Saturday, 27 June 2015

Charlotte New Music Festival, USA: Day 12

The last day of composer presentations, and boy was it a big one! Five of us all in one go - it's not surprising everyone was a little sluggish and quiet (especially with questions!), but still, a great set of presentations none-the-less!

First up was Jeffery Nicholas (for anyone who's been following, the driver of the #bantermobile) - Jeff has this way of talking about his music which is.... well, rather self-depricating! And I'm not entirely sure why, because I really enjoy listening to his music! His opening piece, a solo suite for piano does show some heavy influence from Bartok and Prokoviev, which he admits he was influenced by (mainly due to his composition teacher at the time), but I really enjoy it, and I'm sure pianists would enjoy playing it. In particular I really loved his choral piece "The Snow Man" - as predominantly a choral writer myself I love exploring new choral works, and I think Jeff writes really well for voice. I thought it was interesting how he says he writes 'via counter-point' first (moving lines, for those of you who don't know), because this piece, to me, seemed to be much more about the block harmony and focus on the word setting, which I thought was great. Jeff, like myself in fact, writes 'accessible' music, which is no bad thing at all - I think people will really want to play and hear his music, and maybe he needs to be a little less hard on himself and just write for his own enjoyment a bit more.

Ben Stevenson was up next, giving an overview of his works from the last couple of years, including 'Ghost Metropolis'; an ambient and spacial piece based on a circular harmonic movement, and 'Tracer'; and orchestral piece inspired by a painting. Ben stated that he didn't consider himself and 'intuitive composer', but he does believe that each piece has to find it's own way - you can't force anything. Ben's orchestral piece was really quite evocative, and made great use of imagery (especially a particular section meant to imply a bald eagle). There was some discussion about the logistics of an effect/dynamic he wanted for the Tam-Tam, which is actually not possible (I know, I am a percussion player) - this just highlights for me the importance of a) knowing the instruments you're writing for, and b) if you don't know, get someone to play it for you! I think many composers these days are quick to rely on just imputing scores into sibelius/finale (I know, I can be lazy like that sometimes too), so having people play your work, even just as an initial reading is so beneficial for a composer.

Next up was, in fact, me! I decided, like Ben, to present a cross-section of my work from the last few years, or more accurately, the last decade, presenting; 'Canne del'acqua', 'Concerto for Electric Bass and Rhythmic String Orchestra', 'Northern Star', 'A la Perchoine', and one of my singer-songwriter tracks 'Island of Silence'. General feedback on my work was really positive, with the consensus that I really know how to write beautiful melodies, especially for my choral music. Carter Rice also praised my use of counterpoint, particularly in 'Canne del'acqua', which I wrote when I was 17. He said it was unusual to have that kind of knowledge at that age - so I guess I have my mum to thank for that one, as she's the one who taught me! Like Jeff my work is very accessible, and also very memorable, and quite a few of the group either had suggestions for groups to submit my work to, or even wanted copies themselves to submit to people they know, which I'm really pleased about. So all in all, a great presentation for me! - you can find all my presented pieces by going to my soundcloud page:

After a short break we were back to it with Rachel E. Matthews. Rachel also chose to present a cross-section of works, starting with some of her very early music, which was a piece for Oboe and Harpsichord. She originally wanted to write for Oboe and Banjo, but switched to harpsichord because one wasn't available. Although it is a (strangely) logical substitution, Rachel's writing did show she wasn't that comfortable writing for harpsichord, as her knowledge of the instrument was not as apparent. What was lovely about the works Rachel presented, however, was seeing her truly develop and improve - her final presented piece for percussion entitled 'Atmosphere' showed great command of writing for percussion, and great use of counterpoint. I feel like a lot more thought went into this piece, which is, of course, typical when you're studying and improving. I really like Rachel's music: like me she's a sucker for melody and harmony, and I hope to hear more in the future.

Finally, Marc Cortes presented the last composer presentation of the workshop. Marc is from Barcelona, and his music does reflect the romantic European ideals. He is also tremendous as orchestrating, as showed by his piece "Epitahium", which was inspired by the works of another composer Hans Rott. Marc's writing for strings is beautiful, and I loved the concept of writing a piece to pay homage to an under-appreciated composer whom people may never have heard of. Another of Marc's piece that I adore is his String Trio, which is essentially a theme and variation, with each theme being written in the style of famous composer (like Clementi or Wagner) - this piece is delightfully witty and elegantly written, and the Wager variation even induced a really nerdy outbreak of laughter from the group as we heard very typical Wagner-esque themes.

#Team Cello
After a chilled out afternoon off, we were off to hear the fruits of our labour for the Speedwriting Concert of Miniature's. Presented in the New Modern Art Gallery downtown, it was an ideal setting for completely new music. The Beo String quartet performed our music in a variety of combinations, and there was even the inclusive of Toy Piano as performed by Adam Scott Neal. Considering that everyone was writing music inspired by North Carolina folk tunes, there was an amazing variety of styles across all composers. My particular favourites were written by Calvin Hitchcock; which had hilarious theatricality and a definite southern twang, Bill Heinze; who managed to include a very funny quotation to Stravinsky's 'Rite of Spring', and Cassie Weiland; just stunning duet string writing in my opinion! My piece, 'Carolina's Jig' was performed on solo cello by Hannah Whitehead, and I'm so very pleased with how it came out, and wonderfully, Hannah want's to add the piece to her repertoire, so I'm thrilled! The added element of 'competition' in the form of an audience vote added to the fun, and the overall winner was in fact Bill Heinze, winning himself the glorious prize of a cloak and paper crown. I have to say, if there'd been an extra prize for 'best title' that would have definitely gone to Carter Rice for his aptly named 'Folk the Police'.
Bill, you are the King of Speedwriting

It was a truly great concert, with an incredible amount talent on display. And, as we all know, after a truly great concert you need to chill out and unwind.....

.....naturally, with Dominos Pizza, beer, and Cards Against Humanity! Wooo!
Nothing going on here officer.... BEEEEEES!!!!
Beo and their groupies

Could Cody look more happy with himself about this pizza?...

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