Marvellous… May…

An update as to what I’ve been up to…

Winter is finally here! Which means single digit temperatures at night, grey, drizzly, overcast days, mostly spent in front of a heater, with excess hot chocolate and coffee consumption… Melbourne in May is truly magnificent… May brings the cold, the scarfs and coats are out, warm cafes, bookstores and homes look all the more enticing, and festivals such as Next Wave and Metropolis brings 2 weeks of new music, new art and everything in-between (plus some 20th century favourites)…

May also saw the premiere of 2 new works of mine.

Babbling House, commissioned by saxophone duo Halfsound, is a 2 movement work that will be toured (along with 9 other newly commissioned pieces) across South-East Asia. This work calls to mind the squabbling of politicians, often descending into nonsense and noise. This was my first work for a small line up of saxophones and first where I really immersed myself into what this instrument can do. Using the idea of babbling politicians and the disappointing fact that the major parties are never far from one another on more important issues, the musical material each saxophone have, are likewise always similar and never far from what the other is saying – however, neither are they ever in complete togetherness (or at least not for long), constantly in a state of conflict. The first movement is very explicit with this idea, both Altos playing rapid passages of grace notes, and futter-tongue, all centred around an Eb. As the piece progresses we have short interludes of cooperation, and quiet, before the process begins again, each time becoming more agitated and moving more and more away in a central pitch.  The first movement ends with the Alto finally departing from the ideas of the Soprano, before both screeching out on indeterminate highest pitches. The second movement see players on the Soprano and Tenor, having more space for each line to speak, and more of a to-and-fro dialogue. In essence there is a mimicking between the two instruments, with excess ornamentation and reiteration of pitches (need I spell out the parallels with politicians). Constantly we have moments the material evolve into soft erratic overtones, until at the end this is all that remains from both player’s original material. This was premiered at the Grant St Studios of the VCA and was also performed live on 3MBS on the 20th of May.

The very same night of Halfsound’s concert, was the Song Company’s Go Into The City concert as part of Metropolis, which featured the Cries of Melbourne project interwoven with various other new and old works. The Cries of Melbourne involved several composers from the Melbourne Conservatorium, in which we made short recordings from various locations around the city then either using, responding or musically translating these recordings into a short composition, in essence collecting a diverse sample of the sounds of the city. For mine, I used the La Trobe Reading Room, creating a piece with a gentle drone interspersed with the various sounds one hears in a ‘quiet’ timber floored, vaulted, 100 year old central space in the State Library. These included, coughing, footsteps, murmuring of voices, white noise, sound of clothes and shuffling about, opening of doors, and the occasional high pitches squeak from what I’m actually not sure of. The Song Company obviously performed all this to a masterful degree, and wonderfully interweaved each of the ‘Cries’ and other works together to create a sonic kaleidoscope of Melbourne.

Latrobe Reading Room

La Trobe Reading Room State Library

May also brings two pieces of AMAZING news…

I have been accepted into Symphony Australia’s TSO Composers’ School (3rd time lucky!!!). This will be a week of intensive compositional and orchestration training in Hobart, with Director Richard Mills, Conductor Hamish McKeich, and Tutor James Ledger, culminating in a performance of my (and inevitably revised) work Atmosphoria, which was commissioned by Matthew Schwarz and premiered by the Queensland Philharmonia Orchestra. This is a programme I’ve kept my eyes on and applied for many times before, so I’m over the moon to have been accepted and look forward to it in September this year!

The other piece of news is that I was accepted into IMPULS, a winter 2 week academy and festival in Graz, Austria. Having heard all about it by my friend and composer extraordinaire Liam Flenady who attended the previous two, IMPULS provides lessons from Europe’s leading composers and teachers, lectures, workshops, and even opportunities with resident ensembles and soloists. I am still so hyped about this and simply can’t wait to attend, not to mention somehow finding a way to fund this ha!

Lastly… I am currently working on two new pieces. An orchestral piece for the Melbourne Conservatorium’s postgrad orchestral workshop with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, and a set of piano pieces for my partner Sine Winther. Oddly enough, it’s the piano set that I’m most anxious about. Not sure how common this is, but maybe composers have difficulty writing for their own instrument… or maybe this is something I just feel. Anyway the goal is to have a set of small works culminating to about 15-20mins, harnessing both my approach to composition to this point but also in trying to push what this seemingly limitless instrument can do. Although I want to avoid preparing or detuning the piano (something I very much hope to do one day!), other than that I have left all other perimeters open, hoping to go beyond exclusively tapping keys. I have a ton of repertoire to listen to, analyse, and ponder, not to mention endless contemplation on how each ‘movement’ relate to the other, how they flow (or don’t for that matter), and what constraints I place on each. And on that note…

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