Oliver Downes

A little while ago composer, arranger and piano teacher Elissa Milne blogged that it takes two generations to grow a musician: “the first generation learns how to learn, and then the second generation has parents who know what it [really] takes.” My parents were research scientists, both of whom held a deep love of music, though their respective upbringings prevented the development of their abilities beyond being keen listeners and occasional dabblers. By the time I was 14, I had picked up the cello and my piano teacher had introduced me to the likes of Chopin and Debussy. At university I combined my dedication to the piano with my continuing obsession with literary responses to post-modernity. As I developed my own writing practice I began to produce music and arts journalism and completed a Creative Writing Masters in 2011 at Sydney University. These days my attention has turned to songwriting and performance, which, when I’m not teaching piano and cello to children, is now my focus.


I’m fascinated by the artistic process and the sociology of creativity, the endlessly inventive ways in which people across vastly different mediums and styles approach the production of creative work and how that work responds to the social structures in which it’s produced. As my own creative practice has mutated from prose to song, I’ve remained committed to producing arts journalism as I’ve found that the deep contemplation of a subject that the process of writing demands tends to provoke all kinds of unpredictable ideas and resonances that can then inform or posit solutions to problems in my own practice. I see both activities as being complementary parts of my response to the world in which we live and the art being made within it. In the meantime, my spare energy has been spent writing and releasing music, including an EP, at the end (2014), and an album, Ultraviolet (2016) on which I collaborated with acoustic chamber-folk trio The String Contingent.

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