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Third Year So Far …

My third year at The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire started off very differently to my first and second years. I moved back to Birmingham from my family home in early July 2020. Moving house during a global pandemic is quite different to normal, and luckily my family were able to help me as I was the first person to move into my shared student house.

Me and Mum in Brindley Place, September 2020

The start of first term was exciting as we were able to have some in-person classes and were allowed to go into the Conservatoire building and actually see our friends. As the risk of the virus became higher again around half way through the term we were told that in-person teaching had to stop but we were still allowed to use the building as a second study space. I found this really helpful and made the effort to go in a few times each week so that I could get a change of scenery from my bedroom.

It has been difficult getting used to studying in this way compared to before the pandemic hit. I have found that motivation is rare but I have learnt to be aware of this more and not force myself to work when I am not feeling creative. However, I have found that when I do get inspiration for a project the processes appear to happen a lot faster than before. I seem to be more engaged in each of my ideas and projects.

Throughout the UK’s first lockdown I had moved back to my family home and in some ways it was like going on holiday away from Birmingham. Living in the countryside even if I am just going back there for a short while always reignites my love of nature. I started to work on a few projects when I was at home in Suffolk yet I put very little pressure on myself to complete them. I wanted to set myself up so that when I came back to Birmingham I would be able to crack on and start producing music again.

The house that I moved into in Birmingham is a lot further away from the city centre than where I lived in both my first and second years at the Conservatoire. Away from Birmingham city centre there are beautiful areas of nature reminiscent of what I was used to before moving away from home. This means that over the course of the academic year so far I have been able to still immerse myself in nature and open spaces.

The bulk of my creative energy during the pandemic has been directed towards creating visual art, both paintings and drawings as well as digital based work. During this time I began to feel that the focus of my music creating was not where I wanted it to be. I realised I had to push myself and start working in ways that I hadn’t before to help myself to create a style for myself. I started to combine elements of the graphics, paintings and drawings that I love producing with elements of composition. I began to realise how much I valued notation and how important the visual aspects of the score are to me as the composer.

I have discovered that for my inspiration to really take off into a piece I need to have it in a physical form. So, I have been producing art as a way of developing my ideas. I found that having inspiration in a physical format and being able to touch and see my ideas in person really helps me to stay motivated on each project. It also provides me with a store of ideas and details that I can dip back into when I want to work on that project.

With this academic year starting during the pandemic things have run very differently in regards to projects within the Conservatoire. Unfortunately there have been no orchestral projects, which means opportunities like when I worked with the Orchestra of the Swan haven’t taken place this year. However, the composition department have still worked really hard to create chances for our music to be performed.

One of the big opportunities that was organised by the department was to put each year group of the composers with a different instrumental department. Each year group is able to make connections with the performance students in that department. The third years have been grouped with the early music department and have been asked to write a piece for either an ensemble of their choice or for a solo performer. I have chosen to create a graphic score for solo recorder.

This piece is a development from a project I started working on during the first lockdown. I looked at the hands of performers and the different positions that people hold and play their instruments in. I was also interested in the way that people can make music from their instruments without playing them in the generic way. I started the process for this project by producing drawings of a performer’s hands. I then experimented with the different ways I could combine standard Western notation with the drawings.

Going forward in 2021 has seen very little change in the state of the pandemic, with England going into the third national lockdown, university is staying online for the near future. Starting the new term online has been quite an odd experience but we are all hoping we will be able to go back to in-person teaching when it is safe to do so.

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Through to the end of second year

Moving back to Birmingham after Christmas was the start of a busy second term. I had many composition projects planned and was really excited to jump in at the deep end and crack on with all of them.

This year I was asked to be a mentor as part of the Young Composers Project at the Conservatoire. I was very excited to be asked to be a mentor on this project as when I was studying for my A Levels I took part in it as a student. This project gives the opportunity for students between the ages of 14 and 18 to come and be part of composition workshops and activities. It was an amazing experience for me when I was younger and I also felt very inspired to be part of it as a mentor this year. Unfortunately, because of the pandemic and the Conservatoire being closed the final concert will not be taking place this year in the normal way.

Half way through February, I woke up to a knock on my flat door from a member of the accommodation team for my building asking if the roof was leaking. Being half asleep I said, “no it’s all fine in here”. Little did I know my ceiling was covered in damp patches and that I was going to have to move flats that day. After a long day of carrying everything and with a lot of help from my friends, I was settled down in my new room by late that evening.

On 29th February, I shaved my head to raise money for the Birmingham Children’s Hospital and also to donate the actual hair to The Little Princess Trust. This was something I had wanted to do for a really long time and decided to bite the bullet and put a date down and start raising money. Cutting all my hair off was a really scary experience but I felt an odd sense of relieve after it was gone. I had some of my friends come over and each cut a plait off of my head so that it could be sent off in the post to The Little Princess Trust. Here is a photo from the day we cut my hair and one of my newer headshot to show the aftermath.

At the beginning of March the percussion department’s recitals took place and this year I was asked by Dean Rogers to do the lighting for his recital after having learnt earlier in the year how to work the lighting desks in the Lab. This not only gave me a chance to put what I had learnt into practice but allowed me to watch a lot of the recitals as well. This actually inspired me to write one of my newest pieces Communication is Hard for solo marimba and tape.

Dean Rogers in rehearsals

On the 8th March the Conservatoire held a day long festival to celebrate International Women’s Day. I was part of the organisation team for this event and was able to take part in many of the activities that were happening throughout the day.

The last big event I was able to be part of before lockdown started and the Conservatoire closed was Bex Lycett’s major project Impasto. This was a concert premiering many new works by composers all inspired by synesthesia. For me this concert premiered two of my new pieces; Layers of Pages/Pages of Layers and Pressure.

After all this excitement at the beginning of March I was forced to move out of Birmingham and back to my family home in Suffolk because of the global pandemic. As a result of the lockdown situation being anncounced I moved the majority of my belongings back home at 4:30 in the morning so that I could be with my family for the rest of the academic year.

After coming home my focus went on to submissions and my upcoming deadlines. First I was working on a harmony exam paper and then my history essay. After those deadlines all of the classical music students in second year have to work on a devised exam piece. We were allowed to pick groups of three or four people and work on a piece that included each of our musical skills. Bellow is a link to the project that myself, Riadh and Gina worked on together. Our piece Sincerely is a multi-media piece using both audio and visual elements. It was composed around the idea of confrontation towards harassment in everyday life. Each of us performed in the piece but also gave our own ideas to contribute to the final outcome.

To finish off my second year at The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire I had to submit both my creative and technical portfolios. Despite circumstances being very different to this time last year I was still very pleased with the projects and works that I had produced.

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First Term Round up

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.

Girls Night Out – November

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.

Last weekend in Birmingham Before Christmas – Matthew Philips

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.

Concert Poster – BNM

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The Start of 2nd Year – September to October 2019

By the end of June I was looking forward to my summer break and going home to Suffolk. It felt like a well deserved break because of how busy my first year had been. I spent the start of the holiday relaxing and taking a break from all things composition. I then travelled to Cumbria for a holiday which became the main source of inspiration for the piece I worked on during the summer.

At the end of July, I was given the opportunity to compose for the Orchestra of the Swan for a concert on the 9th October. This piece had to be finished and ready for rehearsals by the beginning of September, before I had even moved into my new flat for second year. I worked with the natural beauty of the countryside I experienced in Cumbria and how nature can inspire me. This was a wonderful opportunity and I am very grateful that I was selected for it. The concert was held on Wednesday, 9th October, 2019 in the Bradshaw Hall at The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

In August I was able to go to the Ruhrtriennale music and arts festival in Bochum, Germany. This was a fantastic opportunity and exposed me to different forms of creative arts and music. I was fortunately able to see the premiere of a play entitled “All the good” by Jan Lauwers. This was an incredible performance that highlighted important and very personal factors of Lauwers’ life. This performance did have a lot of very varied responses and some people were very unhappy with how certain elements were portrayed. However I felt it to be a very empowering performance.

Saturday, 14th September was the big moving day back to Birmingham. We had an early start with two cars full, driving all the way from Suffolk to Birmingham to settle into my new flat. This year I have chosen to live in a studio flat near the Conservatoire. Deciding where to live was a difficult decision however I am very happy to have my own space yet still have my friends living next door. The location of my flat also means that I do not have to fight my way through traffic and buses to get to and from the Conservatoire.

Since starting term it has been a very busy few weeks. Getting used to a new timetable and all the extra classes that I want to be part of means that I have little time to relax now. I have also started a new job this year which means in my time away from classes I work at the BCU City South Campus in their Social Kitchen restaurant. I still managed to have a great time during freshers week…

Freshers week, Composition night out – 2019

Since being back in Birmingham I have been to two album launches. The first being a folk band called Juniper. They released their first album on 27th September at the Woodman pub. Everyone had a wonderful time, drinking and dancing the whole time. The second album launch was Tephra’s album Keiyona at Centrala Space, Digbeth.

The start of October brought the performance of my latest project ‘Through Cumbrian Hills’. This is the project I worked on over the summer for the Orchestra of the Swan Concert. The day was very successful and helped to give me an insight into what composing in the future after university will be like. I was given the opportunity to be in the rehearsals throughout the day of the concert. This was a very interesting experience as it meant I could talk to the performers and receive feedback on my work. To read more about this project, click here…

October also meant the start of my work as the joint composer in residence for the Brass Department at the Conservatoire. I am working on this with fellow composition student James Abel. We had a first meeting with the Head of Brass which kicked off a lot of inspiration for me on working with unusual ensembles as well as writing for solo instruments. The first project I have started work on is for a horn quartet, using movement and a spacial sound world.

One of the concerts I have been to this month was as part of the series entitled Music for Trees. This is a series that is working to raise money for rain forest charities. It was a lovely cause to support as all the profits from a wonderful night will go towards supporting nature. At this concert there were four amazing groups performing that night. The first being Thorpe & Morrison, then Juniper, Filkin’s Drift, and PHAT.

The rest of October has involved a large amount of my focus on different composition projects and organisation for future events. I am now part of the Birmingham New Music team which organise concerts to show students’ work once every term. The first of these will be at the end of December.

To finish off October I went to the Conservatoire’s halloween event at Walkabout and, of course, my friends and I made great efforts to dress up!

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End of the Year – May to June

With the start of May came my first year course work hand in, with my creative portfolio on the 8th which included any style of compositions that I have worked on throughout the year, and my technical portfolio on the 15th which included two compositions set to a brief and one orchestration task. This meant that the first few weeks of May were very busy finalising all of my pieces and recordings. After these two hands in dates and a few manic weeks of preparation for them I felt that a rest was very well deserved (as well as a couple pints with my friends!).

Flatpack Film Festival 2019 – Centrala, Digbeth

I also had the opportunity to take part in a composition for the Flatpack Film Festival 2019. I was in a group with two fellow composition students and we were set the task to re-score the soundtrack for a film. My group chose to do the ‘Powers of Ten’ film by Rae and Charles Eames. This was a really interesting project and I think it is something I would definitely take part in again if the opportunity arises. To read more about this project, click here …

Something else that I took part in was the Birmingham Record Company day at the Conservatoire. This was a packed day where we were able to go to different concerts and talks about the new music industry. My favourite was a sound installation that was produced by the group Post Paradise. This was a really interesting installation as it was an interactive experience and meant that the audience could be involved.

I managed to spend some time this month catching up on saxophone practice that I had missed over the busy period of my course. For next year I have decided to apply for saxophone lessons for my additional 5 hours second study. I think that this is really important as I have realised how much I enjoy playing and how helpful my lessons were in the past for my compositions.

Towards the beginning of June I had to take part in the final part of the course for first year which is the viva voce. This is an opportunity to explain and discuss your compositions. My exam was in the afternoon and was with Ed Bennet and Howard Skempton who are both composition tutors at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. We spent the time talking through my portfolio and what I thought were my strongest and weakest pieces. I found this to be a helpful process as it gave me the time to reflect and have constructive feedback on my work throughout the year.

During June I attended the first ever Summer Formal at the Conservatoire. This gave everyone the opportunity to put on a fancy outfit, drink a little too much, and sing a little too loud. There is not a lot to say about the Formal other than I really enjoyed myself and have lots of photographs to remember the night.

One of the final events I was able to see before I left Birmingham for the summer was the CODA Festival that ran on the 19th and 20th of June. This is a two day festival to showcase “new music” composers’ work around the Conservatoire. I aimed to go to as many events as possible however did miss a few when they were going on until 11 at night. One of my favourite events for the festival was the Jawbreaker concert on the Thursday morning. This was a series of seven pieces composed by Tom Campbell for a range of instruments. Each piece within this series had a different melodic phrase or motif that was explored and developed quickly through the piece.

Something else that I was asked to go and watch was the french horn flash mob run by Sarah Willis in New Street Station. I was also supporting my friend and fellow student Emily who was performing in the flash mob. This was an amazing opportunity to see 67 french horns of all different ages performing together as well as supporting my friends who were involved.

By the end of June my accommodation at University Locks was over. This meant there were two manic days of moving all my things back home for the summer as my accommodation for next year does not start until September.

My plan for the summer back home in rural Suffolk is to crack on with a few compositions that will hopefully be ready for September and also to spend my time working and earning money for myself going into my second year at the conservatoire.

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Easter Break – April

Starting this month off with course exams in Harmony and Aural meant that working on new compositions went on hold. As end of first year deadlines are looming my focus has been on editing scores and finalising recordings for my creative portfolio. Printing is very time consuming meaning that there has been multiple trips to and from printing shops and the Curzon building at all hours of the day and night. However I did manage time find time to go to the Conservatoire Ceilidh at the beginning of the month for a couple drinks and dances!

Conservatoire Ceilidh – Me and Dean

I have been working on my history essay that is due in on the 9th of May. I chose to research and write about the effect that Berlioz’s work had on the symphony. I found this a very interesting topic and doing the research has helped me to broaden my musical knowledge. The three main topics of my essay were Orchestration, Themes and Structure. These were all areas that Berlioz worked with in a way that was not common in the Romantic era. Researching this topic has helped me to understand the way that Berlioz influenced the composition techniques that are used in modern music.

This month my composition Colour Coded was performed in the final Birmingham New Music concert of this year. This project was in collaboration with the performer Matthew Phillips. The key idea in this project was to work with extended techniques for the cello and coloured note heads to indicate the frequent changes in techniques throughout the piece rather than the usual written instructions. It was a really successful and enjoyable composition to work on. Read more about this composition here…

Matthew Phillips – Performing at Birmingham New Music

This performance also gave me the opportunity to have feedback from fellow students as well as tutors at the Conservatoire. I found that people were very intrigued with the concept I chose to work with and were also very impressed by Matthew’s performance.

Just before the Easter break I received my annual report from my one-to-one tutor Dr Kirsty Devaney. This has given me advice to work on for next year as well as support and commendation on my progress throughout this year. My main focus for next year is to be working more with stronger conceptual ideas as well as working with more visual ideas in my compositions.

My friend and fellow student Dean Rogers helped me to produce a recording for my piece Twenty Something Chairs. As this piece is for a large ensemble I struggled to organise rehearsals which meant that I could not get a recording for my portfolio. We then decided to record each part separately and layer them together in Ableton Live. This turned out very successfully and means that I have a good quality recording for my creative portfolio hand in. Read more about this composition here …

Dean Rogers – Second Year Percussion Student

During our two week Easter break I went back home to Suffolk for an escape from my busy life in Birmingham. Despite still having to get on with work throughout the break it was wonderful to be back at home. I spent a lot of time taking in the beauty of the countryside and spending time with my family.

Socksie – Easter Break at Home

A few trips to the coast helped to inspire me and give fresh ideas for my compositions. I find that nature has always had a big influence on my work. I find that surrounding myself with natural, rural locations helps me to have a clear mind and rejuvenate my ideas for on going projects.

Felixstowe Seafront
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Two Months to go – March

March has been a busy month, finalising all of my portfolio work and binding all of my scores. This is a long process of checking and altering details of each of the scores to ensure continuity in notation throughout my portfolio.

Starting the month off with a focus on finalising a few pieces of work has meant that there is not a lot left to finish for my portfolio hand in at the beginning of May. The next step for me to work on was to start writing the commentary that goes with each of the pieces I am submitting in my portfolio. This gives me an opportunity to explain the processes that I went through to complete each of my compositions.

Towards the middle of the month I began to struggle with motivation so gave myself some time away from my desk and computer to visit the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery to see the ‘Too Cute’ exhibition create by Rachel Maclean. This is an artist that I looked at for my A level art. I found that this experience really helped me to become focused and it also gave me a lot more inspiration and ideas for both new and current compositions.

I had a visit this month from a close friend from back home. This gave me an opportunity to relax and not have to be concentrating on composition for the weekend. I think that it is very important to give yourself breaks from work, whether that is composition or work for other classes like harmony and aural. We spent the weekend pampering ourselves and going on a few nights out in Birmingham.

This month I have been involved in composing music with a team of composers for an element of the Flatpack Film Festival 2019. I am working with two other student composers to create the music for the ‘Power of Ten’ film by Rae and Charles Eames. We decided on using a string quartet and using a large amount of glissando to represent the direction of movement in the video. After having a workshop session with the other groups giving feedback we decided to focus a lot more on the video and having a connection with the audio. This helped us to create a second contrasting section when the direction of movement in the video changes.

This month also gave me the opportunity to have one of my pieces performed in the Birmingham New Music concert. I chose to enter my piece ‘Postcard Paint’ which is for solo piano. To read more about this project Click Here…

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The Month of Concerts – February

February has been a very busy month. I have been planning for new pieces and organising performances of other pieces. I have to say it has been very rewarding to keep myself this busy. Finishing the month with a lovely long weekend at home has made it all a little bit better.

Despite the stresses of the course I found that I spent a lot of time planning and working out all of my deadlines. I know that May seems a long way off but it is creeping up on us all very rapidly. I don’t mind this, but realising that I only have 12 weeks left until my portfolio hand-in does cause a slight sense of panic!

Study Session – Yorks Cafe Birmingham

One of my close friends and I have made a pact to go to as many concerts as possible this year. This meant that in February we went to:

  • An Evening of Contemporary Brass
  • Birmingham New Music
  • Boccherini Chamber Music
  • Sir Lenny Henry in Conversation
  • Frontiers: Recorder Futures

All of these are concerts or events that I have really enjoyed going to and have always come out feeling inspired to go on and compose a piece influenced by the music I have just been exposed to. After the Boccherini concert I decided to compose a piece for solo cello using extended performance techniques.

This month also seems to be a very productive month for me. I have been working on five separate compositions, all of which have either been completed and recorded or are due to be performed very soon. To get to this stage is a great relief as it means that my portfolio is bulking out with enough time for me to not be rushed by looming deadlines.

One of these compositions is my trio project piece ‘Growth’. This is a piece for vocals, piano and percussion. I chose to base my concept on the stages of growth in plants. I started by using a graphic representation that I then translated into a traditional form of notation. I did this because I knew that I wanted to have a strict notation yet also have the influence of the freedom of the graphic representation. This month I got the opportunity to have this piece performed in a workshop with the ensemble that will be performing it in concert. This was a really helpful experience for me as it meant that I could then make any changes that I felt needed carrying out before the concert.

A new project that I started working on this month was a piece working in collaboration with a graphics student. We decided to work on a video that will be accompanied by a piece for a Korg Volca Beats machine and solo strings. I started this by creating the drum part. This was mainly based on improvisation and building up a sequence of parts.

Korg Volca Beats – Recording Setup

A major priority for this month was finalising my accommodation for next year. After a lot of viewings me and my friends are finally set on an accommodation which is perfectly situated and a just a short walk from everywhere we need to go. The accommodation is now booked and deposits have been paid

A large source of the inspiration for my compositions comes from nature and the beautiful natural surroundings of Suffolk that I grew up in. Going back home this month meant that I was able to reconnect with this. We took a day trip to the coast at Felixstowe which was very refreshing. I was reminded how important it is to have break from work to help bring new inspirations into my composition ideas.

Old Town Coast – Felixstowe

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Back to it – January

A new year and a new term. Being back in Birmingham came to me like a breath of fresh air. I felt refreshed after the Christmas break and ready to get back into the swing of things. Despite the upset of leaving home for a second time I knew that being back in Birmingham provides me with opportunity and motivation for my degree.

The first step for me this January was to get on top of all of my compositions that are in progress. I found that making a clear plan for each of my works had helped me massively to keep on target for the portfolio hand-in in May.

As part of my portfolio I am required to have recordings of each of my compositions. I thought I would struggle with and so planning out my process would make it a lot easier. I started by talking to my tutor and working out the logistics of each of my pieces. This led me to the decision that I would need to have films of some of the pieces I have been working on because they have a visual element to them that I consider to be important. This required me to engage with some of the music technology students who would be able to produces recordings in both visual and audio mediums.

Over the Christmas period I had set myself the goal to finish any scores that I had started in the first term. This was difficult as I found that when being at home I lost the level of motivation that I had develop whilst being surrounded by musicians and other composers. Despite this I managed to finalise a few of my pieces which meant when I got back to Birmingham I could start organising recordings and performances.

Within the first few weeks back I have completed my first recording. This was of the initial scores of ‘Postcard Paint’. I asked a good friend of mine who is a piano student at the Conservatoire to perform these pieces for me. They were very successful recordings which meant I could move on to the next stage of this project. This involved sharing these recordings with a few people and asking them to draw their responses on paper. Once this part is complete my next step will be to collect all of the drawings and lift out the shapes and areas that I think will evoke the best repose from the performer. I will then use these elements to create a graphic score for the final performance.

Gina McDonald – Piano Performance Student

This January I was given the opportunity to have one of my pieces professionally performed and recorded. My piece is entitled ‘Flute in the Wind’ which was a project that I had been set as part of the course for solo flute with extend performance techniques. There is a page on my website all about the process and outcome of this project. Click here to read it…

The next step for me is to confirm and book performances of my other pieces as well as organising recording time. I will need to work on a few more projects such as the Flatpack Film Festival, and an advert soundtrack. I also need to produce a piece that includes an element of music technology, for this I am thinking of using live performance combined with a loop pedal.

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Welcome to Birmingham – My First Term

As a first-year music composition student, I feel very small in the big community of music. In a class of 16 students, we are the largest year in the composition department. Despite the difference in class sizes across the years, I feel that the first year composers are their own community, with styles ranging from traditional Folk song to contemporary graphic scores.

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The first term is now coming to a close and I officially feel settled in. My writing style has begun to develop a lot since starting in Birmingham. I am now often composing in a lot more of a contemporary style and working with non-traditional instrumentation.  However I am also working with traditional instruments combined with more contemporary techniques. One of the main projects that I have been working on this term is called Twenty Something Chairs, it involves a percussive approach to chairs. Notation of this piece includes tapping the chair legs and also pushing and pulling the chairs away from the performer.

Adjusting to life at the Conservatoire is something that came quite naturally to me. Despite loving Birmingham, to start with I felt very lost in a big city but having really caring flatmates made it a lot easier to deal with being so far from home.  I feel that I have settled into the course very well, despite at the start it was a slight shock to the system. With tutors exposing us to music such as Yvonne Rainier the contemporary choreographer and Louis Andriessen the composer.

A big part of life at the Conservatoire is all the concerts and gigs that are constantly going on.  I have to admit it is hard to keep track of what is on when but I would highly recommend going to as many different concerts as you can. Not only does it help to widen your musical knowledge but I found that it also has helped me to form new friendships and get to know people outside of the composition department.

I do have to say that overall my first term experience has been made so much more wonderful because of all the new friends that I have made. I think a big part of this for me was just putting myself out there and showing people my personality. As well as going along to course nights out and being social during fresher’s week, I have had to give my all to everything I have taken part in like chorus and practical classes such as Gamelan and orchestral conducting . The next step for me is finding a flat for next year with my two closest friends.