Green trees, oil on canvas by Glennda Blyth (she’s my partner, I’m super proud of her!)Anyway, this hangs on the wall quite close to my workspace. It helped inspire me whilst I was writing the prologue text for my new Dr. Seuss inspired composition for the Leichhardt Espresso Chorus. It’s a kind of eco allegory and is shaping up quite nicely.
Picture this paradise now, if you will,
A great verdant forest, so calm and tranquil
Fine tuned ecosystems that balance just right
The crawlers, the creepers, the ones blessed with flight
All living together as happy as Larry
There’s no need to rush. There’s no cause to tarry.
Each knows his place in the great scheme of things
He may take what he likes, as long as he brings
Back to the forest a gift of his own
You can trust here that you’re never ever alone.
I played a concert today with Acacia Quartet. “In Her Shoes - music by women composers” featured a bunch of my own compositions plus a brand new work by Alison Wrenn, as well as the splendid Piano Quintet in F# minor by Amy Beach.
Chamber music. So much fun. I need more in my life
A fan of mine sent me this picture of his daughter’s toy piano. Apparently she only plays it if my album is on the stand for inspiration. Cute!! Bless…
Piano Quintet in F# minor op 67 by Amy Beach.
Yes, a woman composer. Read about her here
I’m so very tired of all the talk about women in classical music and misogyny. Instead, being the cockeyed optimist I am, I have decided to do something about it with my concert series In Her Shoes. The third instalment of the series is happening this Sunday with Acacia Quartet. Can’t wait :D
Also world premieres of works by UK based composer Alison Wrenn and… yours truly! Confronting for a composer, but if I don’t play my own music, who will? Haha.
A Butterfly by Luis Falero.
Am writing some text for a new choral work and I needed some visual inspiration, kindly supplied by Falero. Yay! Anyway, the piece I’m writing is an allegory about destruction of forests. This movement introduces the character of a pretty but vain little fairy called Miss Flipflap O’Flurry and will lead in to her first encounter with the logging machine, Mister Garrulous Grinder.
Miss Flipflap O’Flurry, a fairy more sweet
In all of the forest, you never could meet.
Each morn she arose, stretched her filigree wings
(Of all her fine attributes these were the thing!)
Drinking dewdrops from her wildflower cup
She heard an odd noise. She knew something was up.
The thing crashed and banged, it lumbered and stumbled
"This noise, it is making my head ache", she grumbled.
She popped her head out from her delicate bower
And witnessed an ominous monster’s great power.
I am thrilled to be performing a piece by UK composer Alison Wrenn at In Her Shoes - music by women composers. I shot through a few interview questions to her the other day about her life as a composer. Here’s what she had to say.
Five minutes with Alison Wrenn…
I am so excited to be premiering your beautiful piano miniature Unicorn in Rainbows. Do you often take your inspiration from pictorial sources? Where else do you find the inspiration to compose a work?
I think this is the first time a picture has inspired me in this way. The image is really striking and spoke to me with its colours, the fantasy/daydream mood, and the placement of the unicorns. I have tried to capture all of this in the piece, particularly the isolation of the solitary unicorn.
I usually get my inspiration from nature (Barefoot and Free is about feeling happiest when at one with nature; Footsteps Through The Forest is a walk through the woods, listening to the sounds of nature, etc), or myths and legends (Between the Mountains and the Sea loosely follows a story from the Mabinogion, etc.).
There are fewer obstacles these days for women who wish to work as composers. Are there any women composers, both from today and from times past, that you particularly admire?
I was asked this question recently and I actually said you, Sally! For being a true individual who isn’t afraid to challenge. Your passion and uncompromising drive are a real inspiration. But also…
Sally Beamish - she was lovely when I met her (she judged a competition that I won in 2011) and she managed to compose while having 3 young children. I only have one child so if she could do it, so can I!
Cheryl Frances-Hoad - Cheryl is my age and has done incredibly well as a composer. Her music is, to me, a brilliant blend of highly contemporary and fresh, while retaining an element of familiarity embedded within it, making the beauty that bit easier to find than with lots of other contemporary composers.
You and I ‘met’ on twitter, and then in person at a concert I played in London. Without social media, I suspect we would never have connected at all. Do you find social media to be a useful tool for making new connections in your creative life? What kind of opportunities has it brought to you?
I wouldn’t be without Twitter! Without a doubt, twitter is the best tool I have discovered for promoting my works. I have built up a network of musicians that I follow (nearly 2000) and I have over 1700 followers - most of whom are musicians. I have received 4 direct commissions from people that I only know through twitter, which have resulted in performances in various countries. I have also had my existing works performed around the world, for example a carol that I composed while at uni was performed in New Zealand in 2012. Youtube and Facebook help a little but they are nothing compared to Twitter.
Soundcloud is another great website as it allows you to upload sound recordings and share them with your network so that people can hear your work easily and comment on it.
I very much admire your commitment to community music making through your Sing for our Planet project. It seems a wonderful medium for raising awareness and inspiring people to act on their beliefs. What advice would you offer to composers keen to give something back to the community?
I would say get in touch with your local community choir or orchestra. I have found them to be very receptive and keen to work with me - I helped my local orchestra get a community music grant from the BBC Performing Arts Fund to commission Legends of the Tor, and when I approached a local choir about Sing For Our Planet, they were really excited and have been fantastic in helping me promote the project, etc. Community groups are vital in making live music real for people outside big cities. They are the performers and the audience - if you want to spread a message, this is the way to do it. Also, you’d be surprised how many groups, activities, and people who care about the community there are!
What’s the next project in the pipeline for you?
Sing For Our Planet is a huge project that won’t conclude until summer 2015, so that will be keeping my attention for a while! I need to finished a commission for trombone and piano for a twitter friend in Texas. I’ve recently been approached about writing a 10 minute piece for orchestra, and something to celebrate a school’s centenary - both local projects. Other than these, I generally go with the flow and see what comes up :)
"Garrulous Grinder, Destroyer of Green
Was the worst kind of wilderness hater about.
With the meanest and beadiest eyes ever seen,
Great champing steel gnashers within his great snout,
He’d recklessly lurch through sweet Edens serene
To demolish, to burn and to raze he was keen
Until not a skerrick or trace of the green
That once graced the countryside here could be seen.”
- by Sally Whitwell. Yep. Yours truly.
Sneak peak of the text for the new songs I’m writing for Leichhardt Espresso Chorus. I hope they’re as excited as I am!