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Helen Garner & Elena Kats-Chernin


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All of our lives have soundtracks. We cherish certain songs that have meant something to us, and lyrics that have helped us through tough times and inspired us to do better, or think differently. Similarly, most of us have a mental shortlist of seminal books, short stories or poems that have made a difference to us – pieces of writing that have formed who we are.

Who do our favourite writers listen to? What do the musicians we admire love to read?

In our third instalment of Words and Music, world-renowned writer Helen Garner meets Uzbekistan-born classical composer and pianist Elena Kats-Chernin.

Garner’s much-anticipated new book, House of Grief, is a heart-rending, insightful courtroom drama brought to life – in the same vein as Joe Cinque’s Consolation. Kats-Chernin, meanwhile, has composed for concert halls, opera houses and state theatres in Berlin, Vienna, Hamburg and Bochum, as well as the Australian Ballet’s Wild Swans.

Helen will tell us about two pieces of music that have inspired her work as a writer, while Elena reveals two pieces of writing that have helped shape her musical direction. We eavesdrop on their exchange of treasures, and the conversation that ensues.

Hosted by Genevieve Lacey.

Presented in partnership with The Substation.


Elena Kats-Chernin

Elena Kats-Chernin studied music in Moscow, Sydney and Hanover, and was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. She has created works across nearly every genre, from rags to operas and works for robotic instruments to a full-scale choral symphony. Her music featured at the opening ceremonies of the 2000 Sydne... Read more

Genevieve Lacey

Genevieve Lacey is a recorder virtuoso, serial collaborator and artistic director, with a significant recording catalogue and a career as an international soloist. She creates large-scale collaborative works across radio, film, dance, theatre and public art, and has premiered scores of works, writte... Read more

Helen Garner

Helen Garner writes novels, stories, screenplays and works of non-fiction. In 2006 she received the inaugural Melbourne Prize for Literature, and in 2016 she won the prestigious Windham–Campbell Literature Prize for non-fiction and the Western Australian Premier’s Book Award. In 2019 she was hon... Read more


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