Reflection On Residency

February 6, 2010 at 10:48 am (Reflections on Residency)

The first and most important feature of the residency for me was how thematically rich the context was. I found these themes always moving and a constant source of inspiration throughout my time at the school.

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There was a pretty thorough description of what was expected of the CIR at the time of application but I realised once in the role that this was a much more open brief than I had anticipated. This was an exciting challenge for me. It allowed my imagination to fly and forced me to take much greater responsibility for the full range of issues related to creating a piece of music than I normally would: from sourcing texts in a very multi-faceted way, teasing out possible venues, considering the relationship between performers and audience etc and the broader conceptual aspects of how a work is presented and experienced. At times it seemed to me that I was examining the values around music almost from first principles and I was very stimulated by this.

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I’ve long been keen to compose music that is accessible to a wide audience, and equally keen that the music I compose is no less rich for that. The residency was an ideal context for me to explore these principles further.

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There were several moments throughout the residency when I was asked to compose music for religious ceremonies. These ceremonies were specifically Christian and this posed many challenges for me as a non-Christian. I had never composed anything specifically “spiritual” but with a deep and very personal interest in spirituality (that is not faith-aligned) I relished these challenges. First of all finding appropriate texts that were respectful and sympathetic to that tradition, that were sufficiently universal without being too generalised and were true to me was very time-consuming but also very rewarding. Finding the right tone, the right style was the real effort and the core compositional challenge of the residency. All the music I composed across the two years was colored by this exploration.

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It was a joy to have the opportunity of composing for a very wide range of musical forces from Gamelan to Orchestra, professionals and non-professionals, and from community choirs to a Rolls Royce of a choir like the choir of Westminster Abbey.

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