Frank Millward explores the intersection between fine art, music and theatre making, and how technology is turning the arts into fertile ground...

The exuberance of useless splendour

Frank Millward explores the intersection between fine art, music and theatre making, and how technology is turning the arts into a fertile ground for innovative research.

An accomplished composer, multimedia artist, teacher and academic, Frank Millward makes visual art and connects it with sound. His research focuses on the way technology has transformed possibilities for interactive performance, and how an interdisciplinary approach leads to new knowledge and innovation.

The connections between scientific and artistic visualisation processes have fascinated Dr Millward since he was studying computer music composition at the City University of New York as part of his MA in the early eighties, with the likes of Myron Fink and Charles Dodge.

From the moment technology began transforming the music industry with file sharing, online user experience and computer-generated composition, the lines blurred between the technical and the artistic.

"There was a shift toward an understanding of the importance of the role of technology in the research process in music that can be adapted to other circumstances," he says. "It is about interactive engagement, about the relationships between technology, science and art and the way these can work together."

Dr Millward has worked in the performing arts industry throughout his career, with each of his research projects being realised as major works.

In 1982 he became composer-in-residence with the Lumiere and Son Theatre Company, where he wrote numerous scores and directed a number of works, winning the Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Festival in 1986 for his electroacoustic experimental dance/theatre piece, Brightside.

He returned to his native Australia for the Expo in 1988 and worked as a musical director, composer and producer for, among others, the Queensland Symphony, Melbourne Theatre Company, ABC TV and the Queensland Theatre Company. He taught popular music and composition at Southern Cross University and ran the jazz course at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music while pursuing his professional career as a performer and producing records for a number of high profile performers including Michael Hutchence, Grace Knight, Ollie Olsen and Noiseworks.

He became the first person to be awarded an Australian Postgraduate Award Industry (APAI) scholarship for music, which he used to complete his PhD in music and applied technologies from the University of Queensland in 2001.

It was at this time that Dr Millward developed his enduring interest in the relationship between sound and image. Digital editing processes meant there were great similarities between the production of video and music. He began to explore how we interpret the complex interactions between the acoustic and the visual.

A theme through many of his recent projects has been the expression of sound as moving image, and how moving images can inform our perception of sound. This interest led to a series of innovative works such as the DVD Uneasy Dreams, in which he developed abstract three dimensional spectrographic moving images to represent the attributes of sound, and then tested these for their emotive impact.

Dr Millward was Professor of Music in the School of Fine Art at Kingston University in London, where he continued to create works for film, television, theatre and site specific performance. These included Dining With Alice, where performance merged with an interactive dining experience, A Perfect Day, an outdoor mixed media event including music performance, multimedia projections, fireworks and pageant, and London Memories, which used mobile technologies to foster community creative interaction.

As Professor and Head of the School of Creative Arts in Newcastle, he sees a unique opportunity to foster inter-disciplinarity between theatre making, fine art and music, particularly in relation to technology and creating interactive performance.His practice-led approach seeks to define the complex nature of arts research and its place in the broader Australian research landscape.