top of page

The student newspaper of the
Sydney Conservatorium

virtuosity in diversity

  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • Twitter

Interview with Michael Webb

Dr. Michael Webb is a lecturer in the Conservatorium’s Music Education department. Here he talks to Rachel White about his travels, his research and his new puppy.

Q: How did you spend your 2011 Christmas break?

A research field trip to Vanuatu … a week at the beach … family time … I became the proud owner of an Irish Wheaten Terrier pup, so training and cleaning up etc.! ... many weeks working on an ARC Grant proposal…

Q: Which subject have you enjoyed teaching the most since joining the Conservatorium staff?

I’ve learnt a lot through teaching all of the Units I’ve taught, but probably the most challenging and perhaps rewarding has been a subject called Teaching Music in Junior Secondary School. It’s the hardest thing to know how to do, and I’ve enjoyed interacting with SCM students on such challenges. 

Q: What do you miss (if anything) about high school music teaching?

Not too much actually … it’s very hard work! ... but making music almost every day would be one thing, working with keen colleagues, and you get to know students better in high school teaching – that’s rewarding. 

Q: What is the one thing you would never go into a music classroom without?

Something new about music or some new music I just discovered … a few good ideas about how to excite students about music. 

Q: What subject are you most looking forward to teaching this year, and why?

All of them … because they all involve applied performance, musicology, theory, philosophy, aesthetics etc. of music. At the moment, probably Popular Music Studies, because I’m often conflicted about how to think about and respond to popular music; it presents great personal challenges and fascinations. 

Q: Your research involves working with and studying the music of different cultures. What has been the most memorable place you have visited thus far and why?

They’re all memorable, one way or another. Currently I’m enjoying working with my colleague Hideki Isoda on a film about choral hymnody on a tiny islet called Uluveu (Maskelyne Islands) in Vanuatu. It’s a beautiful place and the singing is startling and powerful - from that of the young children to very old people.

Q: As a supervisor for various research projects, what is one piece of advice you would give to any future research students?

Research can take place at so many levels – it involves finding out something new about music. So, be open to and thrilled by the rich, vast universe of human music making!

Always “think hard” about what is going on in music and in music making situations – prepare to be overwhelmed at and by this varied and deeply meaningful human creative process. 

Q: What projects of your own will you be pursuing this year?

I hope to finish the film I mentioned earlier and I’m beginning a book relating hymnody in Melanesia to musical aesthetics and music ecology (this will take me a year or two to complete). I’m also working on a chapter for an edited book due out in 2013 on Pentecostal music making around the world – I’m analyzing two “performance/worship” situations I found myself documenting in Papua New Guinea, one in 2008, the other in 2010.

Q: What is your favourite style of music at the moment?

I listen the most to jazz – Australian and from elsewhere. Today I’m working through Simon Barker’s Chiri – astonishing! And also Mile Davis Qunitet’s three-disc Live in Europe 1967 and Finnish trumpeter Verneri Pohjola’s Ancient History. I also love jazz piano and keep coming back to the music of The Necks.

Q: What do you hope to have achieved in five years’ time?

To have figured out better ways to prepare pre-service music educators for their future career … to share the pleasure and insight that comes from involvement with all kinds of music … to introduce others through research and publication and advocacy to the unique sound and song worlds of Melanesia. 

This article was originally published in Conversation Issue 1, of 30 April 2012, published by the Conservatorium Students' Association. The print edition can be found on Issuu; it has been digitised by Alexander Poirier


bottom of page