At six years old, the age when most kids have just learned to count to ten, ANU PhD Music student Callum Henshaw was learning to play classical guitar. And at that age, Cal’s involvement with the ANU School of Music
had just begun.
“I basically learned with Canberra-based teachers who were all students of my current teacher, Tim Kain, from when I was 6 to now,” Cal says.
“It was a simple choice to come to ANU for my undergraduate degree because Tim Kain, who was then at the ANU, is the best teacher in Australia and the guitar department at the School of Music is one of the Top 5 in the world. So it made so much sense to stay in Canberra and do it here, where I had a home.”
While he had an early interest in classical guitar, it wasn’t until he was 16 or 17 that “something clicked”.
“I really knuckled down and started to understand music more and started to practice more effectively. It was probably in my first year of university that I really decided that this was the thing for me,” Cal says.
Cal is now partway through his PhD, which focuses on composer-performer interactions. Specifically, he’s interested in the 25 year-long working relationship between 20th century guitarist Andrés Segovia and Mexican composer Manuel Ponce.
“What I’m looking at is how their relationship and the dynamics between them as people and the social dynamic that was surrounding that type of relationship comes to affect the very music itself."
He’s examining this through a particular work of theirs, a 25 minute Theme and Variations that took three years to write.
“I’m looking at not only the concrete evidence for things that occur in the music but how you can extrapolate the ideas of the composer or of the performer – and who’s subverting who and how the two minds come together to create something that kind of extends beyond the capabilities of either as a composer or a performer.”
“The piece wouldn’t have been the same if either were left to their own devices,” he adds.
Cal says that collaboration is the most fun part of music for him, citing playing guitar with his duo partner, fellow ANU PhD music student Andrew Blanch
“I also love being involved in the writing of new music and having the opportunity to perform those pieces,” Cal enthuses. “Working with composers who are sitting here in my office or wherever is just really interesting, seeing how their minds work and learning about music through them.”
“In performing something that no one else has performed, you feel very possessive of it; that it’s yours and it is that composer’s and it is this piece of both you that you’ve kind of fitted together as a jigsaw and can then present.”
“It’s intensely personal, much more personal than performing a work by someone you’ve had no interaction with.”
Cal's music can be found on his website.