Listening Pleasure: Thinking About Performance

This week on my journeys into Canberra I have had an opportunity to catch up with ABC Classic FM and Radio National. Three items in particular helped me think more about performance. Two were symphonies played on Classic FM and one was a discussion about writing on Late Night Live.

The two symphonies were:

1. Aaron Copland conducting Appalachian Spring (1979)

2. Henryk Górecki‘s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs (Symfonia pieśni żałosnych)

Aaron Copland’s performance as a conductor composer encouraged me to think about how tacit knowledge is made available and confirmed my fascination with performances of understanding. Goriecki’s symphony was so beautiful (it was the first time I heard it) it prompted me to think about performance beyond words and how resonance is a fundamental relationship we have we each other and the world.

The Late Night Live conversation was between Phillip Adams and Mark McGinness. This is the web site trail for the interview “The obituary has had a relatively short life, becoming a regular fixture in Australian newspapers in the early 1990s. However, obituaries have become almost mandatory reading, offering up a celebration of life amid the usual gloom. But how do obituary writers get such an insight into the dearly departed?”

It was a delightful interview and I was left with a very clear sense of the precision required to share a life. It made me think about how coaches communicate and how writing whilst going beyond the 140 characters of Twitter can have an intensity that celebrates lives through thick description. This obituary of Michael Romanoff encapsulates the themes of the interview.

Photo Credits

Simon Ilic Leaning Tree

Michael Sarver Appalacian Trail

Janusz L River Sings

Rude Interruptions and Merry Making

One of my earliest blog post in Clyde Street was about the Merry Makers. The Merry Makers have just held their 2009 Gala Concert.

Photo Source

Just when Lucinda Bryant was preparing the Merry Makers for their concert I came across another remarkable group, Rudely Interrupted and Rohan Brooks

Photo Source

A film about the group was premiered on 3 December on ABC. Neal Murphy has a great post about the group. There was an Irked Magazine post earlier this year too.

You can meet Rudely Interrupted here:

You can meet the Merry Makers here:

It would be fascinating if the two groups were to perform together!

NESC Forum 2009: Wilma Shakespear and Michael Scott

The first session of day was introduced by Anne-Marie Harrison (Victorian Institute of Sport). She welcomed Wilma Shakespear and Michael Scott to their joint presentation providing an international perspective to the Forum.

Wilma Shakespear discussed  her experiences at English Institute of Sport (EIS) and her global observations about high performance environments. She described her early experiences in arriving in England in 2001 and noted the transformation of the high performance sports system over the following eight years. Two key features of the change in this time were the merging of EIS in UK Sport and the  allocation of funds to successful programs.

Wilma observed that as the system changed the focus of the system changed. The system became creative and innovative. It was targeted at sports who were close to medal performance. There was broad spectrum engagement. Development programs were part of this change.

Wilma pointed to the emergence of a Performance Directors’ Forum within UK Sport. This forum enabled exchanges at a time when the system was developing. She noted too the annual conference hosted by UK Sport as a much anticipated event that everyone wanted to attend.

In her overview of global developments, Wilma compared the Olympic Gold Medal table for USA and Germany 1988-2008. She noted the structural issues Germany faced and the internal focus that emerged post re-unification. Wilma emphasised the global forces at play in high performance sport and urged delegates to respect and recognise the knowledge available within and outside Australia.

Wilma concluded her talk with the characteristics of an outstanding high performance system:

  • The Australian daily training environment
  • The Japanese planning approach
  • The French integration of education
  • UK funding, research and innovation
  • The German club structure
  • Canadian approaches to high performance independence

Michael Scott

images Photo Source

Michael’s presentation to the Forum was specific to swimming. As background information, Michael noted that Great Britain won 6 medals in Beijing  (more than last four Olympics combined). In the Rome 2009 World Championships Great Britain won eight medals (placed third on points score, and 27 finalists.)

Michael noted that performance success has clear implications for funding. He reported that UK Sport adopts a no compromise approach to funding success. Michael is accountable for the performance of swimmers and is employed by HP Swimming Ltd, a body independent of Bitish Swimming.

Funding for swimming in the 2005-2009 quadrennium was 20 million pounds (sterling) and for 2009-2013 this rose to 25 million pounds sterling. These funds include:  athlete funding awards, SSSM appointments in Scotalnd, Wales, and the There are 30 staff at present not all full time. There are additional funds for performance lifestyle support too. Further investment is being made in research and innovation. Michael has responsibility all aspects of World Class Performance.

In the UK there are 5 training centres with 14 full-time coaches. These training centres are operated and managed by British Swimming. Michael was very clear that Swimming in the UK controls its own destiny. It is one of a small number of sports that has guaranteed four year funding with additional funding bonuses if 2010 performance goals are met.

Michael noted that the performance plan for Swimming requires identified annual benchmark events  (2010 Commonwealth Games, 2011 World Championships, Shanghai). Athletes are assessed at these events. Success is calibrated in a series of athlete incentive payments: Podium Level A 26,000 pounds sterling, Finalist 19,000 pounds sterling, Top 16 finish 13,000 pounds sterling. Ultimately the strict incentives are designed to deliver performance at the home Olympics.

Michael directs the British Institute of Swimming. It is a hands on role. He has a strategic plan for four years. Each year there are Annual Performance Target KPIs in three Dimensions: athlete, climate, systems. UK Sport undertakes an independent survey of athletes’ perceptions. These KPIs:

  • Monitor progress
  • Provide evidence of impact
  • Inform prioritisation
  • Help understand factors most important in the lead up to the Olympics

Michael noted that 42% of Australian medals in Beijing were won by swimmers. He noted too that despite this funding in 2009 was the lowest in the quadrennium. ustralia had a $2m decrease whilst GB had an increase 5 million pounds sterling. Michael indicated that Europe is getting stronger in swimming and drew attention in particular to Germany and Russia. He noted Brazil’s improvement even before the Olympics award.

Michael’s strong concluding point was that Australia must decide on its funding model. He emphasised the importance of accountability and controlling one’s own destiny.