Seven questions with… Cameron Lam, composer

By Stella Joseph-Jarecki (Enquiries: stellamusicwriter.wordpress.com)

Wilkommen, bienvenue, welcome!

I have dusted the cobwebs off my keyboard (and out of my brain) to bring you Fever Pitch’s first published post of 2021! I’d be lying if I said I felt utterly refreshed and raring to go after the year that was 2020, but I can say I am feeling optimistic.

But enough about me.

Today’s interview is with Cameron Lam. Cameron is an artistic director, composer, and a great supporter of other composers- over the past two years he has curated and shared a monthly new music playlist on Spotify, showcasing newly composed Australian Art music. Cameron is currently working at APRA AMCOS as their Art Music Specialist. I had the chance to speak to Cameron about the Art Music Fund grant program, his work as a composer, and the upcoming Art Music Awards.

You can follow Cameron’s work through his website, Soundcloud, and Bandcamp. Cameron is the Artistic Director of production company Kammerklang, and you can follow their projects through their website and Facebook page. Links throughout to further information on the Art Music Fund.


Would you be able to briefly describe yourself and your musical background for those reading?

I’m a freelance art music composer whose music sits somewhere between classical and video game music. Now based in Melbourne, I’m the Artistic Director of cross-artform production company Kammerklang, curator of the Australian Art Music playlist on Spotify and the Art Music Specialist at APRA AMCOS (the Australasian Performing Right Association and Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society).

APRA AMCOS is the music rights organisation that licenses businesses and organisations in Australia and New Zealand to play, perform, copy or record our members’ music. They then collect money from those licensees and pay it to the music creators, whose songs add meaningful content, lovely ambience, and, of course, joy to the lives of music fans. We also collect royalties from international sources for our members.

APRA AMCOS also coordinates heaps of programs and initiatives that support more than 108,000 members with grants, song craft, networking, skills development and more. So, if you’re composing music and it’s being performed or available online, I strongly encourage you to join. It’s free and easy to do.

Cover art for Cameron’s 2019 Song Cycle, ‘The Art of Disappearing’.

Can you tell us a little about your monthly Australian Art Music playlist on Spotify?

I started the playlist as way to diversify my listening, and actively seek out new pieces and composers. Over the past two years, it’s been a wonderful way to connect with composers, performers and other listeners. Now published alongside an article in Limelight each month, the playlist normally features three hours of music (about 30 or so pieces) from different composers. The archive of all tracks previously featured now stands at 63 hours – containing 622 pieces by more than 300 composers.

February 2021 playlist and Limelight article can be found here

You are currently working at APRA AMCOS as their Art Music Specialist. Can you give us an idea of what this role entails?

As Art Music Specialist I’m the main contact for APRA AMCOS’s Australian art music composer members (broadly defined as classical, jazz, experimental electronic and sound art).

This entails both explaining to composers how APRA AMCOS supports its members and what information about their music they need to provide to us, to ensure they get paid. I also advise APRA AMCOS at large on the needs and concerns of the art music community.

Part of that includes administering grant programs and initiatives such as Art Music Fund to support the industry.

The SCM Wind Symphony, conducted by Dr. John P. Lynch and featuring Sue Newsome (contrabass clarinet), perform the world premiere of Cameron Lam’s Yggdrasil: The World Tree. August 24, 2017.

APRA AMCOS, in collaboration with the Australian Music Centre, is currently taking applications for the Art Music Fund. This is a grant program offering ten grants of $5000 to go towards commissioning and staging newly-composed works. What excites you the most about this program?

The diversity of projects is the most exciting element for me. It’s heartening that the art music world produces such an array of different music and collaborative projects. I’m also really happy our recipients have reflected the diversity of submissions, and am keen to see what new works will be added the list of 48 previously of funded projects.

The second thing that excites is what this program seeks to fund: new works to be presented multiple times, creating a long artistic life to support the composer. I really strongly stand behind the idea that our back catalogue of repertoire can and should be supporting us while continue to write. And the more time we can spend creating pathways for that work, the better.

For those reading who are less experienced with grant applications, do you have any pieces of advice, as a composer who has gone through the grant process yourself?

Take your time, talk to your peers and collaborators, and be clear in what you’re trying to say.

The panel wants to understand your ideas and goals, so make sure you spend enough time refining how you articulate your answers, not just coming up with them. Clearly address the question being asked, and make sure your answer makes sense without your own knowledge of your project (get a friend to read it if you’re not sure).

Also, ask questions. I really like to hear from applicants during the process so I can help them to submit the best possible application and help minimise any stress around something that might be confusing. We like to have applicants on our radar, so please drop me a line with questions big and small.

Cover art from Cameron’s 2017 composition ‘Dream’, a musical setting of Puck’s closing monologue from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

How do you sustain hope for the future, or overcome periods where you feel less motivated?

Focusing on small concrete things, ticking them off and celebrating any progress on matter how small. Big picture thinking and goal setting is very important, but when faced with incredible uncertainty or lack of motivation the big things just feel insurmountable.

Achieving one small step towards a larger goal, seems much more manageable.

Can you tell us a bit about the upcoming Art Music Awards?

The Art Music Awards honour members of the art music community for works, projects and performances in the prior calendar year (the Annual Awards), as well as sustained contribution to the sector (the Luminary Awards). You can see all of the different categories here.

You can nominate others for these awards as long as you are either an APRA member or a financial member of the Australian Music Centre. Nominations will open later this month!

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