Posts in Composers
Kupkacast episode 1: Hannah, Liam and Michael discuss
Ahead of our next performance, Tautologies, Transitions, Translations, at the Judith Wright Centre on October 7, Hannah, Liam, and Michael caught up via Skype to discuss composing, naming pieces, extramusical influences, different approaches to counterpoint, and whatever else came up along the way.

All three will be having a new composition premiered at the coming concert, so we thought we'd try to give a bit of an intro to the thoughts behind each of the pieces.

 

 

We hope you enjoy this Kupkacast pilot – if we get good feedback we might do this more often!

And don't forget to book your tickets and get along to the show!

 

Around and between the sounds: an interview with composer Corrina Bonshek

On Sunday 10th July, Kupka pianist Alex Raineri will perform 'Nature Spirit' by Brisbane composer Corrina Bonshek. They sit down to talk about inspirations, birdsong and overseas adventures!   Corrina_Bonshek_Composer_with_Score_Photographer_Nick_Morrissey

Alex Raineri: Your music is strongly influenced by Eastern cultures and musical traditions. Could you tell us what draws you to this and how it manifests in your compositions?

Corinna Bonshek: I’m really drawn to different aesthetic approaches to time and space. For instance, the Japanese have the concept of ‘ma’ or the space around or between sounds (actually it applies to different art forms too). But with music, this concept can help create momentum despite a very slow tempo. Tension and release comes from playing around with the space between/around the sounds. Another example is South Indian Carnatic music where set rhythmic phrases (tala) help create an inner pulse that can be felt by the audience and performers even when the musicians are playing highly syncopated, offbeat rhythms/phrases. This means there is a subliminal rhythmic framework that’s perceptible even when the performers are going for it in almost free-jazz style!

These concepts really spark my creative thinking. A big passion for me is writing music is very spacious yet has a sense of directionality or dynamic energy or movement. For example, the opening of Nature Spirit using overlaid rhythmic phrases that are expansions of a 1 | 1.5 | 2 ratio. This creates a subliminal rhythmic framework that, even at a very slow tempo, has dramatic tension. I like experimenting with ideas like this. This is how I express in music experiences I’ve had while meditating.

AR: Nature Spirit was written specifically for a recent solo performance I gave at Gretel Farm (Bangalow, NSW). This was an outdoor show which was presented alongside a choir of varied Bangalow birdsong! Given that this was such an important feature of the works conception, how do sense the transition will be from this setting, to an indoor and slightly more formalised presentation? 

CB: Ah yes, it would be lovely if the wild birds of Bangalow felt like joining this Brisbane performance, but somehow I don’t think they’d enjoy swapping their tree perches for a stage indoors.

With Nature Spirit, I wanted to write a piece that could be performed indoors or out, with or without birds. I think it works well both ways. Of course, there is a transcribed brown goshawk call from Gretel Farm in the piano music, so that bird will actually still be with us just in a different form!

AR: It’s been really great working on this piece with you and it’s a joy to know that any pianistic advice I give you is immediately taken on board! How have you found it, writing for an instrument which you don’t play yourself, and did your conception of the piece change through the course of our workshops? 

CB: Thank you! I really enjoyed collaborating on this piece with you and I have learnt a lot about the piano, especially in regards to pedalling and sympathetic resonance.

A lot of my composing happens in the realm of the mind/imagination and I do have to continually remind myself that the sounds I’m imagining are going to be created by bodies (playing instruments), and the effort/work involved in producing a note will shape the resulting sound quality/timbre etc.

I remember when we were working on the middle 'water' section of Nature Spirit, it was really important for me to understand how easy or hard it was to play those figures and how much of a pause was needed to create a sense of effortless flow.

You were able to give really clear advice on this that helped me shape the phrases in this section and ultimately led to a restructuring of that section as a series of wave-like sequences.

What was fascinating to me was realising that some of my early sketches for that section were very guitaristic. I played classical guitar for 15 years. Of course, what is easy on the guitar, may not be so easy on the piano and vice versa.

Another moment that stood out for me was when you instinctively added a little extra dynamic drama with the very soft ‘pp’ in bar 64, likely from your experiences playing 19th century piano repertoire! This decision really helped bring out the overarching shape of the phrase.

My experiences collaborating with traditional musicians from Thailand and Chinese music traditions has taught me that wonderful things can happen when you invite performers into the creative process. I aim to be open to those moments, and the magical, unexpected things that can happen.

AR: You’ve got some really exciting composing adventures ahead, tell us about whats next for you!

CB: Next week, I’m off to Cambodia for 21 days to participate in Nirmita Composers Institute / Cambodia Living Arts 2016 Workshop and receive mentoring from Chinary Ung. My trip is being funded by a Power Up Your Arts Mentorship grant, a joint initiative of the Queensland Government and Gold Coast City Council.

I’m honoured to be the first visiting scholar for Nirmita Composers Institute. I’ll be collaborating on a new piece with Susan Ung (viola), Yim Chanthy (Cambodia wind instruments) and Ip Theary (Roneat Ek or Cambodian xylophone), and attending lectures and presentations from composers and performers from the Pacific Rim who have a strong interest in Asian aesthetics including Kate Stenberg (violinist formerly of Del Sol String Quartet), composer Koji Nakano (USA/Thailand), composer Sean Heim (USA), tenor Sethisak Khuon (Cambodia) and many more. The workshop participants include traditional musicians from Cambodia, Laos and Burma as well as young composers of western art music from Cambodia and Thailand. It is going to be fantastic to have composers and performers from western art music and Asian traditional music backgrounds spending time together to workshop music within and across traditions. I expect there will be many fascinating conversations, and lots of new and exciting music.

Then right after that I will visit the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh to do a workshop with a pinpeat ensemble (traditional Cambodian court music ensemble) and operatic tenor Sethisak Khuon. This will be the first time I have created music for mixed ensembles with different tuning systems and different traditions. I’m very excited about the sonic possibilities. I hope this experience will give me many new creative ideas for the future.

AR: Thanks Corrina, looking forward to playing your piece! 

Don't miss the concert! 4pm, Sunday 10th July at 'The Imperial Room' (Wynnum, QLD). To book tickets please email avonfun42@gmail.com to reserve a seat and secure some of Helen's 'out of this world' afternoon tea. 

A continuous line drawing: An interview with composer Samuel Smith
 
headshot-samuelsmith.jpg

Kupka's Piano has been busy lately! Just one day after our concert at the Judith Wright Centre last week we launched into rehearsals for our next show, a performance at QSOCurrent for the second year running. KP flutist Jodie managed to catch up with Melbourne composer Samuel Smith for a chat about his sextet set to feature in this concert.

Jodie Rottle: Hello Sam! We are excited to be performing your work things are become new in Brisbane at QSOCurrent this Friday on the 29th of April, 8pm at the SLQ Auditorium 1. Can you elaborate on your inspiration for the piece? What can our listeners expect to hear, and how did you achieve your desired sound using the instruments of the traditional Pierrot sextet formation?

Samuel Smith: When I wrote things are become new in early 2014, I was trying to reinvigorate my music with a stronger sense of line. Prior to that I think had been dealing primarily with vertical arrangements of pitch – dense textures and static blocks of sound – as the principle method of developing form. I came to things are become new wanting to explore a stronger horizontal narrative and develop a more heterophonic and polyphonic aspect to my language.

To do this I split up the sextet into a series of duos – percussion and piano, flute and violin, bass clarinet and cello – and more or less cycled through these combinations, each taking it in turns to heterophonically decorate a single line. This nearly unbroken line runs throughout the entire piece as though it were a continuous line drawing. The narrative trajectory and larger registral contours are then altered by the orchestration alone.  

JR: Speaking of instrumentation, do you have a preferred ensemble size or formation to compose for? I have had the pleasure of hearing your works live for both orchestra and small chamber ensembles. What can be best achieved with large ensembles, and what are the benefits of working with smaller ensembles? 

SS: Both large and small have their joys and challenges. I’m currently working on a solo guitar piece and I am really enjoying the limitations of a single instrument after writing for orchestra. However, I miss the ‘laboratory’ aspect of an orchestra – all those harmonic devices, registral and timbral extremes and the scope of combinatorial colour is a joy to imagine.

My true preference though isn’t so much about size or formation as people. I will always be happier writing for a musician, or group of musicians, that I know personally, that I have heard play and, probably, that I have shared a few drinks with. Music is a very social experience for me and the more I have worked, talked, workshopped and spent time with the players, the more I will enjoy writing the piece. This doesn’t necessarily preclude the larger ensembles, but with my limited experience of orchestral writing, I’ve found it to be pretty lonely.

JR: You have mentioned to me that you are greatly influenced by the work of Gérard Grisey.  Can you tell us why, and do you consider yourself a composer of the spectral style? 

SS: In 2012, about the time I began composing, my brother and I spent six weeks canoeing down the Murray River. Starting in Albury in the flat, green pasture lands and ending 900 kilometres away, west of Swan Hill in the red dirt of the Mallee, I was struck by the analogue of landscape and musical form. Viewing the beginning and end of the trip in isolation, one would not equate the two at all. However, whilst travelling down the river the difference is intangible as it happens at an imperceptible rate.

This sense of organic, immanent development is something I have always tried to achieve when constructing my pieces, and when I first heard the work of Gérard Grisey I realised that his approach to musical time is a devastatingly good example of that. His attention to formal process is so complete, but the music always sounds spontaneous and poetic. His article ‘tempus ex machina’ on the poetics of musical time was a real eye opener for me.

I don’t consider myself a spectral composer. I think of myself instead as a composer whose horizons were expanded significantly by the spectral school, but I’ve probably got feet in several camps equally.

I’m currently thinking a lot about ways of reconciling my interest in cluster and set based harmonies with harmonic devices derived from the harmonic series, ring modulation and frequency modulation.

JR: Thinking back to my days in NYC and the apparent divide between the Uptown and Downtown music scenes, it seems as though we in the new music genre rely on classifying ourselves into different camps. Do you think there is a benefit to identifying with a sub-genre or style in new music? Or perhaps this doesn't exist in Australia? Do you recognise any stylistic differences within different regions of Australia? 

SS: I think there is a rule of diminishing returns for this type of classification. It can be immediately useful to ally yourself aesthetically with certain composers or artists and in some contexts it can be helpful I guess. But, at least in my experience, it seems to descend so quickly into scrappy partisanship that I find really uncomfortable and disheartening. This hasn’t been helped at all by recent changes to arts funding either. I’d like to think that composers of new musics, old musics, jazz, post rock etc. still have more in common than not and I’d love it if we could all just get along and be more appreciative of difference. I guess that’s a sunny optimism I’ve inherited from my Mum and her love of Kropotkin, but I hate to think of musicians and artists fighting among themselves while politicians continue to make such frightening choices.

I think Australia does have some really interesting and exciting regional differences. Broadly, I’ve noticed that a lot of music from Sydney seems to be working with open forms, with a large scope for improvisation. Perth seems to be producing a lot of musicians with an incredible and original grasp of technology. And Brisbane has you guys!

JR: Aww, thanks!!!!!

Finally, what music are you listening to at the moment? Are there any composers or musicians that you can recommend our Brisbane audiences to check out? 

SS: I’m afraid to say that since finishing Masters earlier this I have a bit of listening fatigue for new music. Instead I’ve really been enjoying listening to bands like the Dirty Three and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, as well as Ornette Coleman, Henry Threadgill and Gillian Welch and David Rawlings who I was lucky enough to see a few times in Melbourne earlier this year.

If you’re after some Melbourne specific advice though, I’m always hoping to hear more music by Alexander Garsden or Luke Paulding.

JR: Thanks, Sam. We look forward to having you in attendance at the concert.

You can find more information about Kupka's Piano at QSOCurrent and buy your tickets by clicking here. And have a listen to Sam's music on his soundcloud.

 
Snakes and almglocken: An interview with composer Jérôme Combier

Tomorrow night, Kupka's Piano will give the Australian premiere of French composer Jérôme Combier's Feuilles des paupières in their concert "Outer Sounds" at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts. Percussionist Angus Wilson interviewed Combier on his music, his time in Australia (both past and, possibly, future!), and the idiosyncratic instrument: the almglocken. If you don't yet have tickets, you can buy them here.

Angus Wilson: Hi Jerome, thanks for taking the time out to chat with me! Can you tell us a little bit about your background, and your style? What can our audience expect to hear in Feuilles des paupières?

Jérôme Combier: Well, my 'background'? You mean 'me'? How to answer to such a difficult question? What is the relationship between the 'background' of an artist  and his 'style'?... I can just say that I am an occidental artist, and in that sense I practice music in an intellectual way. I mean my way of living music is quite inner and introspective. On that point of view it's quite abstract (like philosophy and certain kinds of poetry). For me, musical experience is connected directly to an experience of time, a particular time, subjective and unfathomable, the music-time. I'm looking for this particular perception of time when I write music, and such an experience is what I would like to propose to people. A kind of 'contemplative' attitude, as we can feel in Nature. On that point, I'm really 'Debussyist':

On n'écoute pas autour de soi les mille bruits de la nature, on ne guette pas assez cette musique si variée qu'elle nous offre avec tant d'abondance. Elle nous enveloppe, et nous avons vécu au milieu d'elle jusqu'à présent sans nous en apercevoir. Voilà selon moi la voie nouvelle. mais croyez-le bien, je l'ai à peine entrevue car ce qui reste à faire est immense ! Et celui qui le fera... sera un grand homme !

Claude Achille Debussy in interview from la Comœdia on 4 November 1909, published in Monsieur Croche and other writings. In English:

We don't hear the thousands of sounds of Nature around us, we don't look out for this music, which is so varied and offers us so much. This music envelops us, but we have lived without being aware of it. In my point of view, this offers a new approach. But believe it or not, I have only just glimpsed it, and what remains to be done is immense! The one who will do it... would be a great person!

AW: You mentioned Feuilles des paupières is from a cycle of works, I'd be interested to know about the rest of the cycle.

JC: Yes, Vies silencieuses is a collection made of seven pieces, each one using a different instrumentation, all taken from a set of seven musicians: flute, clarinet, guitar, piano, percussion, viola and cello. Vies silencieuses is closely related to my residence at the Villa Medici for which it was imagined and where it was realised between 2004-2006. These 'lives' have been inspired firstly by pictorial universes of various different artists: first and foremost Giorgio Morandi and his still life works made with minimal objects: bottles, vases, pitchers…

I wanted to have such little pieces of music constructed with few elements, always the same. I also wanted to have shorts pieces like small canvases, with a very precise form (duration of time in my case). Usually I prefer these pieces played as a full cycle, because:

Sometimes there are particularly austere, wintry, colours, redolent of wood and snow, which cause one to pronounce once again the fine word ‘patience’, which cause one to think of the patience of the old peasant, or of the monk in his habit: the same silence as under the snow or between the white-washed walls of a cell. The patience which signifies having lived, having suffered, having held on: with modesty, endurance, but without revolt, nor indifference, nor despair; as if, from this patience, one nevertheless expected an enrichment; as if it enabled us to become secretly suffused with the only light that counts.

Philippe Jaccottet, Le bol du pèlerin, p. 57.

AW: Given that the almglocken (several octaves of pitched cowbells) is the main reason we haven't been able to program the piece prior to this concert, can you tell us a little bit about your experience with them and why you chose them for Feuilles des paupières?

JC: I like very much the sound of the almglocken; mixed with piano sounds it gives a strange colour, not very well-tempered. That's the reason why I used it in Feuilles des paupières. I was looking for a non-western sound, very raw, and a little bit detuned. Feuilles des paupières and the whole cycle, Vies silencieuses, looks for specific sounds connected to elements such as: metallic sound, wooden sound, the idea of wind… In this way, the almglocken is really metallic, we can feel the matter inside of the sound.

AW: Liam mentioned that you had a great conversation with him about the spectral legacy - that 'spectralism' no longer exists as such. It would be great for composers/musicians in Australia to hear a little bit about your thoughts on the topic!

JC: I don't really work with spectral material and legacy. However, sometimes I make analysis of a particular sound (for instance clarinet or flute multiphonics) and I try to integrate the result into my harmonic material. But usually I work with scales of pitches, integrating quarter-tones. At the end, perhaps we might believe that the music is spectral, but it is not. My way of thinking music is not spectral at all, even if I very much like spectral music. Here in France, it has become a part of history, very important for us, and absolutely related to two composers: Gérard Grisey (who influenced me for other reasons) and Tristan Murail, who I know a little.

AW: Finally, when you think of Australia... what is the first 3 things that come to your head? Good or bad!

JC: Firstly: My travel in 1997 in Canberra and Sydney. I won a composition competition that was organised by the conservatory of Paris and the School of Music in Canberra. I didn't like Canberra so much, but my house was near the lake and it was nice to live there for a while. Sydney was more exciting, I was very impressed by the town and I would very much like to come back there.

Secondly: My son, Côme, who is 7 years old and who wants to live in Australia for the reason that there is a lot of snakes and dangerous animals! He's fond of the taipan...

Third: Australia's natural environment. I would like to explore the country, especially around Melbourne and in Tasmania. Last year, during the summer time I started to write to Sydney Conservatorium, proposing to work for them as a teacher just for one year. I wanted to live there, with my family, to offer this gift to my son, but in the end I did not send my letter…

AW: Well, I hope you consider sending your letter to the Queensland Conservatorium in Brisbane instead - we'd love to have you, and you can tell your son we have lots of snakes!

Find out more about Combier on the website of his ensemble - Ensemble Cairn.

Dignity and militancy: Si el clima fuera un banco

liam_on_bike On Friday, Alex Raineri will be premiering my new piece Si el clima fuera un banco for solo piano and fixed media at the Kupka’s Piano concert ‘Outer Sounds’.

The initial inspiration for the piece was as simple as it is impossible: how to put new music in relation to climate change as a scientific, social, and political problem?

While there is a lot of ecological, site-specific, interactive, art being made today, and I think this is a fine thing, I was interested in confronting what seemed to be completely heteronymous worlds: a virtuosic, notated solo piano work, popular political songs from across the last century and a half, conservationism and evolutionary science, and social and political analyses of our climate crisis.

The idea is that through assembling these various strata, complex and dissonant relationships will form, sometimes overwhelming the listener in their density, sometimes opening into enigmatic clarity.

What I was explicitly not interested in doing was writing a piece that is supposed to ‘raise awareness’ of climate change. I had no interest in choosing texts that outline the severity of the situation, the social and environmental costs, horror stories meant to humanise the issue and make us feel bad about our life choices. There’s enough of that out there already. Instead, I wanted to create an experience that in a sense condensed the complexity of the social-environmental relations we find ourselves in today, but also pointed generally to a political way out.

Of course I understand that my music will have limited political effect, but it is my belief that the solution to the climate crisis will come from the political sphere, from popular mobilisation and organisation, and not from art. Without denying art’s potential for political engagement, to my mind art’s primary challenge in this arena is simply to not get left behind: to interrogate what the climate crisis and its social implications means for art’s own presuppositions. There of course will be many ways of doing this.

if-the-climate-were-a-bankSi el clima takes excerpts from texts by John Bellamy Foster, Aldo Leopold and Stephen Jay Gould. At the centre of the textual element is Hugo Chavez’s still-astonishing speech at the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Summit in which he made the statement: “If the climate were a bank, they would have saved it already,” from which the piece takes its title. While I was composing this work, I was also reading Naomi Klein’s fantastic book This Changes Everything, which, in a sense, is the real subtext of the work.

On a basic musical level, I tried to structure the work as a complex, meandering, but nonetheless inexorable movement towards a precipice. A kind of ‘tragedy of progress’ in musical form. The piece ends with a suspended moment, our moment, the moment of the decision, where options are open and things aren’t yet determined.

In general, in this piece and others, I’m aiming for a music that expresses both a sense of dignity, and one of militancy. The dignity comes from the refinement and complexity of the contrapuntal discourse – its resistance to reified musical language; the militancy comes from the ‘stickin’-to-it-ness’ of the lines, the driving nature of a lot of the material, the intentionally crude elements, the unadorned, unaestheticised texts, musical quotations, and so on.

To my mind the one can’t exist without the other: too great an emphasis on dignity turns the music into a paranoid negativity, always avoiding what might be a ‘naïve’ or ‘crude’ idea. Such an approach tends to collapse in on itself, leaving neither complexity nor dignity. On the other hand, too great an emphasis on militancy makes it brutish, unthinking, and, in a sense, easily ‘domesticated’. The idea is to find the point where the two intersect and reinforce each other. This is my idea of counterpoint.

I have to thank Alex in advance for all the tremendous effort he put into the piece. There has been a lot of back and forth between us about the piece since January (cross-continental collaboration: Brisbane-Brussels), with Alex often playing a direct role in suggesting compositional alternatives, etc, and I’m curious to see the result of this combined labour. I also have to thank here the three speakers Andrew Last, Jess Moore, and Nat Evans, whose unaffected and personal speaking styles nicely compliment the powerful oration of Hugo Chavez.

'Outer Sounds' takes place on Friday 19 June at the Judith Wright Centre in Brisbane. Check out the facebook event here. Book tickets here.

Collaboration and counterpoint: Some thoughts on composing my 'Quite Early Morning, no. 2'

Liam score picYesterday I completed the score of Quite Early Morning, no. 2, a 10-minute piece for flute, percussion (vibraphone and woodblocks), and piano. Here are a few thoughts about the piece in an attempt to entice you all to come listen on July 18.

The title refers to the Pete Seeger song of the same name - a song which is ever more relevant. If my piece is 'about' anything, it is about collaboration and the struggle to create social relations where the individual and the collective are mutually supportive of each other, along the lines of the famous Marxist dictum: "Where the free development of each is bound up with the free development of all." In politics this is called communism. In music, we could call it counterpoint.

The piece is in fact an elaboration on a short experiment I wrote earlier this year (which is the version 'no. 1'). This original was recorded by Hannah, Alex, and Angus but not performed live. You can have a listen here: http://usageandcontinuation.com/recordings/

Workshopping the first version with the musicians and listening back to the recording obviously gave me the opportunity to reflect on its strengths and weaknesses, what worked well and what worked less well.

The path from the first version to the second, much longer, one is certainly not a linear one. I began by writing a whole host of new sections, sometimes related to the original material, sometimes totally new. Much of this was spontaneous and there was very little 'pre-compositional' planning. There's a certain joy in just sketching out an idea with no clear framework and no obligation to include it in the final piece. Elliott Carter used this method to compose his Night Fantasies, and apparently Debussy often worked like this.

Once I had enough new material, I exploded my original version back into its constituent sections (deleting some) and then began arranging a formal structure for all the sections in quite an intuitive manner. Once the new formal 'plan' was decided, I began writing the whole thing out, adding linking moments and altering any section so it will fit in. I'd like to think I came up with a compelling shape for the work, but let's wait for July 18 to find out...

The collaboration with the Kupka's performers made this process what it was. Yet on an even deeper level, the very raw materials of the work are an outgrowth of an ongoing collaboration. Beyond discussing and working out specific techniques on the flute or vibraphone, for instance, this is a collaboration that comes from knowing the musicians personally, and in a way intuitively knowing their musical personalities from having attended so many Kupka's Piano rehearsals, etc. In fact, when I imagine the piano playing a particular figure, it's hard to tell whether I'm not just hearing Alex playing that particular figure. In future pieces I'll want this collaboration even further radicalised to see what more individuality and energy can be injected directly into the compositions.

Liam Flenady.

'One need not be dictated to by an overbearing sense of tradition': An interview with Brett Dean

BrettDean600In our last concert at the Judith Wright Centre - 'Modern Music in Exile' - Kupka's performed Brett Dean's epic sextet, Old Kings in Exile. The work will be heard in Australia several times this year - Melbourne's Ensemble Cathexis also recently performed it in their May program 'Reckless Abandon'. In a special collaborative interview Kupka pianist Alex Raineri and Cathexis flautist Lina Andonovska both posed some questions to Brett about the work, his life in self-imposed 'exile' in Germany, and his reading list. ALEX RAINERI: The theme of our last Kupka's Piano concert was 'Modern Music in Exile' which is derived from the title of your sextet Old Kings in Exile, a work which is receiving a considerable amount of airtime, with SYZYGY also performing the piece later in the year! Much of the Australian repertoire we play (by established and the younger generation) are by composers who have relocated either to Europe or America and I'm always interested to know whether there is for composers a conscious intention to find a musical language which still represents a uniquely Australian sound, and what kind of role this plays. What are your thoughts and is this something you would associate with your works?

I am interested in creating a sound that is uniquely mine, that expresses something specifically personal. However I'm not sure that necessarily constitutes something uniquely Australian per se, nor do I pursue that consciously. When I consider what sounds around us are absolutely and uniquely Australian, however, then indigenous music and language, the Australian-English accent and birdsong come most readily to mind. Aspects of all of these things have been sources of inspiration for me one way or another; indigenous culture in rather oblique ways, the latter two quite overtly at times in specific pieces. In fact, the last movement of the sextet wouldn't have come about in the way it did without a timely encounter with my most favourite of Australian sounds, the song of the pied butcherbird. There's one particular song that I seem to hear every time I visit my parents' place in Brisbane which closes the piece.

LINA ANDONOVSKA: Following on from this, I'd like to know what excites you the most about Australia's contemporary/newly composed music scene? You obviously spend a lot of time in Europe and know the scene there intimately, but what do you think is different or perhaps unique about the Australian new music culture?

For musicians growing up in Europe, there can be a sense of tradition constantly looking over one's shoulder. Whilst I've loved coming to grips with this wonderfully rich cultural heritage throughout my professional life, it can be a heavy weight to bear and can manifest itself in a very profound conservatism, not only in orchestras (where it's not so surprising) but to a certain extent even in new music circles. In German orchestras for example, the standard repertoire and the western canon seem set in stone for all time, never to be questioned or tampered with. Many players wish, with an almost messianic zeal, to "protect" their cultural heritage and seem to perceive anything "modern" (in some cases this means anything post-Schönberg, even post-Brahms!) as a threat to their long-perfected ways of making music. The new music scene in Germany can, however, also seem stuck in its ways; specifically in the post-war period of innovation where cutting ties with a weighty and troubled past and a redefining of artistic purpose were of such importance. I feel that times have changed and yet new music in Germany still seems to have to fulfil certain expectations and parameters born out of that period. At times, the lack of acceptance of different voices that don't fit in with the overriding, "Darmstadtian" aesthetic can seem every bit as reactionary a world view as that of their symphonic-orchestral counterparts. By contrast, Australia's "outsider" position in the musical world means one need not be dictated to by an overbearing sense of tradition. Whilst the music scene, including the new music scene, has some very conformist aspects to it, In many cases this "traditionlessness" has led to the emergence and flourishing of some highly original thinkers and sonic explorers, genuine mavericks and nonconformists; artists such as Anthony Pateras, Jon Rose, Ross Bolleter, Liza Lim, The Necks and Richard Tognetti come to mind, for example. That is one of our great strengths and something to be cherished.

ALEX: The middle movement of Old Kings in Exile is called Double Trio. It's not uncommon for composers to feature groupings of instruments within works for this 'Pierrot' sextet - such pieces come to mind as Elliot Carter's Triple Duo, Franco Donatoni's Arpège, Gerard Grisey's Talea - and I wonder with this kind of history of core repertoire how you as a composer would approach writing for this instrumentation which seems to have become the 21st century piano trio?!

The Double Trio title of my middle movement is a conscious "doffing of the cap" to Elliott Carter's remarkable Triple Duo, a work that was a particular source of inspiration in writing my own sextet. The colouristic and textural possibilities and instrumental combinations became in and of themselves a significant part of my approach to the piece, especially in that middle movement. I certainly agree with you about this instrumentation becoming a kind of 21st century standard ensemble; in fact, I think that the remarkable sonic possibilities of the Pierrot-plus-percussion combo will see it emerge further as a standard go-to ensemble for composers in years to come, especially as many orchestras retreat away from commissioning new art music in favour of financially more lucrative cross-over projects, live-music cinema presentations and backing-band type appearances, much to our communal cultural impoverishment in my opinion.

The sextet form is a grouping that allows any number of approaches, whereas by comparison it's much harder to liberate the piano trio from its overtly 19th century, romantic salon music laden sonic heritage. It could be argued that Schönberg turned to this highly original and (at the time) unusual quintet formation for Pierrot Lunaire in 1912 because he (and his followers) were either ignored by orchestras altogether, or treated with hostile contempt by them, as they were by critics and audiences as well. He later formed the Society for Private Musical Performances in order to address these problems. Over a hundred works by a vast array of contemporary composers including Debussy, Ravel, Bartok and Stravinsky - as well as by Schönberg himself and his followers - were performed over a three year period before the high inflation rates of the early 20s made it impossible to continue. Even large scale works were presented in specially-made chamber ensemble reductions along the lines of the Pierrot quintet combination, further proof of its durable versatility. (In an interesting parallel to the aforementioned money-making ventures of today's symphony orchestras, Schönberg, Berg and Webern staged an evening of their own arrangements of Strauss Waltzes in 1921 in an attempt to bring some financial security into the society's coffers, with their manuscripts auctioned off after the show. The society lasted only another 6 months...)

LINA: On another topic, I know that your music is often very influenced by the literature you read, so I'd like to know what you are reading at the moment (and what you're listening to as well!)?

I've been delving into the different versions of Shakespeare's Hamlet, with a view to an operatic treatment in a few years. In fact my most recently premiered new work is a take on aspects of the Ophelia character, scored for string quartet and soprano and to be performed around Australia by the ASQ and Greta Bradman this coming November. Also, Harold Bloom's "Poem Unlimited" provides a fascinating analysis of Hamlet and thoughts on the nature of theatrical illusion. I also recently enjoyed reading Haruki Murakami's latest novel, Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.

I've been listening to quite a bit of new music from Canada in preparation for a residency there as composer/performer/curator for the Toronto Symphony's new music festival in a couple of years and have been enjoying getting to know two new English operas; George Benjamin's Written on Skin and Julian Anderson's Thebans.

LINA: Finally... I would like to ask where your inspiration stems from? Some of us have moments where we are really disheartened with ourselves and our creativity, and it is often hard to find momentum to get the energy levels back up. Do you experience this, and if so, where do you regain the momentum from?

Well, without some honest self-criticism, I don't think any composer or artist of any kind will get very far. But it can be dangerously debilitating as well if it gets the upper hand too much of the time; one has to keep it grounded and real. Three things in the battle with creativity and search for inspiration for which, on a daily basis, I'm very grateful are: firstly, that my wife, Heather, is also a creative artist; secondly, that she has an informed, yet profoundly individual understanding of music and, thirdly, that she isn't a musician herself but a visual artist! The constant, inter-disciplinary dialogue that has evolved between us over the years about what we're up to, where we might be stuck, ways to solve problems, how someone else may see/hear what we're up to, etc, keeps us going and, if needs be, can pick us up from the floor. As a consequence, if something isn't working for me, I find it helpful to distance myself from music altogether and immerse myself in something else creative, be it a film, an exhibition, reading a good book. Not surprisingly, these are common and reliable sources of inspiration for me, to which the titles of my pieces attest. (Cooking a meal while listening to John Coltrane or PJ Harvey also seems to help....!)

Visit Brett Dean's profile on Boosey & Hawkes

'My building blocks are variations': An interview with Melody Eötvös

meotvos_profile Kupka pianist Alex Raineri chats with exciting young Australian composer Melody Eötvös, now based in Indiana. Come along to 'Modern Music in Exile' this Friday night to hear the world premiere of her new work!

Alex Raineri: We're really excited to be giving the world premiere performance of your new work Wild October Jones at Friday night's concert. Could you tell us a little about the piece? What does the title reference?!

Melody Eötvös: Wild October Jones has been quite a while in the making.  Several summers ago (which was actually winter in Australia) I spent some time in Melbourne.  I was at one of my first record fairs and happened to be curiously browsing through several albums of playing cards these people there had accumulated and were selling.  They were rather special cards because of the particular edition and 'frontispiece' each had.  So I was flipping through pages and pages of these cards and then one suddenly jumped out at me (as pictured above).  It was a reproduction of a beautiful painting that depicted a train passing a carriage at full speed, and the carriage halting to avoid a collision, and a young woman falling off the back of the carriage.

Thomas Hart Benton's "Wreck of old '97" provided the spark of inspiration for Eötvös' new work "Wild October Jones"

The whole image has a very animated perspective to it.  I bought that single card there and then for $3. Anyway, several years later I found it while cleaning out a box of souvenirs I'd gathered over the past 5 years or so, and decided to research it a little. After some intensive googling I discovered the painting belonged to an Indiana artist Thomas Hart Benton, and that we have several of his works throughout the IU Bloomington campus. For me this was too serendipitous to ignore and I knew I had to write a piece based on this painting one day, but it had to be a piece with a particular kind of energy and sound... something I hope I've captured. It was strange though, because I knew I didn't want to use the title of the painting "Wreck of old '97". So I brainstormed a little while staring at the picture for hours. To me the painting has a wild, untamed look about it - I started seriously writing this piece back in October - and of all the references my crazy, film saturated brain instantly connects with Indiana (even after living here for 5 years)... you can probably guess..

AR: Already at such a young age you've got a very impressive list of achievements to your name! After completing a BMus at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music (Griffith University) you went on to study at the Royal Academy of Music (London) and you've just finished up a DMA at the Indiana University (USA). On top of this you've had a significant amount of successful grants and funding opportunities, including a substantial one recently from the Australia Council for the Arts. What are some upcoming projects for you and where to now?

ME: I remember listening into the online streaming of the Soundstream Collective broadcast by the ABC in 2012, and Julian Day saying something quite similar about my collective activities and how they're contributing nicely to my 'mantelpiece' - it's always flattering when somebody points out these advances (so, thank you!).  I'd have to say though that the foundation of that mantelpiece is structured around an uncompromising outlook - for each success there has probably been about double the number of rejections! So, we composers develop very tough hides over time and need to have a very quick bounce-back rate.

I am thrilled about the Aussie Council of the Arts grant - given the changing climate in Australia at the moment with arts funding (and just funding in general) I feel exceptionally lucky to have received one of these - I'll be using it for a collaboration with Bernadette Harvey (Sydney) to develop a large piano work, most likely a Piano Sonata, and this project will carry through in to 2015.  In the meantime I have a wonderful collaboration with Musica Viva and the Red Room in Sydney that will be coming to an exciting conclusion in October this year, and in a few weeks I have a reading/workshop with the New York Philharmonic as part of the American Composers Orchestra Underwood New Music Readings program.  After these I have to make a decision about teaching applications to universities beginning with the 2015-16 academic year... so very exciting times ahead with lots of change!

AR: Extended techniques play a large part in the instrumental writing of Wild October Jones. There's now quite a tradition and a 'repertoire' of sorts for these techniques and I'm interested to know how you personally approach this as a composer and what kind of a role they play in the compositional process? 

ME: For me it's been a gradual building up towards using extended techniques like I have in Wild October Jones. It was also a very dangerous decision as there is only so much you can indicate on the score, and couple that with a brand new piece without a recording to refer to, there's a lot of room for interpretation and many different directions the sound of this piece could be taken in.  So I'm very excited to hear what Kupka's Piano does with it! As for the compositional process, as I mentioned earlier I wanted a particular sound and energy for this piece, and the extended techniques are a crucial part of that.  I think it comes down to a common desire with composers to expand the timbral plane that they're working with.  For me, I wanted both more transparency and a thicker, harsh-block sound as part of my palette.  What happens in between those two extremes could be anything, as long as it works with the structure etc.  My building blocks are variations, and through these I can alter the tone colour around a basic theme, while leading the piece towards its high-point, then releasing that tension away at the end.  That's a really simple, wordy way of putting it though... actually doing that in the music required a lot of thought and fluency/fading of colours across the variations

AR: Lastly, what are some desert island pieces? Top five?

ME: No. 1 is always going to be Bartok's 3rd String quartet.  It's also my "if you have 15 minutes left to live" piece. No. 2 is Shostakovich's 2nd Piano concerto (my mum was learning this when she was pregnant with me... so it kind of stuck) No. 3 Saariaho's L'Amour de Loin No. 4 all of Bach's Well-tempered Clavier (both books) No. 5 probably Stravinsky's Firebird (1910 version)

WET INK, New York, and "Pendulum III": An interview with Alex Mincek

Alex Headshot_0 Performing for the first time in Australia the music of New York based composer Alex Mincek, Kupka musicians Sami Mason and Alex Raineri tackle his saxophone and piano duo Pendulum III in the upcoming concert 'The American Dreamsong: New Music in the USA' - Friday 29 November, 7.30pm, at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts. Our Alex chats with composer Alex:  

Alex Raineri: You're a very impressive young composer, could you tell us a little about your musical journey thus far - who have been some significant mentors and how have you come to be based in New York? 

Alex Mincek: I moved to New York from Florida when I was 19 to study saxophone at the Manhattan School of Music. At that time I was mostly participating in various forms of jazz music, but was already well aware of, and inspired by composers like Ives, Cowell, Cage, Schoenberg, Webern, Stravinsky, etc. Though, I had not seriously considered composing myself until I took a course called "composition for non-composition majors". The professor of that class, Giampaolo Broccoli, recognized my intense interest in composition and really convinced me that I should pursue a more serious study of the craft. Since then I have had many wonderful teachers including, Nils Vigeland, Fred Lerdahl and Tristan Murail.

AR: In addition to composition you're also a saxophonist and clarinettist. I was very interested to learn that you are the artistic director of WET INK Ensemble with Kate Soper (who is also receiving an Australian premiere in our upcoming concert!). I would like to hear your thoughts on how being a performer (especially in terms of your collaboration with other composer/performers in your ensemble) affects the way you approach writing music? Does this allow for a more detailed and intimate workshopping process for certain pieces?

AM: The short answer is yes. But more specifically, I often directly draw from my knowledge of my own instruments to compose, which I believe allows me to write more idiomatically for instruments, albeit in novel ways. Additionally, working with my ensemble has allowed for, as you mention, a more detailed and intimate environment for experimenting with sounds.

AR: Tell us a little about the Pendulum pieces, you're written five as far as I can tell. Are they related to each other musically?

AM: I'm working on the 10th and final piece of this series currently. And yes, they are related to one another, insofar as they each are meant to represent various physical, temporal, and spatial phenomena demonstrated by the simple swinging motions of pendulums, along with some of the more complex forces, environments and mechanisms that make a pendulum’s movement continue or dissipate.

AR: Specifically, what were your thoughts behind Pendulum III? I hear some spectralist influences in the piece, perhaps attributed to Grisey, or Murail with whom you studied?

AM: Both of the composers you mention have indeed been very influential to my approach to composing, but I wouldn't say there is too close a connection between their work and Pendulum III, other than the focus on timbre as inseparable from harmony (specifically) and structure (more broadly). For example, the piece does use variously untempered, close tunings that cause novel timbral effects such as psychoacoustic 'beatings' to represent subtle back-and-forth 'motions' between the saxophone and piano, while simultaneously creating unconventional harmonies.

AR: You've received commissions and worked with some eminent ensembles such as the JACK Quartet, Ensemble Linea, Talea Ensemble, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra among many others. What projects are you currently working on - what's next?

AM: I'm currently finishing a large orchestra piece for the Guggenheim Foundation and writing a new work for my own group, WET INK Ensemble. In the near future I will also write a new piece for string quartet and orchestra for the JACK Quartet and the American Composers Orchestra, a new string quartet for MIVOS, and a piece for 2 pianos and 2 percussionists for YARN/WIRE.

AR: Our 2013 concert series has been a peripatetic exploration of music from all around the globe with a focus on the younger generation of composers. We've looked at Asia, Germany, Italy and now we wrap up with music from the USA. As a young composer in the States, would you say that you draw inspiration from your American predecessors or contemporaries?

AM: I would say both. Composers of the past like Ives, Ellington, Cage, Feldman, Coltrane, Braxton and Lucier have been VERY important to me, but so have younger composers like my colleagues in WET INK. Many international composers, past and present (mostly European, I suppose), have been extremely influential for me as well.

Creating Sound Poetry: An Interview with Luke Paulding

luke-pauldingPromising young Australian composer Luke Paulding has been in Brisbane for the past week working with Kupka’s Piano and Ensemble Interface on his new work ‘Ordination of Verticals’ which was commissioned for ‘To Roam with Love’ and given its world premiere performance last night to a sold out show. In between concerts, our pianist Alex Raineri chats with Luke about his piece and what he’s recently been up to. 

Alex Raineri: You’re a young Australian composer living in Melbourne. Tell us a bit about yourself - who have been some significant mentors for you?

Luke Paulding: I started my formal composition training at the Victorian College of the Arts in ’07, and had the honour of working with some very special people. Composers Chris Dench, Liza Lim, Brett Dean, as well as musicians Peter Neville and Eugene Ughetti were and continue to be particularly inspiring, not only as musicians and composers, but across a vast range of broader artistic and intellectual issues.

AR: You’ve worked with some significant ensembles that have premiered your works such as ELISION Ensemble, Speak Percussion, Melbourne and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestras, Chamber Made Opera among others. Also you’ve just returned from a composition course in Royaumont, France with Brian Ferneyhough and had your music premiered by the ensemble in residence there. Tell us about some upcoming commissions, what’s next?

LP: I’m about to jump into a series of solo pieces for colleagues in Melbourne and musicians in Europe (Italy, Germany, Switzerland); works for solo viola d’amore; solo bass trombonist, electronics and video; solo double-bass, and a few others, including a strange piece involving uilleann pipes.

Speaking of ELISION, I’m currently revising a trio for them, where dust is in their mouths and clay is their food, to be presented next year at the Adelaide Festival.

I’m also working on extending a decoupled electric chamber work, which started its life this year as a Coltrane-inspired saxophone and drum-kit duo for Joshua Hyde and Peter Neville. Some musicians from Ensemble Linea in France are particularly interested.

AR: We’re very excited to have given the world premiere performance of ‘Ordination of Verticals’ a brilliantly colourful nonet that you’ve written especially for this collaboration between Kupka’s Piano and Ensemble Interface. Could you explain a bit about the title and your thoughts behind the piece? 

LP: Well, on the theme of “Kupka’s Piano”, I took inspiration (and the title) from a work by Kupka from 1911 (pictured below). It’s a very beautiful early abstract work. I felt a kind of association with his work, particularly the abstract ideal of “freeing colours from descriptive associations”. It reflects some important ideas in my own compositions – deconstruction of sounds, reconfigured to create new instruments and meta-instruments with their own unique sound poetry.

The term in the title, “ordinations”, refers to an analysis method related to data clustering. It’s basically a way of organising objects based a variegated set of characteristics, so that similar objects are close to each other, and dissimilar objects are further away. Structure and form has been on my mind a lot in the last year, and I felt this to be a particularly interesting way of organising the macro- and micro-architecture. The piece begins in a highly organised (ordinated) manner, and gradually unfolds into a more chaotic and organic state. You mentioned nonet, but it’s more like a sextet, extended by a trio of bass flute, melodica and scrap percussion that’s positioned behind the audience. I like the trio a lot – it’s essentially an ordinated cluster set of a brief moment of the material you hear at the end of the sextet part, stretched-out so much over three permutations throughout the work that it appears quite static, almost like time has come to a stand-still.

AR: I like the trio very much – thanks for facilitating my melodica debut!! A very strong interest of our ensemble is building working relationships with the composers we commission and we’re very grateful that you’ve taken the week to be in Brisbane as part of this project. This kind of collaborative partnership between composer and ensemble is nothing new for you, what have been some highlights of working with us and how to you define your role in this kind of collaboration?

LP: As an ensemble, I’ve been really impressed by your willingness and fearless attitudes towards contemporary music. You all bring something quite special and unique, and it’s been such a pleasure to work with you. I think a genuinely collaborative attitude is essential for composers and performers, and crucial to developing long-term working relationships. It’s also been beautiful to witness the collaboration between yourselves and ensemble interface; they’re a very special group of musicians with a passion for new music that’s so refreshing to experience in this country.

As a result, I’ve seen my role as less authoritarian, and more involved with shaping the interpretation with overall artistic suggestions and subtle directions (which is quite a luxury, I must add!)

AR: We’ve been greatly anticipating our collaboration with Ensemble Interface and it’s certainly been a hyper-intensive and inspirational couple of weeks made all the more interesting with the added luxury of working with two composers on the program in person.

To wrap up on a more personal note, what are your current top five ‘desert island’ pieces – what are you listening to at the moment?

LP: And here I thought I’d be spared that question! It’s always a particularly difficult question to answer, as it’s always in flux. I can’t give you specific pieces, but I can say that the musics of Radulescu, Xenakis, Christou and Barrett have been very important to me. I also draw great inspiration from very early music, particularly 13th-15th Century Medieval polyphonic music, which often has an unearthly beauty unlike anything else.

Luke is represented by the Australian Music Centre (http://www.australianmusiccentre.com.au/artist/paulding-luke)

You can listen to some of his music here: https://soundcloud.com/luke-paulding

Come along to our repeat performance this evening at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, 7:30pm in the Theatre Rehearsal Space.

ordination-of-verticals-1911

Echolalia-ing with Michael Mathieson-Sandars

Composer Michael Mathieson-Sandars shares some thoughts on his latest piece ahead of its world premiere on Friday and Saturday night. Be sure to book your ticket early so as to avoid that embarrassing situation of being turned away at the door... Michael Mathieson-SandarsThis Friday, my latest piece, Echolalia, a Duet and a Chord will be premiered by member's of Kupka's Piano and Ensemble Interface, with a repeat performance on Saturday. The concert, titled 'To Roam with Love: Getting Lost in New Italian Music', is the third of four concerts in the series this year, and is, most excitingly, the culmination of Kupka's Piano's participation in the Australia Council and Next Wave's JUMP mentoring programme. It goes without saying that working with both ensembles across the last two weeks has been a pleasure!

Echolalia, a Duet and a Chord is the first piece I have written since spending some time overseas to attend summer schools in Italy and the UK. While there is no explicit reference to my travels, the experience forced me to ask a number of questions; some which were new, others which I had asked previously much more hesitantly and with hints of quiet suspicion. Now that they have been somewhat solidified, I feel these questions will influence my writing for some time, and I consider this work as my first attempt to explore some possible answers.

Standing at the cusp of a refreshed and redirected investigation while carrying only the tools I have developed to suit my previous musical explorations presents an exciting, though somewhat perplexing, challenge. My solution here has been to experiment quite freely with comfortable materials, which I know and have worked with before, and allow them to lead me towards less familiar territory. The result is a piece made of three distinct sections, which creates, I feel, an interesting instability in the form.

The first section, 'Echolalia', needs a little explanation. The term 'echolalia' refers to the repetition of speech or sounds. While there are different applications of this term medically and psychologically, I had in mind the definition which pertains directly to the development of speech in early childhood. It is believed that children, in echoing the vocal sounds of those around them, slowly begin to put sounds together to form full words and phrases. In the context of the first section of the piece, a clear line (which I delight in describing as a 'limping Bach') remains central to the texture. The texture itself is derived from the central line and transposed, somewhat deformed and at different stages of development, into the other parts which intersect with the central line in different ways.

More broadly (and obviously), I set myself to challenge some of the conventions which surround this now more or less standard ensemble formation. Firstly was the desire to avoid writing an 'expanded piano' piece which places the piano immovably as the centrepiece of the ensemble. The central line in the first section is doubled on clarinet and vibraphone, the duet is for violin and clarinet, and the 'chord' relies on the piano to contribute resonance to other instruments, not vice versa. Secondly, I have tried to avoid the traps of the ensemble becoming a 'composite instrument', where every instrument is relegated to a smaller place in a the production of a singular sound. Avoiding this has been my tendency for quite some time now, but I feel here that an improved balance is being struck between the agency of individual lines and the motions of the entire ensemble.

It is likely also worth mentioning that I enjoy here also, more personally, the notion of echolalia within my own development as a composer. While I have always been hesitant to discuss my composing in terms of 'my voice', and remain sceptical (not to mention that taking this analogy further can quickly become farcical!), I see this piece as affirming a step forward and progress still to come. It will be an interesting step which I look forward to taking with the ensemble!

Come along on Friday or Saturday night, hear this interesting new work, and maybe catch up with Michael for a beer afterwards and tell him what you thought!

Quartet for the End of July: An interview with Jakob Bragg

IMG_2199 Jakob Four Kupka musicians will be presenting a short program at this year's Brisbane Emerging Art Festival (BEAF) on Saturday 27 July. As part of this performance, we will be giving the world premiere of young Brisbane composer Jakob Bragg's Quartet for the End of July. Our pianist Alex Raineri caught up with Jake to talk about starting out in composing, the Brisbane new music scene, and future ambitions. You can find out more about Jake by visiting his website: http://jakobbragg.wordpress.com/

Alex Raineri: You're a young composer studying at the Queensland Conservatorium in Brisbane. What first interested you in composing and was there a pivotal moment at which you decided this is what you want to do?

Jakob Bragg: I suppose I first started composing when I began piano lessons, improvising on scales and bringing in my own variants of the piece I was supposed to be learning. In high school I started writing more seriously, however it wasn't until studying Business & Economics at Uni that I decided I wanted to pursue music professionally and to perfect my compositional craft.

AR: Following on from the previous question - how do you feel your composing has evolved since you first began your studies? Are there particular composers or works that have been significant to you in shaping your musical taste?

JB: Significantly! Starting my studies at the Conservatorium, I attempted (rather unsuccessfully) to imitate romantic works, tried my hand at film scoring - the most avant garde composer I could name would have been Philip Glass! I then went from experimenting in minimalism, immersing myself in Australian works and eventually succumbing to Schoenberg, and have since found love with 20th century modernism and the 21st's emerging composers. Today, a healthy diet of Stravinsky, Messiaen, Carter and today's young up-and-coming consist of my daily intake.

AR: The work you've written for us Quartet for the End of July bears an obvious tip of the hat to Messiaen! When writing this piece for Kupka's Piano, what influences did you turn to and what were the main ideas you wanted to get across?

JB: Indeed. My first port of call when asked to write this piece was Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time. In particular, I drew a lot from the first 2 movements: loving Messiaen's hauntingly beautiful chords, the long, slow developing idea of each movement, almost improvisational rhythms, and his unique tonal world. Fleshing out one main idea, my own work features the flute and clarinet, almost operating as their own independent duet (switching roles halfway through the piece), whilst the piano provides a vague harmonic centre and the vibraphone ostinato keeps the group together.

AR: Brisbane has a burgeoning new music scene, with some old favourites being joined by up-and-coming groups. Have you been to any interesting concerts lately, and what has piqued your interest?

JB: Absolutely, just last night I was at the Best of Brass concert at the Conservatorium, featuring new music of Australian Composers. Other concerts such as yours (Kupka's Piano), the Queensland Saxophone Orchestra, Southern Cross Soloists, The Australian Voices, Collusion Music and Clocked Out, plus many more, have been at the centre of promoting contemporary works, at a high quality, within Brisbane.

AR: Something our ensemble really enjoys is having the luxury of interacting with composers such as yourself on new works, especially workshopping and experimenting with different approaches to material - getting under the skin of the piece. What has been your experience working with performers and ensembles and how do you define your role in such interactions?

JB: It has been incredible working with you, Alex, as well as Hannah, Annie & Angus. Working with performers and ensembles is an absolute pleasure, and to see a work take shape, evolve and come to life is incredible - all the better when's its your very own creation! Often I don't try and nose my way into saying too much during rehearsals, I love to see and hear how ensembles respond to the score and work through the issues it may present. Answering any questions and giving a guide as to what on earth I've written is all I mention, otherwise I love to hear the unique interpretation of each performer.

AR: And to wrap up with the $65,000 question - what does the future hold for Jakob Bragg! Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

JB: Hmmmmm. That I wish I knew! I have many ideas and thoughts however so many choices and paths... Over the next year and a half I will finish my studies at the Queensland Conservatorium, in which I hope to further develop my craft through private study with a few established composers. Plans for travel, lessons and workshops overseas is defiantly on the agenda - particularly England & Germany. Postgraduate study eventually is also an option, whether in Brisbane, Australia or overseas is another matter all together. I suppose all in all, I hope to continue composition study, writing and immerse myself into as much music as possible.