Case Studies/Topology

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music, performance, Jamendo


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Topology is an internationally acclaimed Brisbane-based new music ensemble.

There has definitely been an increase in my revenue from international performances of my music as I have bypassed publishers and given away free scores. — Robert Davidson, Topology


Established in 1997, Brisbane's avant-garde music ensemble Topology has gained an international reputation as artists devoted to the experimental form. Self-described as 'nothing if not flexible,' Topology performs in a multitude of venues from art galleries through to opera houses, accompanying silent films and playing pop concerts in 10,000-seat stadia. Regularly recording for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), these contemporary musicians collaborate with new music's leading lights, such as Terry Riley, John Adams, Phillip Glass, Michael Nyman, and Steve Reich, as well as popular musicians including Tyrone Noonan (from the award-winning band ‘george’) and Kate Miller-Heidke (widely recognised as Australia’s popera diva). Topology’s performances include the opening concert of the Sydney Spring Festival, where they received the Best Ensemble Award in 1999, an experimental Fluxus festival at the Queensland Art Gallery, Neil Armfield’s vision of The Marriage of Figaro at the Sydney Olympics Art Festival, and the Surabaya Arts Festival in 2007; details of these concerts are found here. Billed by Australian Music Online as ‘neo-classic contemporary music explorers,’ Topology is Robert Davidson on double bass, Bernard Hoey on viola, Christa Powell on violin, Kylie Davidson on piano, and John Babbage on saxophone.

Compositions by Robert Davidson include Convex and Concave, a ‘contrapuntal miniature’ inspired by the drawings of M.C. Escher, the Karak concerto, a percussive piece using bowed vibraphone, and Big Decisions, a documentary opera which contemplates the dismissal of Gough Whitlam in 1975. Saxophonist John Babbage was inspired to compose one of his many pieces Chop Chop whilst in Santiago, Chile, exploring the harmony and syncopation of Gerard Brophy and Olivier Messiaen. Program notes for these compositions are found here.

License Usage

Topology has placed their album Perpetual Motion Machine on Jamendo under the genre ‘contemporary classical’ and the Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 2.5 licence. Individual tracks are available for download on their site at, and excerpts at The composers distribute free sheet music at


Robert Davidson discussed his motivations to provide a selection of his scores and recordings to the public with Rachel Cobcroft in February 2008.

‘The open framework suits Topology as the sales of albums is not as valuable to us as the promotion of our profile. There does seem to have been a causal link between using open approaches (to mp3s and sheet music PDFs on the web) and our profile being raised, though it’s hard to be certain about this. In my own case, there has definitely been an increase in my revenue from international performances of my music as I have bypassed publishers and given away free scores.’

Inspired by contact with the members of Negativland in San Francisco, and subsequently by reading Lawrence Lessig, there has been a philosophical attraction to free culture for Davidson also.

‘I can’t see that we can move forward in creative work with copyright staying as it is. I want to make music using all sorts of quotes and allusions, but find it prohibitive to be always needing to pay $20-$120 per second of footage (I signed a contract today to pay those amounts to use excepts). There have to be other ways.’


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