural quality, make the listener feel like they’re inside something beautiful musically – where did that come from?

I think a lot of the Nature around here has contributed to that, just this idea of being really immersed in something. For instance, if you stand up on the headland at Palm Beach, at Barrenjoey, and look out – you feel really saturated in the environment and yet have a sense of being in a vacuum at the same time [concurrent]. So I always had that thing, a sensation and impression that I was looking for and crept into my music. 

There’s one that commences with the sound of cicadas, ‘Enouement’, a natural sculptural symphony in itself, was that recorded around here?

Yes. There were a lot recorded around here as well as in the south of Spain a few years ago – there are similar sounds there, although not quite as loud as here.

Where did you study after leaving Barrenjoey High School?

I went to UNSW for three years to study International Relations and after my first year, transferred to a double degree (BMus/Arts) to study Piano Performance there as well. I did my first year in International Relations because I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do professionally at that time and it’s very interesting field to study. After studying there for three years, I realised that I wanted to specialise in composition – and so restarted my studies at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music majoring in Composition. I studied there for 2 and a half years before travelling to Denmark on what was a Foreign Exchange year… and never really came back. I was able to transfer graduate from the Sydney Con while abroad and stayed in Denmark to continue onto my Master’s degree. 

What was great about attending the Sydney Conservatorium of Music for you?

It’s such an immersive environment, you have some of the best musicians from all over the continent going there. In these places you can meet those focused solely on music. I think it’s really the same in any of the major Conservatoriums – Sydney, Melbourne, the Elder Conservatorium in Adelaide, Brisbane, etc. In these highly specialised institutions you have a diversity of people who are in one place to study a particular field – you just wouldn’t find them otherwise. 

On your visits home you have continued to work with people you met there?

Yes I have, which is really nice. I made some great personal and professional connections while studying there. You meet people who have a similar aesthetic or who have the same point of focus… the same ideas [about music] they want to get into.

You went to Copenhagen to Study in August 2017, to study at the Royal Danish Academy of Music, how did that eventuate?

I did a Summer School in Poland in 2016 – The Synthetis International Summer School of Composition, as a way of briefly having a look at what was going on in Europe. That led to meeting people from all over Europe and America, Japan, China, as well as some other Australians as well. I met some composers studying in Denmark – one was Swedish, one was American, and one was English – they were all studying in Copenhagen and had really interesting yet diverse work. I’d been to Denmark a few days beforehand prior to starting the course and really liked it there.

The composition course was held in an old palace outside of Warsaw, really beautiful.

Do you like Architecture as well as the architecture within music?

Yes, very much so. I had originally wanted to study Architecture straight out of High School but then changed my mind at the last minute. My parents had semi-jokingly said ‘don’t do an Arts Degree’… but that’s exactly what I did. (laughs)

You have worked hard since being in Copenhagen, as well as taken on any extra opportunity that came along – for example, the Summer School with Sir Harrison Birtwhistle, what was that like?

That was incredible. He’s an amazing teacher. He studied with Olivier Messiaen in Paris when Messiaen was doing some phenomenal work and has known the most incredible people during his career. He’s sort of this bridge between the old world and the new – he actually studied with Stravinsky as well (in Dartington).

His perception and feedback on all of our works was really insightful and productive, so for him to mentor us for during week was an incredible experience. We all arrived with new scores for this week-long workshop and he said, ‘so that’s great, but I want you to write new pieces.’ He gave us lessons during the week from the lessons he had learn with Messiaen which was really cool. 

We went into this big spiral of writing after that – it was great.

What did you write?

I wrote a string quartet that included trumpet in C – we had this incredible trumpet player there and I wanted to include her, to write for her. 

You have also delved into Chinese influences, undertaking a week’s intensive work with Chong Kee Yong, composer and professor, when he was visiting the Music Confucius Institute (MCI) at the Royal Danish Academy of Music (RDAM)?

Yes, that was Chong Kee Yong, a Malaysian Composer. He studied in Belgium and actually also had one of the same professors as me in Sydney, Liza Lim. That was a great week as well.

In Composing music you not only have to have a good knowledge of what each instrument can do, but where they come and go out – where did you learn how to do that?

The beginning was just learning from other people. I studied a lot of books but that’s not the same as actually talking to someone. Also watching rehearsals and seeing where in the phrases need rehearsing and focus when you’re in a large ensemble, and then watching a chamber ensemble by comparison, observing the same processes, but from a different perspective. This can be applied to any musical setting. 

You have a phenomenal body of work already. What were your influences [musically] growing up – who were your heroes?

The body of work is getting there, I’ve begun. Influences in terms of music; there were quite a few actually. 

When I was a small child my parents played lots of Chant music and Russian modes from not quite western classical music, and that was always in the back of my mind when working on a new piece. Our family name ‘Milenko’ is a White Russian name, originally from near Belarus or Moldova I think. As I grew up, I started listening to more Jazz; particularly Modal Jazz as well as Classical (Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert etc.). Then I discovered early 20th century music (Debussy, Satie, Ravel, etc.), when jazz was first emerging, and the hard boarders between the two weren’t set yet. Then mid-20th century works, where composers like Feldman were at times reflecting back to the rhythmic rhetoric of the Ars Subtilior Movement, for example, when melodies and rhythms became really complicated. At the time nobles some critics didn’t enjoy the new complexities so much. It took a few hundred years to come back to that. 

Really I’ve looked into as I much as possible, all over the place, but it really started with mid to late 20th century Jazz and 20th century Classical in particular.

There’s a video available of you conducting the Berlin Sinfonietta in 2019 – another great experience?

That was great – they were really cool. The video was taken during a Conductive intensive in Berlin, the International Masterclass for Orchestral Conductors with Professor Johannes Wildner, for a week. We applied and they then accepted I think 10 people, from around Europe, Mexico and Columbia, so a great international mix which was fun and made it a great experience. We worked on different Mozart symphonies. 

The Caeli Acousmatic album with Sylvie Woods and Jacques Emery. The word 'Caeli' comes from the latin 'caelum' meaning 'from heaven' as well as the Sculptor's Tool, or Chisel, a small southern constellation between Columba and Eridanus. Why did you choose that name?

It also means ‘air’ and ‘breath’ and ‘spirit’. The work is inspired by forests.

I find trees really amazing and wanted the work/s to inspire this sense of awe towards trees and forests and that sense of saturation when you’re deeply immersed in a forest – not just some small outpost of remnants that survived industrialisation, but a full forest experience. I wanted people to question what progress really means; is it fine to continue razing down forests to build new things but not raze down and replace an old building that has been abandoned for 50 years and serves no purpose anymore. I’d been thinking about it – we put our own self before trees and Nature, and perhaps deny others, as a result, the opportunity to be immersed in a forest [and what that brings].

So what pieces are on this; you do Chamber music, Orchestral music, Chants, the full gamut is already there – what did you select for this album?

This is all samples from voice and double bass that are orchestrated and composed as musique concrète, inspired by forests. It’s a flow on from this work I did several years ago called ‘Ex Aere’ which was with Sylvie and Jaques, the same artists who will appear on this album. 

We premiered that work at Sydney Recital Hall during their Computer Music Festival as a way of bringing organic music into the computer music field. It’s often stereotyped as being very distant and cold, just digital… but it’s much more than that and very versatile. I wanted to show the organic side of the genre. 

You have worked with Sylvie for a while?

Yes I have, she’s really great – another person I met studying at the Con when she was majoring in Voice there. It’s nice to have those connections that keep going; you get on with each other personally and professionally and grow music.

Out of all the variations of music types you’re involved in, is there one you lean towards more than another – when you wake in the middle of the night is it chanting you’re hearing or an orchestra?

It depends – if I’ve been listening to orchestral music for a long time then my mind just starts composing for an orchestra. Other times it’s what else I’ve been soaking in that sort warps, disappears and becomes something new. It’s strange – but I’m glad I’m in this profession where I can have that outlet to express what comes, otherwise it would be pretty frustrating.

What do you do for downtime?

I just walk around, go for hikes and swims, and get inspired again. Hang out with friends, catch-ups – that sort of thing.

Where do you hope to be 10 years from now?

I’m not sure actually. It would be really nice to be composing and conducting and doing contemporary classical works with dance as well; it’s not too often that new music is written for new choreography, so it would be great to explore that.

Photos © Linda Warlond – photos taken at Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park

The people you’re studying with, are they age peers or?

Some are, some are older. Because the academy in Denmark has an Opera academy as well as a Conducting course, many are in their late 20’s by the time they’re doing those advanced courses. But then there are also people who come straight out of High School who are commencing Arts Degrees.

You will have your Masters once finished – a long hard hike?

Yes, in six months. Yes, it’s been going for a while, there’s a lot to learn and do.

In 2021, the Lucerne Festival – although it’s not good to speak of a creative work in progress, how did you gain that opportunity?

Yes, the Lucerne premiere. Once again you had to prepare a submission for a course for scholars; you sent in your C.V. scores and recordings and a proposal of what you wanted to do -  I was fortunate in that I met the requirements. They had a shortlist and they chose me and one other Australian, Alex Vaughan. It’s funny that we’re both Australian.

Once you have finished your Masters, will there be work opportunities in Australia for you?

I think it depends. Even in terms of the number of people as a population; here in Australia you have around 22 million people, while in Europe you have over 700 million people in the same amount of space, that can count against options. You have also have to take into account that in Europe there are old established traditions – in Germany for instance there’s a plethora of small theatres in small towns, and you can work your way up in a different way. Such things just doesn’t exist here yet – there are some places here alike that, and some great initiatives, but not on the same scale and number. In Europe there may be one country with the same number of initiatives as we have here, and then next door another country with the same number of initiatives as well – so there is just far more in same sized land area, and the means to get to and from them.

So you will be based in Europe for a while?

I think so.

What do you miss about Australia when you’re in Copenhagen?

Oh, the sun. (laughs)

Don’t you get those long Summers there – lightness all night?

Yes, which is incredible, but then in Winter time you have the obverse and very long dark periods.

Your work ‘Sleepless’ – is that from there and then?

Yeah, a little bit actually. I wrote it in the middle of Winter. You’re always awake, and it’s really weird – it’s always a bit dark and so you’re trying to make yourself awake, and then it’s really hard to sleep, at times, when you should be asleep.

What has been the best aspect of getting to study at Royal Danish Academy of Music for you?

So many things. This particular school has the great composers and courses, and it has the Pulsar Festival for instance, where we are assigned working with professional ensembles, and we also get to put forward proposals to work with them. [I conducted] the premiere of Sleepless, which I wrote for the festival in 2018.  

I’ve been sent around, to Lithuania NORD+MIX Workshop (Lithuania 2018) as well as other cities in Denmark, through the school, to do other courses and to get out there and do things, meet new people, experience other places and working modes. The school has a really good network and learning about that is part of what you are taught.

The NORD+MIX Workshop in Lithuania for example – once again the school selected two composers to send. This was a workshop where you get to mix in 3D instead of 2d. so rather than having a stereo systems of two figures, or a surround sound of between 4 and 7, we had 56 figures. We got to mix in this big dome and then had a concert to share those works.

You have also been going to Poland?

Yes, I have some friends over there, made when doing the Synthetis International Summer School for Composition in 2016. I’ve also been to the in North Poland in the Nowa Muzyka in April 2019.

You have won a few scholarships as well, including the John Amis award, once more a week long intensive – another good experience?

That was amazing and was the year before I did the course with Harrison Birtwhistle. Once again this points to having the support from the school to be there and have these opportunities.

Were you aware this whole network of study, week long intensives and festival opportunities existed prior to going to Europe?

Not so much really. It was really since I’ve been away in Denmark that I’ve found out about things through the school and through friends made there. This music world is really quite small in a lot of ways. When you start studying and working in it you meet people all over the place and get really inspired. You can then share what you have learnt as well with audiences as well as those working in the same field – another bonus. There’s also the geography as well – for someone working in France, Germany, Poland and England – they’re all really close, so that supports the field as well.

What have been your three favourites for the works you have done so far – from early compositions through to most recent times where you have been going flat out?

Although it seems very intense looking at the list of workshops, intensives and festivals, just in 2019, for me it’s also been really normal – even though I’ve looked back sometimes and gone ‘oh… cool!’ when reviewing a year; that sense of this being what you do, and that being normal, has carried through.

When I was at the Sydney Con I had the opportunity to have a work read, just briefly, by the Sydney Conservatorium of Music Wind Symphony – which was just amazing. After they read it they really liked it and decided to program it and it went on tour, and had a life from that moment since. So that was just the first moment that I was really excited to work with big ensembles and start to think that it was possible to really get my hands dirty in that field. 

Since then working in Denmark with the DR Ensemble (Danish National Vocal Ensemble – DR Koncerthuset) has been made possible, another fantastic ensemble and experience. We met with them four times over a year to have a workshop where the ensemble sang through / worked on our sketches. We had to make revisions after each meeting. There was a couple of months between each session. It was really great to have that tangibility, working with an ensemble that is so advanced and so world class. That was really great. 

Third would have to be working in Lucerne (academy.lucernefestival.ch/the-academy/program/program-2019/– just being flown into this festival and getting to meet these incredible people like George Benjamin and Dieter Ammann – they’re just there and you’re having a chat with them and they’re really nice, a new sense of normal for me – that was really nice. Then we had an opportunity to work with the Vocal orchestra and have a year to revise the piece – and that’s what will be premiered in 2021.

When you’re composing, are you doing that on piano?

I used to, but then I started realising that my piano improvising and way of think through the piano was quite stuck – from my repertoire and under my hands. When I moved to Denmark I started working without piano and now I just write freehand.

Becoming a Conductor – what are the basics you have been taught?

With the Conducting Masterclasses they teach how to prioritise different elements of the score; so that you know firstly what to rehearse, and secondly what to focus on during the performance. 

I always see Conductors as a medium for showing expression, and also being a kind of equaliser. In different halls you have different acoustics. Sometimes a flute, for example, will sound really loud in one venue, while in anther they could be lost. So, during rehearsals and performance you have to remain really focussed and keep everyone balanced in many senses. You’re also there to cue people and keep everything moving along, particularly if a conductor works with ballet, opera or other staged works. 

What are your favourite halls to perform in then too? – we better limit this to three too, otherwise….

I really like the recital halls in the Sydney Con, they’re so beautiful and have lovely acoustics for piano.  

We have a small little studio in the Danish academy as well, another beautiful space.

I played piano in the Hamburg Staatsoper, the little opera vestibule – and that was fantastic, I really like the atmosphere in there. It feels a little bit like a theatre as well as a music recital hall, it’s an incredible place.  

Learning all these different techniques in varying genres; vocal, dance, ensembles, chamber music – you’re not restricting yourself at all?

It’s nice – it’s what I wanted to do at the beginning of my portfolio of work, to do lots of different things, not to mess up aesthetics and lose focus, but to kind of explore the full range and learn as much as possible.

Are you going to write more books as well?

I’d like to. I really want to develop a series of them and have around 10 in the first set. 

The Illustrator, how did you meet him?

He’s a friend of my mums’. Mum has a promotional company and did some work with a Graphics designer and Illustrator and when I talked about my idea she wanted me to do that book and supported that project in this way. 

So both your parents have this great creative side to complement what you want to do?

Yes, they are. My dad was a Scientist and worked as a Geologist for around 10 years. He’s technically now retired but is working a lot on his photography and takes photos of local bird; clouds… all of this in the area and during the travels him and my mum go on. His grandfather (on the Russian-Swedish side) was a Photographer in the very early days of photography. He has these incredible photos from northern China and Siberia – amazing images that are very inspiring. 

It’s Summer, you’re home – what’s it like coming home?

Very normal – a big dose of normal. Lovely and grounding. I love spending time with my family, getting to hang out and eat great food. Catching up with friends is brilliant – it’s just a very relaxed, loving time for me. I also catch-up with school mates. Some of these have travelled overseas as well – and I even have some living and working in Europe I catch up with – London, France, America, other places.

Do you start talking to them in Danish?

No, my Danish is pretty bad. I did an exchange to France when I was 16 and after then I would have instances where I would forget whether I was speaking English or French – quite funny.

Although you have worked darn hard to gain these opportunities, do you still feel blessed by what has come?

Yes, I do. I think, as hard as you can work in this field, it’s not what I would call ‘luck’ but you do essentially need things to come together and I am always really grateful and thankful when things come through. It’s a very subjective field, not measurable by, I don’t know, getting 98% in an exam, so more open to quantifying through your own growth and development of knowledge, skill and technique and applying that, which has markers of course, but also allows for a personal review, for individual discipline and expression and whether you have communicated something unutterable to others, allowed them to experience something in this field.

What is your favourite European country?

That’s a tricky question; at the moment I really like the Nordic countries because they are incredibly forward thinking when it comes to culture and investing in long term things to make everyone’s life and the environment they live in better. People are very open minded.

What’s also interesting (just as a side note); I was doing some history study recently and found that often when kings and queens were in power they would invest in things that would create legacies, and often chose investing in culture, whether fashion or music, something with slightly intangible aspects to it. That was a short term to medium vision of culture. Long term, dynasty level, was architecture. In contemporary terms, good government has an idea of this concept – of short- and long-term investment in culture and developing that.

After the Second World War in Europe there was this break down of the past and a wanting to build this new world and new culture; the past was seen as somehow corrupted in the eyes of many people at the time. That sentiment has brought so much change to art in Europe which continues today.

You are obviously continuing to educate yourself about many aspects of life and humanity – who are your contemporaries, who do you talk to about all of this?

I suppose that goes back to being among Composers and Musicians and Singers; we’re really aware of the past and the present because that’s our job, part of what we must explore. If governments cut funding in investing in the future, in culture, then we lose work.

We have to keep an eye on culture and who is bent on developing that, we have to know what’s going on.

To rely only on philanthropy is dangerous because then you’re relying on just one group of people liking what is being done and can limit the growth of culture and what can be done.

So, I spend a lot of time with Composers and Opera singers, have lived with some in Copenhagen. Their yawns in the morning can be quite funny (opera singers).

What are your favourite places in Pittwater and why?

I think it’s really magic being in the north of Palm Beach and looking over towards the national park, whether right on the headland next to the lighthouse or up in the hills of Barrenjoey itself.

Sand Point is special – my parents were married there - but really anywhere where you’re looking across to the national park is a favourite and special place for me, probably because all you can see are trees.

Photos © Linda Warlond – photos taken at Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park

Why do you like trees so much?

It’s a bit nerdy, but; my dad’s a Geologist and when I was a child he would just openly talk about concepts if I asked him about them – the idea of an atom, how crystals form underground.  I’d be read fairy-tales and stories on ‘high density crystal points and formation underground’. I was really interested in how the earth became a biodiverse place, and knew that trees existed before any mammals did. I just think it’s amazing that these magnificent plants exist that then started creating a planet and made it available for all of us to live on.

I also just love spotted gums – who doesn’t? (laughs)

They’re kind of the ultimate architecture in a way – when you look at big cathedrals in Europe, they all look like trees; the way they come up and the way the light moves, it looks like dappling in forests. I think there’s some innate part of us that just knows how important a part of us they are.

Photos © Linda Warlond – photos taken at Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park

What is your ‘motto for life’ or a favourite phrase that you try to live by?

Aim high but have no expectations; I do tell myself that sometimes.

Give everything a go really – you can get lost in perceptions, that something is a good or bad idea, but unless you’re actually getting involved in something you don’t know how it is – you have to be present – give it a go. 

Karla Koala 
By Kirsten Milenko  (Author), Patrick Hawkins (Illustrator)

A children's storybook designed to educate and inspire on the subjects of Australian native flora and fauna. This little koala has a keen spirit of curiosity, and although she loves her home, soon begins to wonder what lies beyond. 

With a desire to explore the world around her, Karla discovers the beauties of Australian nature in her own habitat and beyond during a great big adventure! This story tells a tale of friendship and exploration. It is the first book in a series of koala tales.

Karla Koala is currently being sold at Beachside Bookshop in Avalon. It's also at Ecotopia in Warriewood. 

Visit: https://beachsidebookshop.com/p/picture-books-karla-koala

Listening to the cicadas in the close by Spotted Gums - Summer in Pittwater 2019/2020