On 4 April, Senior Lecturer at the School of Music, University of Queensland, Dr Robert Davidson, gave a talk titled ‘Music and the Creative Process’. This lecture was part of the Division of Culture and Creativity (DCC)’s Visiting Artist Series.


Dr Davidson is a composer who has travelled globally for various music festivals and events. He began his talk by playing a clip of music he composed, titled ‘Lost in Light’, before sharing a more contemporary style he composed where he decided to mix Sichuan Opera with jazz music. After showing some of his past successful works, Dr Davidson began to talk about the creative process, which he has based on his interviews with many composers and his own experience composing music.

The creative process starts with a plan, which may involve questions that include which instruments are to be used as well as the concert dates or certain meanings he wants to get across in his work. After the planning stage, he moves onto the collection stage, which involves playing around with different ideas to see what works. The collection stage should provide a lot of flexibility to make mistakes and be creative, before moving onto the next stage, selection. Selection should be where the composer becomes critical of their ideas and selects those that stand out as the best options. These ideas then move onto the next stage, which is develop. This is to be put together into the final project. The last stage is ‘finish’, which will clear up any kinks in the composition and prepare the product for its final form, whether that is a performance, a recording, or another outlet.


After going over the creative process as a general idea, Dr Davidson walked the audience through his creative process for a specific event he put on. Next, he focused on a specific interest of his, speech melody. He described it by telling the audience that everyone has their own speaking style, and if toyed with through music, deeper unspoken emotions can be teased out of the manner that we speak in. Dr Davidson played several examples, where he took famous speeches, from civil rights movement leader, Martin Luther King Jr. and current US President, Donald Trump, , then added music behind their speeches based on their speech melodies. The added music brought out additional emotions behind their speeches – optimism and positivity in Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I have a dream’ speech, and then an anxious, rushed feeling behind comments Donald Trump made about women.

Dr Davidson continued on with the concept of speech melody by highlighting a special project he worked on based off a statement the Australian prime minister made about sexism. He got a choir to sing the statement, which added power to the words.

The lecture finished with a powerful example in which Dr Davidson discussed the apology that the Australia government made to the indigenous groups of Australia. He commented that while Australians have only been in Australia for 227 years, aboriginal groups have been there for 50,000 years. He highlighted how the apology that the government made was very short, and didn’t seem adequately long enough to make up for all the years of neglect. Dr Davidson had the idea to take a recording of the apology and slow it down to 500x slower, then got a choir to sing it. It resulted in an eerie and powerful sound and gave the listener the feeling they were inside an enormous cave hearing the resounding echoes of the past. The end result was an almost ethereal and resounding feeling, in that the apology almost seemed to stretch long enough to make up for the many years of suffering inflicted on the aboriginal people of Australia.


The audience was incredibly captivated by Dr Davidson’s presentation, with his work being very unique and powerful. The question and answer period had many audience members posing questions, and the session ran overtime with many students staying afterwards to talk with Dr Davidson.

Reporter: Samantha Burns (MPRO)
Photographer: Jingyi Lu (ATS, Y3)
Editor: Samuel Burgess
(from MPRO)