Research Leadership Expertise
Professor Constable has been a research leader in music as a composer, pianist and improvisor over many decades. His areas of expertise are:
Improvisation, particularly with film
Development of research standing and status within a university community of scholars and researchers of the discipline of music, particularly music performance.
Performing and Composition
Robert Constable is a leading pianist, composer and improviser. As a solo and collaborative pianist, he has performed in Australia, the USA, the UK, Austria and New Zealand as a recitalist for several decades specializing in classical, romantic and contemporary repertoire. He was a foundation member of the Seymour Group Contemporary Music Ensemble, Sydney.
In recent years he has moved away from formal piano and chamber music recitals, preferring to concentrate on written composition, in addition to piano improvisation with film - largely as a performing partner to the great classic films of the silent era. Over nearly three decades he has performed with silent films in the UK, Austria, New Zealand and particularly in Australia at his annual Buster Keaton Festival in the Kangaroo Valley - which ran for a total of thirteen years - and the Australian Silent Film Festival, Sydney. Robert Constable creates a unique, improvised soundscape which illustrates every detail and character of the film in much the same way as an orchestra acts as musical partner to the dancers in a ballet. The late Lesley Ho, Director of the Singapore International Film Festival said in 2016, “…when he [Robert Constable] plays with great silent films we hear the film and see the music.”
As a composer of notated music, Robert Constable works in a wide range of genres including solo, choral and instrumental ensemble genres, documentary soundtracks, music for theatre productions. His music always has strong theatrical elements and much of his written work has a slow-moving hypnotic quality which draws the listener into its sound-world.
Professor Constable’s university headships have spanned the period in which the discipline of music, particularly music performance, was required to develop, often for the first time, research standing and status within a university community of scholars and researchers. Prior to the widespread amalgamations of practical music schools with universities in Australia and New Zealand in the early 1990s, university music research, when it did occur, was confined to a small number of musicology and composition projects, usually within music departments which were part of a broad arts and humanities faculty. Music performance, which, following amalgamations was a new part of the academic environment of universities, had previously been excluded from any form of research evaluation and therefore initially experienced significant limitations in its status as well as meagre opportunities for research funding.
Throughout his career, Robert Constable’s academic role often revolved around providing a new type of leadership to music staff and senior students; he was also a leader to senior university colleagues in other disciplines in promoting university-wide understanding of the broad fields which constitute research in music. Professor Constable placed himself at the forefront of this pioneering work across the full range of music sub-disciplines, frequently undertaking the design or re-design of post graduate programmes within each of the music schools under his direction as well as representing their value across the wider university. In Newcastle, this meant inventing honours, masters and doctoral streams. Essential to such leadership was developing his own understanding of what should (and should not) count as research / research-equivalence in the various areas of the creative and performing arts. As leader, he assisted his colleagues to define and develop their own research projects, frequently encouraging them to complete masters and doctoral degree programmes. In turn, this led to an increase of research capability among his music staff, and enhanced their research supervision potential.
One of Professor Constable’s most significant research leadership achievements was establishing, leading and managing the Stuart Piano research and development project at the University of Newcastle. The Stuart Piano project (see also p.2 above) was able to commence through the acquisition of a modest $400K research infrastructure grant awarded to the Newcastle Conservatorium in 1994 as part of Federal Government funding arrangements to support amalgamations of small institutions and the colleges of advanced education sector with universities.
As a leading and innovative technology, the Stuart piano, through the Australian Technology Showcase was championed by State Premier, Bob Carr and Treasurer Michael Egan. Under their patronage, the instrument became, in the words of Michael Egan, the ‘unofficial mascot of the 2000 Olympic Games’. Among the many dozens of Stuart piano recordings, the complete Beethoven Sonatas featuring University of Sydney pianist, Gerard Willems, stands out for its impressive sales figures (over 100,000 copies sold world-wide), and the numerous national and international awards these recordings have won. Under Robert Constable’s direction and management, the Stuart project served many individuals and organizations in a multitude of ways. The significance of the new piano manufacturing enterprise in re-imaging the city of Newcastle in the post BHP era was of major importance.
Following the project’s highly successful achievements under Robert Constable’s direction from 1994, in 2002 the enterprise was transformed into a company, Piano Australia, with the help of patron, Robert Albert (Albert’s Music Publishing), who became an active partner in the venture. Now, more than 25 years after Professor Constable established the Stuart Piano project at the Newcastle Conservatorium, the Stuart technology continues to evolve and beautiful Stuart & Sons grand pianos continue to be built (and sold) by Wayne Stuart and his family in Tumut, NSW.
Robert Constable and Wayne Stuart
Stuart & Sons Pianos