Look at me, I’m S-M-R-T

Boy howdy I have not written anything for a long time. Quite a lot of things have happened!

  • I wrote some opera. This was a pretty invigorating experience to say the least. The reviews have been gathered here. Pleasingly, the most critical is behind a paywall so ha ha ha ha! This was the first time I’ve had work extensively reviewed by a number of writers, and one of the most striking things was the variance of quality of criticism. I’d describe the reception of the work as ‘mixed to positive’ but some reviews were little more than what I’d class as a report- i.e ‘this is what happened (and what it looked like)’ more than any actual criticism per se. In print, the ever diminishing space for reviews probably leads to compression by necessity- and for a new work so much space is needed to explain what it is it naturally limits the leftover space for critical responses. Surely though the online space allows more expansion?

 

  • Symphony Services International abolished their artist development programs. This was enraging! In fact, it was so enraging I’m surprised I didn’t vent a spleen on this website at the time. In short, they have decided to end the Young Performers Award (YPA), the Composer development programs and the Conductor development programs. The first two have been of vital importance to me. Although not a performer of any merit myself, I’ve had work in YPA finals which led to a radio broadcast- my first real outing on the national broadcaster.  And I can’t over-state the importance of the composer programs. It was participating in 2013 that I first realised that ten years after my music degree I could still write, and when I returned in 2015 it was part of a massive turning point for me, creatively (more on that anon). It’s not hard to see a corporate sponsored future for YPA- it’s young, sexy, brilliant- but harder to see the ongoing existence of the composer & conductor programs. What was most aggravating in the announcement from the SSI CEO was that these had been abolished due to ‘cross over’ in ‘existing programs’. It takes but a moment to realise that there are 2 orchestral opportunities for developing composers in Australia- the SSI’s program with TSO and the Cybec funded program with MSO. The field is hardly being crowded with opportunities. The bigger question is if SSI are getting out of artist development- effectively saying that artist development is not a priority for the orchestral peak body in this country- what are the priorities for SSI? Visa paperwork? A lending library for the smaller orchestras? Though perhaps it’s not entirely surprising considering I never met anyone from SSI in either of the programs I participated in.

 

  • I am starting a Doctorate of Musical Arts this year! This is both thrilling and terrifying. One of the things which became evident through 2015, with two massive gigs, was that I was at a turning point, creatively. To put it crudely, I had a definite sense that it was time to shit or get off the pot with this whole composition malarkey. I was hovering on the fence of further study to add some rigour to my craft and all I needed was the slightest push- which I got- and now it’s all happening. One of the hesitations I had was not exposing myself creatively or writing assignments (not to underestimate the sheer TERROR of having to write an assignment for the first time in 12 years) but interacting with university bureaucracy. Pleasingly and depressingly I can see there have been no advances in this field since I last graduated from a tertiary institution in 2005. Setting up my email password took two hours and required me stumbling on some hidden sub-site of password instructions. Finding out that a subject needs in-person enrollment despite every other administrative interaction being required to be completed online. Having to navigate so intensely on the website I found out to how to order lab mice. My student card takes almost a month to be printed and needs to be collected in person at another campus during restricted office hours (lol part time students). It has been a rollercoaster. Nonetheless, once all this administrative tomfoolery is put to bed I am genuinely 500% excited at the thought of taking a musical deep dive over the coming years. It was a relief to see how much I enjoyed putting together a research proposal for my application which hopefully bodes well for an eventual thesis.

 

  • One of my 2016 aims is to more actively listen and hunt down more music rather than my usual approach of tripping over it by accident. The upcoming SSO Carriageworks series is going to be a must in my calendar, but also I want to take advantage of the Spotify subscription I blindly pay for every month but hardly use. A recent Australian album I am listening to heaps and am super excited about is The Double Sunrise, by Lanu (aka Lance Ferguson).  I have a deep love for exotica- years ago I went through a very specific craze of buying 1950s-1960s cocktail party music on CD when one still bought CDs- and the evocation of South Seas exotica on this album is a divine delight. There’s a sense of a deep understanding and affection for the form, applied with a contemporary execution which prevents it from being lazy pastiche. A million stars, highly recommended.