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Career Summary

Biography

Born in Melbourne, 1954, Vella's diverse output includes works for orchestra, large ensemble, choir, film, chamber music, burlesque cabaret, music theatre, site-specific performances, and popular music genres. Many of his works are now recognised as set repertoire such as his 'Tango', for clarinet, and the guitar solos 'Between Earth and Air' and 'Mirrors of Fire'. His film

credits include 'Light Years', 'Parklands', 'Renzo Piano: piece by piece' (for which he won the 1999 Australian Screen Composer's Award for best music for a documentary) and 'Mr. Strehlow's Films'. His feature film music score 'Travelling Light' (2003) received the nomination 'Best Music for a feature Film' by the Australian Film Institute.

Recent works have been 'The A to Z of Spiritual Music: a user's guide', commissioned by The Seymour Group (2006) http://www.abc.net.au/classic/spiritual his co-production of the Warners international release of the Ten Tenor's album 'Larger than Life' (2003) and a revised version of his music theatre work 'Tales of Love' (2002). Vella was founding artistic director of Calculated Risks Opera Productions. Calculated Risks has premiered three of his major works, 'Tales of Love' (1991/2002), 'The Last Supper' (1993) and 'Bodysongs: the Fatman Tour' (1998). These works have toured nationally and internationally in various formats.

Publications discussing his performance work are 'Arias: Recent Australian Music Theatre' (Redhouse Editions, 1997) and 'The Oxford Dictionary of Australian Music' (Bebbington Warren (Ed), Oxford University Press, 1998). He has been invited to be Visiting and Consulting Professor of Music to many institutions in the areas of research and undergraduate curriculum development. Between 1992 and 1996 Vella devised and implemented an interdisciplinary postgraduate and undergraduate music program within the School of Mathematics, Physics, Computing and Electronics at Macquarie University. From 1989 to 2001, Richard was director and commissioning editor for music with Currency Press, Sydney. In this capacity he solicited and oversaw many books and publications on print music,recordings, manuals, and scholarly works. His own book 'Musical Environments: A Manual for Listening, Composing', originally published by Currency Press, has become a recognised text for secondary and tertiary music courses throughout Australia. In 2003, a new edition of this book entiltled 'Sounds in Space Sounds in Time' was published by Boosey and Hawkes, UK.

He is currently Chair and Professor of Music and Head of School, Drama, Fine Art and Music at the University of Newcastle. Richard Vella is Chair of the National Council of Tertiary Music Schools (NACTMUS) and sits on many advisory groups concerned with tertiary education in the creative and performing arts.

Qualifications

  • Master of Arts (Music), La Trobe University, 18/08/1982

Research

Research keywords

  • Music composition
  • Performing arts
  • Theatre
  • film music
  • hermeneutics and creative practice
  • music theatre

Research expertise

  • Drama, Theatre and Performance studies
  • Music Composition
  • Performing Arts and Creative Writing

Fields of Research

CodeDescriptionPercentage
190499Performing Arts And Creative Writing Not Elsewhere Classified100

Memberships

Body relevant to professional practice.

  • National Council for Tertiary Music Schools (NACTMUS)

Collaboration

Richard Vella's research interests are interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary. His main research focus is on modelling, metaphor, hermeneutics and creative thinking across diverse knowledge domains. In particular he is interested in the role of creative practice in the construction of models.

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Highlighted Publications

For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.

YearCitationAltmetricsLink
2003Vella R, Sounds in Space, Sounds in Time, Boosey and Hawkes, London, UK, 240 (2003) [A4]
2008De Aragon C, Moore I, Vella RJ, Scott-Mitchell A, Scott N, Back to the City, backtothecity.com.au, Newcastle, NSW (2008) [J2]
2004Vella R, Mirrors of Fire, Sydney, NSW Australia (2004) [J1]

Mirrors of Fire (MoF) is a classical guitar solo. The practice of reinvigorating classical music by borrowing from popular music forms is not new. Bakhtin (1984) argues that the continual excursions into the popular are essential for classical aesthetic to be sustainable. The classical guitar tradition is arguably the more conservative of guitar cultures. The present-day frontiers of guitar-playing virtuosity and technical brilliance, once associated with the classical guitar genre, are now more often found in the realms of progressive rock and heavy metal (Walser, 1992, 1993; Waksman, 2001), and global guitar cultures (Coelho, 2003; Bennett and Dawe, 2001). The research examines ways concert repertoire for classical guitar can incorporate the vitality and stylistic idiosyncrasies of popular music for guitar. Furthermore, in what ways can polyrhythm extend the technique of the guitarist and the boundaries of virtuosity? MoF extends polyrhythmic technique for guitar playing with the introduction of right hand polyrhythmic fingering over contrapuntal lines fingered by the left hand (eg bars 6-10). While composers have sometimes explored polyrhythmic fingering on the solo classical guitar (eg Britten (1963); Bogdanovic (1990)), the technique is difficult to execute and not often encountered in the repertoire. The work merges together various styles into a unified whole: moto perpetuo bass lines throughout; contrapuntal technique in the left and right hands (bars 75-79); flamenco (bars 86-96); power chord gestures (bars 103-107). The score to MoF is published by Currency Press (Sydney). The work is recognised as repertoire for the guitar virtuoso (http://members.iinet.net.au/~tallpoppies/t2.cgi?169)

2007Vella RJ, Renzo Piano Suite' in Video Circus, -, Brisbane, Australia (2007) [J1]

Renzo Piano: Piece by Piece, a composition for chamber ensemble and video, celebrates the Italian architect Renzo Piano. It is the composers re-edit of five musical cues from the original documentary. Documentary films in Australia are predominantly made for television broadcast. This typically results in the music being relegated to the margins, having little individuality in the film/music dialogue. In mainstream Australian film, music is rarely considered autonomous. Sometimes this occurs in experimental films or in films that respect the dramaturgical role of the music. Studies of the role of music in documentaries remain scarce. Wahlberg (2008) has little to say about music, adopting a contemporary phenomenological approach to image and time in documentary film. The composers edit of the original film investigates non mainstream approaches to film music exploring a sensory relation between music and image. It liberates music from its mainstream conventional role, allowing it to function as a primary perceptual element and narrative vehicle. Non-synchronous relationships to image, enable the music to explore analogy evoking the architects sense of light, space and density. The viewer experiences a quasi-synesthesic relationship with the image, editing and music. This provides insights into the phenomenology of imagination, by exploring the further possibilities of sound/image and spatial relationships, in film and video-making outside the mainstream. Some of the original music is freely available on the web via various downloads (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7IxSd2NsRM). The commissioning group Topology won the AMC award for Outstanding Contribution by an Organisation, 2008. This included Renzo Piano: Piece by Piece.

2004Vella R, 'Sonata' for Violoncello and piano, -, Sydney, NSW (2004) [J2]

Sonata is a chamber work for Violoncello and Piano. The cello repertoire is extensive. Lambooij and Feves (2007) list approximately 45,000 works titles for cello over the last 300 years. The 20th century cello repertoire is marked by landmarks, such as Debussys Cello Sonata (1915), and Carters Sonata for Cello and Piano (1948). These landmarks present many challenges for the 21st century composer. It begs the question, how can a composer today contribute to the cello sonata repertoire within the context of the chamber music genre and its many investigations? Drawing on famous 20th century cello repertoire, Sonata compiles techniques associated with these works. Because these works are so iconic, the slightest reference to their famous motives, gestures, etc, could be heard as a quotation or pastiche. Sonata re-casts the role of composer as a mediator of recovered cultural sound memories. This approach is different from postmodern ironic practices of quotation, allusion and parody (Hutcheon, 2000). Successful repertoire for any instruments is based on idiomatic understanding of the instruments combined with the placement of these idiomatic gestures in reinvigorated contexts such as harmony or rhythm. Using variation techniques, Sonata places idiomatic cello gestures into new contexts such as modern modal jazz references; symmetrical harmonic organisation; Elliott Carters approach to temporal simultaneity; minimalist textures; cadenza passages from the 19th century. The result is a reinvigoration and expansion the cello repertoire. Sonata was recorded, produced and broadcasted by ABC Classic FM in celebration of the composers 50th birthday 2004.

2006Vella RJ, The A to Z of Spiritual Music: a user's guide, Unknown, Sydney, Australia (2006) [J1]

The A to Z of Spiritual music: a users guide is an online collection of composition combining texts with live and sampled recordings. Discussions on the spiritual in music are linked to specific religious and denominational uses of music, or evocations of a deity (Beck 2006). The A to Z investigates representations of the spiritual through words and music. It does not deify music but catalogues devices and various states associated with meaningfulness and transcendence. It does not refer to values which are more aligned to morality or institutional approaches to spirituality. It treats the spiritual as ones engagement with life. The output uses the list format similar to a dictionary. The random-access nature of internet-based hypertext foregrounds and amplifies post-modern tensions between form and content. It demonstrates novel approaches to narrative, performance delivery and large form, by capitalising on the interactive nature of an online environment. Much discussion is devoted to the narrative and formal possibilities opened up by new media technologies (Bassett, 2008; Ryan, 2003). As a demonstration of possibilities in an internet-based delivery of a music-centered work, The A to Z explores phenomenological and semiological relationships between words and music. The A to Z due to its expansive dictionary form, orients itself more towards exegetical analysis via hermeneutics, than traditional harmonic/melodic/formal analytical approaches. The work aligns with those who advocate the use of post-modern hermeneutic and cross-disciplinary approaches to analysis in music (Kramer, 1992, 2004; Cook, 2006). It was featured in the ABCs magazine Limelite December, 2006

Publications

For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.

Click on a category title below to expand the list of citations for that specific category.

Book (1 outputs)

YearCitationAltmetricsLink
2003Vella R, Sounds in Space, Sounds in Time, Boosey and Hawkes, London, UK, 240 (2003) [A4]

Chapter (2 outputs)

YearCitationAltmetricsLink
2012Vella RJ, 'Thoughts on the training of a music student at university level', Sound Musicianship: Understanding the Crafts of Music, Cambridge Scholars, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK 357-368 (2012) [B2]
2003Vella R, 'Tertiary Music Education since 1988', , Currency Press, Sydney, NSW Australia (2003) [B2]

Conference (2 outputs)

YearCitationAltmetricsLink
2013Vella RJ, Walsh L, Scott NB, Redhead T, 'A Report on Collaborative Music Making at the University of Newcastle Conservatorium of Music', Redefining the musical landscape: Inspired learning and innovation in music education - XIX National Conference Proceedings, Canberra (2013) [E1]
2004Vella R, 'Artistic Practice as Research, key note address' (2004) [E2]

Creative Work (13 outputs)

YearCitationAltmetricsLink
2013Vella RJ, Eluard P, Rabindranath T, Hildegard, Unending Love, The Harold Lobb Concert Hall, Newcastle, NSW., Newcastle (2013) [J2]
2013Vella RJ, Vella RJ, Let's Dance, Harold Lobb Concert Hall (2013) [J2]
2012Vella RJ, Absence, Australia, Newcastle Conservatorium Concert Hall (2012)
2008De Aragon C, Moore I, Vella RJ, Scott-Mitchell A, Scott N, Back to the City, backtothecity.com.au, Newcastle, NSW (2008) [J2]
2008Vella R, Hendrix J, Purple Haze (Vocal arrangement), Australia, Sydney (2008)
2007Vella RJ, Renzo Piano Suite' in Video Circus, -, Brisbane, Australia (2007) [J1]

Renzo Piano: Piece by Piece, a composition for chamber ensemble and video, celebrates the Italian architect Renzo Piano. It is the composers re-edit of five musical cues from the original documentary. Documentary films in Australia are predominantly made for television broadcast. This typically results in the music being relegated to the margins, having little individuality in the film/music dialogue. In mainstream Australian film, music is rarely considered autonomous. Sometimes this occurs in experimental films or in films that respect the dramaturgical role of the music. Studies of the role of music in documentaries remain scarce. Wahlberg (2008) has little to say about music, adopting a contemporary phenomenological approach to image and time in documentary film. The composers edit of the original film investigates non mainstream approaches to film music exploring a sensory relation between music and image. It liberates music from its mainstream conventional role, allowing it to function as a primary perceptual element and narrative vehicle. Non-synchronous relationships to image, enable the music to explore analogy evoking the architects sense of light, space and density. The viewer experiences a quasi-synesthesic relationship with the image, editing and music. This provides insights into the phenomenology of imagination, by exploring the further possibilities of sound/image and spatial relationships, in film and video-making outside the mainstream. Some of the original music is freely available on the web via various downloads (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7IxSd2NsRM). The commissioning group Topology won the AMC award for Outstanding Contribution by an Organisation, 2008. This included Renzo Piano: Piece by Piece.

2006Vella RJ, The A to Z of Spiritual Music: a user's guide, Unknown, Sydney, Australia (2006) [J1]

The A to Z of Spiritual music: a users guide is an online collection of composition combining texts with live and sampled recordings. Discussions on the spiritual in music are linked to specific religious and denominational uses of music, or evocations of a deity (Beck 2006). The A to Z investigates representations of the spiritual through words and music. It does not deify music but catalogues devices and various states associated with meaningfulness and transcendence. It does not refer to values which are more aligned to morality or institutional approaches to spirituality. It treats the spiritual as ones engagement with life. The output uses the list format similar to a dictionary. The random-access nature of internet-based hypertext foregrounds and amplifies post-modern tensions between form and content. It demonstrates novel approaches to narrative, performance delivery and large form, by capitalising on the interactive nature of an online environment. Much discussion is devoted to the narrative and formal possibilities opened up by new media technologies (Bassett, 2008; Ryan, 2003). As a demonstration of possibilities in an internet-based delivery of a music-centered work, The A to Z explores phenomenological and semiological relationships between words and music. The A to Z due to its expansive dictionary form, orients itself more towards exegetical analysis via hermeneutics, than traditional harmonic/melodic/formal analytical approaches. The work aligns with those who advocate the use of post-modern hermeneutic and cross-disciplinary approaches to analysis in music (Kramer, 1992, 2004; Cook, 2006). It was featured in the ABCs magazine Limelite December, 2006

2005Vella R, McPhee W, Private Dancer (New version), N/A, Brisbane, Australia (2005) [J1]
2005Vella R, McPhee W, Ms Fortuna Goes Greek, N/A, Brisbane, Australia (2005) [J1]
2004Vella R, Water/Va Pensiero, Hamburg, Europe (2004) [J1]
2004Vella R, Mirrors of Fire, Sydney, NSW Australia (2004) [J1]

Mirrors of Fire (MoF) is a classical guitar solo. The practice of reinvigorating classical music by borrowing from popular music forms is not new. Bakhtin (1984) argues that the continual excursions into the popular are essential for classical aesthetic to be sustainable. The classical guitar tradition is arguably the more conservative of guitar cultures. The present-day frontiers of guitar-playing virtuosity and technical brilliance, once associated with the classical guitar genre, are now more often found in the realms of progressive rock and heavy metal (Walser, 1992, 1993; Waksman, 2001), and global guitar cultures (Coelho, 2003; Bennett and Dawe, 2001). The research examines ways concert repertoire for classical guitar can incorporate the vitality and stylistic idiosyncrasies of popular music for guitar. Furthermore, in what ways can polyrhythm extend the technique of the guitarist and the boundaries of virtuosity? MoF extends polyrhythmic technique for guitar playing with the introduction of right hand polyrhythmic fingering over contrapuntal lines fingered by the left hand (eg bars 6-10). While composers have sometimes explored polyrhythmic fingering on the solo classical guitar (eg Britten (1963); Bogdanovic (1990)), the technique is difficult to execute and not often encountered in the repertoire. The work merges together various styles into a unified whole: moto perpetuo bass lines throughout; contrapuntal technique in the left and right hands (bars 75-79); flamenco (bars 86-96); power chord gestures (bars 103-107). The score to MoF is published by Currency Press (Sydney). The work is recognised as repertoire for the guitar virtuoso (http://members.iinet.net.au/~tallpoppies/t2.cgi?169)

2004Vella R, 'Sonata' for Violoncello and piano, -, Sydney, NSW (2004) [J2]

Sonata is a chamber work for Violoncello and Piano. The cello repertoire is extensive. Lambooij and Feves (2007) list approximately 45,000 works titles for cello over the last 300 years. The 20th century cello repertoire is marked by landmarks, such as Debussys Cello Sonata (1915), and Carters Sonata for Cello and Piano (1948). These landmarks present many challenges for the 21st century composer. It begs the question, how can a composer today contribute to the cello sonata repertoire within the context of the chamber music genre and its many investigations? Drawing on famous 20th century cello repertoire, Sonata compiles techniques associated with these works. Because these works are so iconic, the slightest reference to their famous motives, gestures, etc, could be heard as a quotation or pastiche. Sonata re-casts the role of composer as a mediator of recovered cultural sound memories. This approach is different from postmodern ironic practices of quotation, allusion and parody (Hutcheon, 2000). Successful repertoire for any instruments is based on idiomatic understanding of the instruments combined with the placement of these idiomatic gestures in reinvigorated contexts such as harmony or rhythm. Using variation techniques, Sonata places idiomatic cello gestures into new contexts such as modern modal jazz references; symmetrical harmonic organisation; Elliott Carters approach to temporal simultaneity; minimalist textures; cadenza passages from the 19th century. The result is a reinvigoration and expansion the cello repertoire. Sonata was recorded, produced and broadcasted by ABC Classic FM in celebration of the composers 50th birthday 2004.

2002Vella R, Tales of Love, N/A, Unknown, Australia (2002) [J2]
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Other (5 outputs)

YearCitationAltmetricsLink
2012Vella RJ, 'The Rhapsode goes to University: a discussion of Plato┬┐s Ion in relation to creative arts research.', . Canberra (2012)
2012Vella RJ, Scott N, Redhead T, 'Networked Music Performance', . ANU Canberra (2012)
2012Vella RJ, Drummond J, 'Mathematics, Music, Visualisation & Creative Thinking', . Canberra (2012)
2007Vella R, Drummond J, 'ACID Press: a New Approach to Knowledge Collaboration', : Resonate Magazine (2007) [O1]
2005Vella R, 'Keeping the Degree Creative', ( pp.2-2). Sydney, NSW Australia: Realtime Arts: http://www.realtimearts.net/article/68/7916 (2005) [O1]
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Grants and Funding

Summary

Number of grants1
Total funding$25,000

- Indicates that the researcher may be seeking students for this project.

Click on a grant title below to expand the full details for that specific grant.

2014 (1 grants)

ERF Teaching Relief - English$25,000
Funding Body: University of Newcastle

Project Team
Ms Helen English, Professor Richard Vella
SchemeRole
Equity Research FellowshipChief Investigator
Total AmountFunding StartFunding Finish
$25,00020142014
GNo:G1301347
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Research Supervision

Number of current supervisions17
Total current UoN Masters EFTSL1.38
Total current UoN PhD EFTSL5.5

For supervisions undertaken at an institution other that the University of Newcastle, the institution name is listed below the program name.

Current Supervision

CommencedProposed
Completion
ProgramSupervisor TypeResearch Title
20142018M Philosophy (Music)Principal SupervisorNSW Conservatoria of Music: Community Making and Social Inclusion
20142016M Philosophy (Music)Principal SupervisorRemixing and Re-interpretation of Classics: Relevance and Attributes
20142022PhD (Music)Principal SupervisorProcess and Product - The Phenomenulogy of the Solo Concerts of Keith Jarrett
20142018PhD (Music)Principal SupervisorThe Future Rock Show
20142018PhD (Music)Principal SupervisorFuture Gazing: The Concert Musician in the 21st Century
20132017PhD (Fine Art)Principal SupervisorORI* on Aesthetics and Language of Folding and Technology
20132017PhD (Music)Co-SupervisorClassical Voice and the Microphone
20132015PhD (Music)Principal SupervisorTowards Maximal Convergence: The Relationship Between Composition, Performance and Production in Realtime Software Environments
20132020PhD (History)Co-SupervisorMusic in the Valley: Identity, Memory and Reinvention in Colonial Newcastle and The Hunter Valley, 1870-1879
20122015PhD (Music)Principal SupervisorThe Polysynchronous Film Score: the Relationship Between Music and Image/Narrative in Contemporary Scores for Silent Film
20122017PhD (Education)Co-SupervisorKeep the Flame Burning: Exploring the Barriers that inhibit the effective teaching of the Arts in Primary Schools
20112015PhD (Music)Co-SupervisorThe Traditional Music of East Timor
20112018PhD (Music)Principal SupervisorOff-White: A Latterday Travesty
20092013M Philosophy (Music)Principal SupervisorTowards an Aesthetic of Groove in Music
20082016PhD (Music)Principal SupervisorSymmetry and Symmetry Breaking in Musical Composition
20082018PhD (Music)Principal SupervisorPragmatics of Intertextuality in Recorded Music
20072011PhD (Music)Sole SupervisorJoseph Schillinger and His System for Aesthetical Engineering: Applications in Music Composition and Analysis

Past Supervision

YearProgramSupervisor TypeResearch Title
2014M Philosophy (Music)Co-SupervisorAcoustic Phenomena as a Model for Music Composition
2014PhD (Music)Co-SupervisorMusic in Context: An Exploration of Music and Dramaturgy
2013M Arts (Music) [R]Co-SupervisorA Study Examining the ICT Literacy Levels of Music Educators in the New South Wales Department of Education and Training
2009M Creative Arts (Music) [R]Co-SupervisorDeveloping Twenty-First Century Art Music Repertoire
2008M Creative Arts (Music) [R]Co-SupervisorThe Maturing Trumpeter: An Insight to the Physicality, Mentality and Practicality of the Twenty First Century Performing Trumpeter
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Professor Richard Vella

Work Phone(02) 4921 5995
Fax(02) 4921 8958
Email
PositionProfessor Of Music
School of Creative Arts
Faculty of Education and Arts
The University of Newcastle, Australia
Focus AreaMusic
Office
3.17,
The Conservatorium,
The Conservatorium
Cnr Laman and Auckland Street
Newcastle NSW 2300
Australia
URL:www.newcastle.edu.au/profile/richard-vella