In August 2018 I visited Amsterdam on holiday; it was a wonderful trip, full of the usual touristy activities. On the final day we visited the Pianola Museum; slightly out-of-the-way, cheaper than every other attraction, and almost entirely devoid of visitors when we arrived, it turned out to be the highlight of the trip.
In essence, The Trumpet Fists of Saint Nicholas depicts festivals, rituals, piety, mockery and violence via a chronological exploration of the Christmas season.
This is the third in a series of blogs where I introduce OCA composers (or, indeed, anybody else who might be interested) to UK-based ensembles, particularly those that are new, exciting, and focus on performing recently composed music.
Recently I have become interested in composing works that present multiple superimposed narratives; music that is about more than just one thing. That is, by combining and juxtaposing stories I can create pieces that operate in structurally unusual ways.
It has given me the confidence to believe in my work and my ability as a composer, justifying the efforts I made in the writing, developing and refining this score. Also, as mentioned above, it fulfilled my dream of hearing one of my compositions performed live, by other musicians.
Hearing one’s music is a very important part of learning how to compose. It can be difficult for fledgling composers to secure performances, but it is worth exploring whether there are any local ensembles willing to look at your music.
I have just finished my five-date solo piano tour, ONE, which featured me as the performer, Debbie Sharp as a video installation artist, and Jacob Thompson-Bell as producer. It was a lot of fun, if a bit exhausting, and it was great to see some OCA students in the audience at two of the gigs.
I have, probably since the age of 14 or so, identified myself as a composer. I played piano (and also guitar and flute rather unsuccessfully), and have variously performed as a classical pianist, accompanist, duo partner, cocktail pianist, jazz pianist, and even a keyboardist in a rock band, yet because I studied composition at music college, and I now lecture in composition, I never really identified as being a performer.
“I think piece titles are very important! A piece should drape naturally from its title, in the same way a coat hangs off a peg. I often find the music suggests a title, which certainly happened in Summer Anthem, with the title drawing upon the generic association of dance music with the summer season and of this genre with club ‘anthems’, this term often indicating a big hook.”
It is easy to dismiss the Listening Log as less important than the composition component of an assignment, but this is not the case; listening is a crucial part of improving one’s musical ability. Therefore, when assessing, it is wonderful to see the work of students who have fully embraced the Listening Log, and David Lake’s submission is a perfect example of this.
Piers is, along with pianist Christopher Guild, a founding member of The Edison Ensemble and is currently a PhD student at the university of Brunel studying with Professor Peter Wiegold. Much of his recent music utilises the radio.
This is the first in a series of blogs where I introduce OCA composers (or, indeed, anybody else who might be interested) to UK-based ensembles, particularly those that are young, exciting, and focus on performing newly composed music.