Musicologist new Head of School

Published 03 August 2020

A previously Sydney-based musicologist, composer and musician, Professor Alistair Noble is looking forward to his new role leading one of UNE’s most diverse academic schools, which he believes represents “a range of disciplines of critical importance to the contemporary world”.

With recent professional roles as Executive Dean of the Australian Institute of Music and Associate Dean in the College of Arts and Social Sciences at the Australian National University, Professor Noble brings a deep knowledge of academic leadership and industry knowledge to UNE.

“Our humanities, arts, and social sciences disciplines carry powerful bodies of knowledge and also incisive, creative methods for shaping society’s understanding of the world around us,” Professor Noble says.

“There is a great strength in the work we do, and it is critically important, now more than ever, for the ongoing viability of human cultures and arguably even life on this planet.

“We also need to promote public understanding of graduate outcomes for HASS students, which can lead them towards good careers and richly fulfilled lives.”

Though he has studied and worked across many aspects of the arts – including medieval studies and art history – he also brings a particular understanding of the challenges for creative arts and music scholarship.

“Higher level study of any creative or performance art form always demands deep understanding, good scholarship, and critical analysis.

“I think we often underestimate—and under-value—what artists do, because much of their intellectual work, like the hours of practice, takes place ‘behind the scenes’,” he says.

As a composer and musician, Professor Noble is also looking forward to exploring the local music landscape.

“My initial involvement with the local arts scene will be to watch, listen, and learn. I want to understand and appreciate the work that people are doing in the region today. I will also be offering support wherever I can, building relationships between the many great arts practitioners around New England and the university,” he says.

He describes his music interests as “eclectic”, spanning the classical, avant-garde, and contemporary. Currently, he’s listening to the ‘Trombone Song Cycle’, a collection of obscure love songs arranged for a trombone quartet, elaborate arrangements of music by the 17th century composer Johann Heinrich, and New England local band, Fovndlings, recommended by an Armidale friend.

For his own music and performances, he says a “shared understanding and common purpose” is important, preferring to play the music of composers he knows personally, and to have his compositions performed by artists he has a connection with.

He also has a strong connection with life in regional Australia, having previously lived in the Hunter Valley, regional Queensland, and even the New England.

“I lived for several years in Glen Innes, so I know the New England area quite well and especially love the landscapes and natural environment of the district. There’s a very particular spot driving north on the highway where I always feel that I’ve come home!”