Workshops in Taupo

I was invited down to Taupo to work with the Taupo Concert Band and thought it was a good opportunity to bundle some other activities in too. I went down last week, here's what I got up to: TUESDAY AFTERNOONAwesome composition workshop at Tauhara College in Taupo this morning. They even baked me a cake!!

Presented a workshop for the music students and staff at Tauhara College. It was also great to see the staff from Taupo-nui-a-Tia College there as well.

We went back to basics and explored the six things we need to create a great composition (and get a good mark too!). Loads of ideas, plenty of talent, good fun.

TUESDAY NIGHT

I had a four-hour session with the Taupo Concert Band. They are working towards a big concert so were really keen for an intensive evening! They may be a smallish band but make an incredibly good sound and with some versatile musicians - and the new drummer turning up during the dinner break - it made for a really great evening of music-making. We worked on:

  • "Oregon" by Jacob de Haan
  • "American Overture" by Joseph Willcox Jenkins
  • "Symphonic Dances" from Fiddler on the Roof by Jerry Bock (arr. Hearshen)
  • "Granada" by Agustin Lara (arr. Longfield)

WEDNESDAY MORNINGHad a great four-hour session with the Taupo Concert Band last night. This morning gave two workshops at Reporoa College. Now on my way back home.

I headed up to Reporoa to give two further workshops.

  1. The first was for their gifted music students - we talked about finding your place in the world of music and it was great to be able to share some stories and listen to some music from various projects that I have been involved with.
  2. The second was actually part of their science curriculum - we looked at sound. After working out what it actually is and exploring sound waves, we launched into the fun of playing loads of different instruments, discussing how they make their sound and categorising them.

Here are some pics from the session:

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It was a great two days, hoping to do a similar trip again next year.

 

A project for NZ Music Month...

In 2011 I celebrated NZ Music Month in style by writing 31 microscores in 31 days. It was a huge success, they all got recorded, are hugely popular and I use them almost weekly when talking to students about composition and instrumentation. In 2012, while I was involved in many Music Month events, I didn't have a music composition project and I was pretty disappointed about it.

So in 2013, it's back!

NZ-Music-Month1

What I like about this project is that usually all of my time is spent on other people's music - an absolute joy and honour - but it means I never get any time for my own composition. So NZ Music Month is a great annual opportunity to make sure that I work on my own music and have something worthwhile to show at the end of it.

I have debated for some time exactly what I would do this year - more daily microscores, weekly ensemble pieces, fortnightly larger pieces - or perhaps something slightly different.

I'll go for something slightly different.

For a long time, years in fact, I have wanted an online store to sell my own music - easily and automatically. Aside from works for professionals, I have a lot for students, community and school ensembles - and there is a great market for this. Sure, people can already buy it - through SOUNZ and by emailing me - but that doesn't quite cut it. People should be able to search on the internet, find a piece, discover and experience it, buy it, download it, play it. And I don't want to just export or print a version from the latest Sibelius file, I want to have properly published music - finalised, stylised, done, dusted, complete.

Initially, I thought I would finish a collection of piano music to sell - editing the current four pieces I had and writing four new ones - but I decided that I was still avoiding the most important step of all - to get this online store of music up and running and full of the music that I already have. So, now it's going to happen.

By May 31, my birthday and the final day of NZ Music Month, people from all around the world will be able to buy my published music easily and automatically from this site.

Here are the main things I will need to consider:

  1. What to publish
  2. Editing and publishing
  3. Selling method, charges, etc
  4. Cataloging
  5. Promotion and launch

It's going to be a big month - I've got an Auckland Philharmonia premiere, Auckland Symphony rehearsals, the 48 Hour Film festival, 10 days in Australia, a trip to Hawke's Bay, plenty of music prep, arranging and teaching commitments, and my 30th birthday!

It'll be a big month, but I'm really excited and I look forward to writing several posts along the way - addressing the points above and no doubt discussing the setbacks and triumphs. Stay tuned.

I survived 2012. This is how it was!

The New Year means it's time to have a look back over the past year and see, through my blog posts, what has taken shape and what I have to say for myself! January started with a very well deserved "Shout-out to VaultPress" after they marvellously got my website back up and running after a meltdown!

3100508059_5c99a0f9e1_zFebruary is the start of the school term and I posted about the preparation work I do for schools.

My typing fingers must have been tired at the end of March - it started with two popular posts, iOS apps for music professionals and Digital music stands vs iPads, following on from, again, two very popular posts I did in 2010.

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Following that were four posts on current projects - "Working on workshops" looked at some teaching workshops I was involved with, "An opportunity to make the floor rumble" talked about my upcoming new work for the Auckland Philharmonia and the Auckland Town Hall Organ. I conducted at the Bay Of Plenty Music School once again and my post, "Bay Of Plenty music school hit Rotorua!", pre-empted my visit there, and finally "Opening up an orchestra" reviewed the first two Auckland Philharmonia Open Days were I ran the "meet the composer" area.

In April I reviewed my time at the Bay Of Plenty Music School in "Making music in Rotorua" and posted photos in "Checking out the pipes" after an inspiring tour of the Auckland Town Hall Organ.

My Confession image May is music month and "A month of New Zealand music" checked out the events me or my music was involved with. It's also 48 Hour Film Festival time and our film this year was "My Confession…".

In June I talked about my involvement with Auckland Symphony's "Night Of The Proms" concerts in "Promenading in the colony" and I posted "Questions for a composer" after answering questions for a student's school assignment.

In July I posted my one word review of each piece from the "Nelson Composers Workshop 2012" where I was very happy to go this year as a mentor.

APO "Tiraki" workshopAugust is KBB Music Festival time and I also posted on the ongoing saga regarding the future of Sibelius in "What the heck is happening with Sibelius!". My piece, Tiraki, started to take shape after another workshop with the Auckland Philharmonia.

September was rather dormant on the blog front but in October I reviewed “What Lurks Among Saints” after being invited by a student I met earlier in the year.

The-Hobbit1In November I had the privilege of "Playing my role in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey", and I posted about the experience.

December was busy with a number of projects. In "Little pieces of Christmas" I talked about a bunch of Christmas arrangements I did for the Auckland Philharmonia and Auckland Symphony orchestras. I also talked about a film I was involved with, called "Sounds Perfect" and its selection into the Tropfest final in “Sounds Perfect” to be in a final". I then prepared music for some very fine New Zealand singers and talked about it in "Preparing for some legends!".

christmas-musicFinally, no year is complete without a "Merry Christmas" post thanking you for all of your support during the year and the compliments of the season.

Another year ticked off the list, another year doing my absolute dream job - let's get ready for an even better 2013!

Questions for a composer

School_WorkEvery now and then I get sent an email from a student who is doing an assignment on a "living musician", or a "real composer", or on how to "make it in the music industry". Recently I got a list of questions from Jayde, a student at Kerikeri High School. I first met Jayde when I did some composition workshops there last year. He had a great list of questions and I thought they, and the answers, were worth sharing.

Why did you choose to become a composer?

I definitely never thought I would grow up and be a composer. When I left school all my friends automatically went to university to do music, so I did too. I am no performer so composing was the natural progression. As I progressed further I realised it was something I really loved doing.

Is it hard to become a composer?

Yes. You have to work very hard to get each job in the first place. And most jobs will be for free until you have experience.

What sort of essential skills do you need?

  1. You need the musical skills of course, like theory, knowledge of instrumentation and ability to be creative with ideas.
  2. These days you also need to be excellent with computer software. As a composer you generally have very tight deadlines and can be thrust into performing many duties like preparing parts, recording and editing music, and so on, so it is very important to know what to do.
  3. Business skills like doing your accounts, invoicing, marketing, advertising, networking and so on. No point creating a business if you don't know how to run it.

Where do you source your inspiration from when you compose (if any)?

I have always found that compositions are for something quite specific. Like for a "rivers" concert as an example, or to celebrate a certain event or location - so that makes it very easy. I would then go to Google (or would go there first if I have no inspiration at all) and research different topics, words, pictures until I have a clear focus for the composition.

What do you begin with first in the composition process i.e. planning ideas, or finding a nice melody to build around etc.?

Most often I will play around with different ideas on real instruments and come up with some ideas - could be melodic, rhythmic, harmonic.... I usually am then very excited about putting some notes down in the score so I write the initial ideas down. Then will I think about the structure!

What does composition mean to you personally?

It means a lot to me. I get lots of ideas in my head and I have to get them out somehow!

Do you regret ever becoming a composer?

No. Some people think I'm crazy and wonder how anyone could ever make any money off writing music but I am super happy, have just bought a house with my lovely wife and I really do think I have a dream job!

What composition activities are you currently involved in?

Currently I am writing "Dancing Thistles" - a piece for string orchestra, and "Tiraki" a piece for the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and the newly refurbished Auckland Town Hall organ.

What sort of opportunities are there on offer these days for composers such as yourself?

For young composers there are a number of good opportunities to get your music performed by professionals, in competitions or workshops. Notably the NZSO/TODD Young Composer Awards which I was part of three times, and the Nelson Composers Workshop which is run by the Composers Association of New Zealand and will completely inspire you and open your eyes to music of your peers.

What advice would you give to prospective composers?

  • Always get your music performed by real musicians - you will learn hugely from each experience.
  • Always write effectively for the instruments and performers - think about their specific characteristics and don't write virtuosic moments for a piece you are hoping your classmates will perform.
  • Be open to all styles of music and types of performers. We all speak the same one language of music and every element of it has something important to offer.

Checking out the pipes

The Auckland Town Hall Organ is mightily impressive, mind-blowing, even enough to take your breath away! Hours before the first drafts of my APO + Auckland Town Hall Organ composition were due, Kerry Stevens gave me a tour. Amazing. Here are some of my photos. IMG_2700IMG_2702 IMG_2705 IMG_2707 IMG_2710 IMG_2712 IMG_2713 IMG_2727 IMG_2730 IMG_2736 IMG_2740 IMG_2745 IMG_2750 IMG_2751

Here are some facts from the organ's very own website:

  • The Auckland Town Hall Organ weighs 40 tonnes, the pipes alone account for 28 tonnes.
  • Number of pipes: 5391, of which 939 have been restored from the 1911 organ.
  • Largest pipe: bottom C of the 32-foot Open Wood: 9.75 metres high (32 feet) with an interior volume of 2600 litres. The note sounded by this pipe has a fundamental frequency of 16 Hz.
  • Smallest pipe: speaking length 6mm (the pipe itself is quite a bit bigger than this to make it possible to handle!)
  • Lowest frequency note: bottom C of the Pedal Gravissima stop, 8 Hz. (The entire bottom octave of this stop is below the limit of human hearing: it is felt rather than heard).
  • Highest frequency: 17kHz from the Swell Furniture.
  • Loudest stop: equal place to the 16' Ophicleide in the Pedal organ and the Orchestral Trumpet in the Solo. The largest pipe in the Ophicleide rank has a diameter of 349.1mm at the top.
  • The three electric blowers in the basement deliver a wind flow of 209 cubic metres per minute, into 320 metres of wooden wind trunking (the length of three football fields), into 23 bellows loaded with four tonnes of weights, and then into 18 main wind-chests: ready to blow through one pipe or hundreds at once.
  • Most pipes operate on a wind pressure of 3 inches (water gauge). Highest wind pressure: 15 inches.
  • The organ was built by a team of 42 personnel from Klais Orgelbau over a period of 26 months, taking around 27,000 man-hours. The chief designer of the organ was Stefan Hilgendorf.

Opening up an orchestra

Last Sunday we had loads of fun at the first of the Auckland Philharmonia open days for 2012. 20120325 APO Open Day 008

We were at the Bruce Mason Centre in Auckland and you would have found me in the “meet the composer” room. Loads of people came through and some came back three or four times as they had a new idea to add to our "Open Day" composition.

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We talked about what composers do and how our ideas make it to the orchestra’s music stands. Many people had a go on Sibelius and were blown away at what it can do and what we could do with their musical ideas.

THIS SUNDAY we do it all again:

"Meet the APO and hear all the instruments, in a fun family day. Hear us rehearse and perform excerpts from Beethoven's famous Fifth Symphony, join in activities to make simple percussion instruments, listen up close to individual players and hear the 200 strong chorus taking part in Sing with the APO. The orchestra and ensembles of APO musicians perform throughout the afternoon."

TelstraClear Pacific Events Centre, Manukau, free admission. Click here to find out more details.

Come down and say hi, I look forward to seeing you!

An opportunity to make the floor rumble

It's not often that you can make the floor rumble but when the powers of the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and Auckland Town Hall Organ combine, I might just have that opportunity! Auckland Town Hall Organ Facade

I am very happy to be one of the six composers writing a work for these two forces. One of the great things about these APO composer workshops is the process - there are three workshops with the orchestra during this year, followed by the premiere in May 2013. The first is in May and most of us I'm sure will just trial ideas, versions, sections and so on.

The other composers are Robbie Ellis, Anthony Young, David Hamilton, Chris Adams and Ben Hoadley.

My organist is James Tibbles, the Associate Head of Performance at Auckland University and of course one of New Zealand's leading keyboardists.

My piece has a working title of "Tiraki" - a Maori verb meaning to clear the sky, or lift away the clouds. I hope to use this idea to characterise the music and explore different layering and texturing within the orchestra.

Keep up with this blog for updates on the project as it progresses. Also, check out the Auckland Town Hall organ and the Auckland Philharmonia websites.

Working on workshops

It has been an enjoyable start to the year presenting some workshops around Auckland. "Sibelius in education" - professional development day

On Friday 24th February I had the first session at a professional development day for secondary music teachers. We looked at how to use Sibelius effectively in education and checked out all of the features that are going to help both them and students use the program to its potential. The next two sessions were by Philip Norman, looking at the life and music of Douglas Lilburn and a session on composition titled "Composition can't be taught... but techniques to help it on its way can".

"Sibelius In Education" seminar at Hotel Barrycourt 1 "Sibelius In Education" seminar at Hotel Barrycourt 2

"What's new in Sibelius 7 and education feature supercharge" - Faculty of Education

On Wednesday 15th March I worked with the new music teacher graduates at Auckland University's Faculty of Education. They had learnt Sibelius on version 6 so before they headed out in to the schools we looked at what was new and different in version 7 and also checked out a number of the fantastic education features that makes Sibelius a joy to use in the classroom.

The next composers... - secondary schools

I have also been working at two secondary schools with composition students. Developing their own compositions as well as workshops on string writing and developing an idea through a composition.

"Meet the composer!" - APO Open Day

On a related note, coming up this Sunday is the Auckland Philharmonia Open Day and you'll find me in the "meet the composer" room. Find out what composers do and how our ideas make it to the orchestra's music stands; try out the Sibelius notation software and add your ideas to our "Open Day" composition - see you there!

2011 through the eyes of a blog

And just like that, another year is gone! Here is a look at my posts for the year. thinking web picThe blogging year started in March with my favourite book arriving, "Behind Bars", which I preordered in 2010. It is definitely the most used book on my shelf! I then talked about two approaching projects:

In April I introduced my new work, "blimp", and reviewed two projects - a song I helped a friend create and my work at the BOP music school:

May was a busy month, so in June I talked about what I had been up to - writing 31 microscores and the premiere of "blimp":

In July I posted the video I worked on with Sideways Productions:

In August and September I covered my involvement in the KBB Music Festival and some composition tutorials that I held in Kerikeri:

October was the kick off of the Rugby World Cup here in New Zealand, I talked about my involvement in the opening ceremony and also made a post about what exactly I do when "preparing music" and why you would need someone like me to do it:

December means Christmas and I posted some Christmas carols that I prepared for my students. I also composed a new "holiday" piece for my Christmas post:

Happy New Year everyone, bring on 2012!

Composition tutorials in Kerikeri

I had the pleasure of going up to Kerikeri High School on the 22nd to 23rd of August to work with my good old mate (also the Head of Music) on some professional development and with the students - providing some composition tutorials. DAY ONE This was a teachers' only day and the perfect opportunity to talk through the music equipment and classroom setup - focusing on how new technologies can be implemented in the department. We also spent some time working with Sibelius and seeing how effective it can be in education... one of my favorite things!

Kerikeri visit - photo 2

DAY TWO Heralded the return of the students! I gave two one-hour talks on composition and another session where I went through many of the students' compositions with them.

Kerikeri visit - photo 5

The focus of these talks was "back to basics" - how do you go about starting a composition and developing your ideas during it. We had fun looking at many different variation techniques and how they are used in different pieces of music. Most of the examples were from the 31 microscores I wrote during May this year.

It was a fantastic few days. Please contact me if you would like me to come to your school!