Lakeside Arts
Part of University of Nottingham
Lakeside Arts

Person playing a stringed instrument


With restrictions of movement meaning that we're spending an increasing amount of time at home, we're all looking for new things to do and different ways to stay entertained during this period of confinement. Music is one thing that a lot of people are turning to. Its ability to embody a range of emotions and to connect to all of us on different levels makes it a comfort during these uncertain times. Join Head of Music Programmes, Dr Catherine Hocking, each week as she shares a selection of some of her favourite pieces.


This short piece has so many connections and resonances for me. As a fellow Tasmanian, Peter Sculthorpe’s music has always been special to me and I listen to it especially when I want to feel closer to my home even when I’m on the other side of the world.

'Small Town’ is a short movement from a larger suite The Fifth Continent that Peter wrote in 1963 as a radiophonic work for the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s entry for the Italia Prize. While studying at Oxford University, Peter had conceived the idea of selecting passages from DH Lawrence’s novel Kangaroo as inspiration for new compositions.

Although Peter Sculthorpe himself said that there’s a pervading ‘feeling of distance and loneliness’ in The Fifth Continent, the short movement ‘Small Town’ is a joyful celebration of the small town of Thirroul on the New South Wales coast where DH Lawrence wrote Kangaroo. It’s an affectionate depiction of a small country town and its inhabitants and it transports me straight back to the main street in a typical Australian small town.

The recording I listen to is that made by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra in 1997 during the time I worked for the orchestra, so it’s particularly special as I remember it being made. I remember Peter as a gentle, kind and generous man and he is the speaker reading the passages from the book in this recording.

DH Lawrence is, of course, a famous Nottinghamshire son and we have an extraordinary resource of Lawrence manuscripts and memorabilia in the University collections and world class research being undertaken at the DH Lawrence Research Centre. Some years ago the University Philharmonia played this piece in a student summer music festival so I’m reminded also of that concert and how much I’m missing the student choir and orchestra concerts that should have been taking place now.

So, in many ways, this piece of music connects me and my Nottingham home to my family in Australia on the other side of the world.