What is a Composer?

Catherine Mole · What is a Composer?

‘What is a Composer?’ is a piece written for spoken word and piano. The inspiration for this came from asking myself what makes someone a composer and what can be classed as a composition.  This is a question that I think most composers and creators ask themselves on a regular basis.  It is something I have personally faced a lot as well as questioning how to define what I do and how I work.  This piece was a way for me to forget about the pressure that I was putting on myself. 

The process in producing this score was just as important for me as the outcome of the project.  I wanted the idea to develop and represent the concept that was in the title. I started the production of this piece by creating A3 sheets of paper that are printed with a stave across them. I decided to stick them securely on the floor in the doorways of each room on the fifth floor of Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. On the door of each room I wrote a sign telling each person to walk on the paper and try to leave as many marks on the floor as possible.  I wanted the material of this piece to be generated by people who are performers, this is why I carried this out within the Conservatoire and on the fifth floor where the brass and percussion departments live. 

I kept these pieces of paper on the floor for around six hours on one day and then collected them up.  Throughout the course of the day there had been lots of marks made on the paper and I think that it was a success. These sheets of paper all together created the pages of the score.  After going through each of the pages I decided to add a level of clarity to it all by drawing over parts of the scores to bring the performers attention to the key shapes that had been created by people walking on the staves. 

I decided that there was a missing element to this piece, and it did not seem strong enough as a stand-alone unit, so I created the spoken word part to be included.  I was unsure whether I should add this detail to the score or whether it should remain a separate part for a second performer.  

For the recording and score I have submitted as part of the portfolio I chose to have the spoken word performed by a different person to that of the piano part. However, in the score I did choose to leave that decision up to the performers. In the submitted recording I chose to have separate performers because it was easier for recording during the pandemic especially when it came to considering what the different performers have access to.  Whichever way the musicians choose to perform this piece it still ends up having an interaction between the two parts.  However, in retrospect I think it would lose a sense of rawness and that organic relationship that happens when working in a duet.  

I am really happy with the outcome of this project and think that it worked a concert to highlight how much composers and creators question what they do.