My first term back in Birmingham saw the start of second year with a very busy few months. After the excitement of moving into a new flat and freshers week the first project I had coming up was my piece for the Orchestra of the Swan. This was a composition that I was asked to do during the summer break and I chose to take inspiration from my holiday to Cumbria. To read more about this project click here…
The next month consisted of a lot of project meetings and research for projects coming up over the next year. One of the projects that I worked on a lot throughout this term is my piece ‘Gradual Destruction’. This is a piece for a horn quartet that is based on the ideas of movement and harmonic changes. I chose to create a large score for this where each bar takes up an A3 page. This was to allow for the performers to be moving around the room. I wanted to included the element of movement and I wanted to explore the ideas of a spatial sound world.
Towards the end of November I signed myself up to be part of a lab session. This is a time slot every week where all of the composition students across all years are expected to come and watch up to three fellow students present their work or ideas for a composition project. This gives students the opportunity for feedback from both tutors and other students. I presented my project for the horn quartet and started by talking through my ideas before showing different layouts for the performance. I then asked for feedback on which set up created the most engaging performance and which helped the sound to travel in the room the best. This was a really good experience as it helped me learn how to explain my projects as well as making me think through my ideas more thoroughly and from the perspective of the audience.
At the beginning of November the Conservatoire has a two week break for auditions and rehearsals. As I am studying composition I am usually not involved in any rehearsals. However, this year I was asked, along with other students, to help with auditioning the potential first years for September 2020. The composition department ran small workshops as part of the audition process in which a few current students helped by supporting the people who were auditioning throughout the tasks that were given. This two week gap in the timetable also gave me the opportunity to go home to Suffolk for a break. It was really lovely to see my family as it is both mine and my Mum’s birthdays in November so we went out for our joint birthday meal.
Once back in Birmingham, it was time to start getting more work done for my personal projects. One element of the submissions in second year is a technical portfolio like I had to do in first year. In the first term we started work on the first two tasks for this, which were due in the first week back after the Christmas break. The first of these was an orchestration task of the piece ‘Hard By A Crystal Fountain’ by Thomas Morley. We were set the task of orchestrating this piece from a 6 part choir to a piece for flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano. We were also given the opportunity to work with the BCMG NEXT ensemble players to run through our ideas for this piece.
For the second technical piece that was due in January we were given a choice between two tasks. These were either to ‘Compose a short piece for two instruments that demonstrates the rhythm as the most vital element to making it a successful piece’ or to ‘Write a three minute piece for Erhu along with a commentary documenting the rationale for your compositional thoughts’. I chose to compose a three minute piece for the traditional Chinese instrument, the Erhu. We were given classes on how to write for Erhu and the different ways it has been used in the past and also how it has been used in more contemporary music. We were then asked to write a one minute piece to explore the different sounds that could be produced and try out the style that we would want to work in for the technical assignment.
To finish off January I had one of my pieces performed in the Birmingham New Music concert. This was a piece inspired by the Fluxus musical movement. It is called ‘Tangled and Twisted’ and represents friendship and the importance of friends within daily life. There will be a project page on this soon.