Merry Christmas

christmasAnd just like that, another year is coming to an end. Thanks so much to everyone who has supported me in some way this year - that may have been with work, with ideas or just with conversation.

It has been an incredible time of music making for me with many wonderful opportunities, inspiring people to work with and some stunning ensembles and musicians to bring the music to life. Some of these include:

Auckland Philharmonia, New Zealand Symphony, Auckland Symphony, Christchurch Symphony, Auckland Youth Orchestra, St Matthew's Chamber Orchestra, Manukau Concert Band, Victoria Kelly, Neil Finn, NZTrio and Horomona Horo, Tecwyn Evans, Michael Norris, Leonie Holmes, John Rowles, Ben Hoadley, Val Landi and Scott Hunt (USA), Bluebird Avenue, Fatcat & Fishface, Alexandros Pappas (Greece), Sideways Productions, Elizabeth Mandeno and David Kelly, the Polkadots, the KBB Music Festival and The Big Sing.

Next year is going to be a big year and absolutely business as usual so get in touch to get me involved with your projects - either as a music preparer, typesetter or editor, or as an arranger and orchestrator.

Over Christmas and New Year I'll be fishing and eating too much near here, chill-axing and probably still eating too much here, and then tramping and working off the Christmas food here. I'll be back working full-time on Monday 6th January, but feel free to get in touch over the break.

To leave you with some music, earlier this year I received the New Zealand Symphony recording of my original work, Rakaia. Auckland Symphony commissioned it in 2007, the NZSO workshopped it in 2008 and then this is their recording from 2010:

[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/5080029" params="color=ff6600&auto_play=false&show_artwork=false" width="100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]

Enjoy, and have an absolutely wonderful Christmas!

Tweeting from the NZSO NYO

Pondering the @nzsonyo programme!I was very happy to get a twitter message from the NZSO National Youth Orchestra earlier in the week offering me free tickets to last night's concert if I would tweet from it through the night. Obviously, I jumped at the opportunity. I'm guessing they chose me as a composer - there was a new New Zealand work on the programme - and they also asked pianist Jason Bae - I'm sure to give insight on piano soloist Lara Melda.

You may be wondering, I wasn't allowed to tweet during the actual concert just before, during the interval and afterwards.

Here are some of my tweets:

Why am I telling you this? Firstly, because it's a great idea and good on the NZSO. Secondly, I want to go to more concerts so go on, give me some free tickets and I'll tweet live.

Super excited. @nzsonyo here we go!

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.

2012-05-15 APO Open Days 236

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.

2010 through the eyes of a blog

monkey-thinkingIt is December 31 and I just wondered "what exactly has happened this year?" So through the eyes of this blog, let's have a look. We'll start with January and the tail end of our South America trip, along with the workshopping and recording of my music in Brazil.

January 4th Leg Four – Argentina to Paraguay to Brazil January 11th Leg Five – Rio de Janeiro to Paraty to Auckland January 12th A day with Sphaera

After spending too many hours hunting down good repertoire for my school orchestras, in February I explored the efforts of conducting. I also set up my newsletter with MailChimp.

February 20th Conducting – 90% perspiration, 10% exhilaration February 26th Automating the monthly issue

It was a plentiful month of posts in March, many on great discoveries I recently made but also highlighted a new piece, Picture for Emily, for my niece.

March 14th Sibelius First – if you’re so inclined March 15th Moana Ataahua programme launched March 16th Picture for Emily – aiming for the small market March 16th Scoring Avatar March 18th My indispensables March 19th If Lake Taupo was a piece of music, what would it sound like?

In April it was all about preparing Moana Ataahua for its massive premiere at the ERUPT Lake Taupo Festival.

April 24th Moana Ataahua set to ERUPT in May (article from SOUNZ) April 28th Moana Ataahua, the rehearsals begin

I explored digital music stands in May, how they compare and how I wanted one. Do I still want one now? That is another post!

May 15th Digital music stands, hook me up – Music Pad, Music Reader, eStand

I summed up the Moana Ataahua premiere in June and did a very popular post on music apps for your iOS devices.

June 1st Moana Ataahua, the premiere June 2nd iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad apps for the music professional

It was great to see plenty of music getting performed through July.

July 12th Wild Daisies premiere July 18th Breathe In, Breathe Out – a concert of overtures and finales July 27th SoundCloud, move your music July 29th Three pieces performed by Brazil’s Sphaera Ensemble

The Auckland schools orchestra festival happened in August, so did some pondering on music theory.

August 27th Sounds great! I want it, I want it now August 30th KBB Music Festival 2010, thumbs up August 31st Music theory, do we need it or not?

Spent a fantastic few days in Wellington in September recording Rakaia with the NZSO. Also, Rhian Sheehan's amazing score for The Cult, which I helped out with, won best score!

September 9th More iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad apps for the music professional September 20th The Cult wins at Qantas Film and Television Awards September 23rd NZSO/SOUNZ Readings 2010

In November I did a three part post looking at music printing, engravers, copyists and how things are changing. I also hooked up Sibelius users with some great resources!

November 29th So, you’re a Sibelius user? November 30th Music printing, a journey for engravers (part 1 of 3) November 30th Music copying and confusion (part 2 of 3) November 30th Changing times for music preparers (part 3 of 3)

As you would expect, I got festive in December but also looked at a new feature for sounz.org.nz.

December 7th A Christmas wish list for composer-musicians December 24th SOUNZ moves forward, again December 24th Merry Christmas and very best wishes for the New Year

Happy New Year everyone!!

A Christmas wish list for composer-musicians

It is that time of the year again and your family and friends are most probably asking for ideas of what to get you for Christmas.

Here are my top ideas for all composer-musicians:

SoundCloud gift voucher - SoundCloud is one of the most valuable online resources for composers and musicians. To really unleash its power you need to go premium and even better, get someone to gift you a subscription.

"How to Write for Percussion: a comprehensive guide to percussion composition" - Percussion is always a challenging group of instruments to write for properly - this book in absolutely incredible and an essential resource. It was given to me by EJ Dobson, get it on Amazon here.

Mollard conducting batons - Most composer-musicians will conduct their music, many twilight in conducting further. Mollard batons are absolutely supreme, I have several - they will even engrave your name on it.

Evernote subscription - Every composer-musician has so many ideas to remember and projects to oversee, with Evernote you can now remember everything!! Gift a subscription here.

New Zealand Symphony Orchestra subscription (or your local orchestra) - Every composer-musician needs a regular dose of the finest music in the land. Buy them a subscription or tickets to just one great night (PDF).

iTunes voucher - Not only necessary to top up your stock of Beethoven, Rachmaninov, Mahler and Ligeti, you can purchase all of the incredible iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch apps that are made for professional musicians. In fact, check out my two posts on the best pro music apps to get: the first post here and the second post here.

A gift of time - If you don't want to spend money why not give a voucher to say you will do all of their jobs and chores for a weekend (or heck, a week) so they can hibernate and write some very fine music. That is priceless!

I hope there is something there to add to your Christmas list. Let me know your best ideas!

NZSO/SOUNZ Readings 2010

I'm sitting on the plane after a fantastic two days in Wellington at the 2010 NZSO/SOUNZ Readings. It seemed very relaxed this time around as the format was slightly different. Usually the pieces are purely workshopped and are often early on in their development. This time the pieces were chosen from previous NZSO/SOUNZ Readings to be recorded properly and then released. So it was a nice relaxed atmosphere with no nervous composers, or players for that matter. Also the fact that one piece had pulled out meant all of the other pieces got extra time, which made it even more stress-free.

NZSO SOUNZ readings 2

The pieces were a nice mix from Tom McLeod's epic film work, to Claire Cowan's very clever Legend of the Trojan Bird, to the heavier pieces by Gillian Whitehead and John Rimmer. All fantastic composers, so it was great to hear their recordings being created.

My piece, Rakaia, went really well. I knew everything worked, so it was just a matter of getting a good solid recording. Well, what do you know? After rehearsing a few spots, they nailed it very early on. I was very pleased - it sounded incredible.

NZSO SOUNZ readings 1

 

You've got to wonder what these players, and conductor Luke Dollman, are made of, as the NZSO/Todd Young Composer Workshop was (rather ambitiously) scheduled in the two days before the SOUNZ workshop. All up, in four days they recorded fifteen pieces - pretty good effort and great to see so many New Zealand works getting workshopped and recorded.

During the trip I managed to pop in and see the new SOUNZ office. They are now nicely situated just off Cuba Street and they've got a wonderful view of Wellington City. Also great to finally meet Julie Sperring, the new Executive Director of SOUNZ, who's going to be a superstar ambassador of New Zealand music.

Another recording down, bring on the next one...

The Cult wins at Qantas Film and Television Awards

Big congratulations to Rhian Sheehan, who won Best Original Music in General Television at this year's Qantas Film and Television Awards for his score on The Cult. the-cult

Rhian asked me to do a series of string arrangements for his score based on his main theme. These were then recorded by members of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra in Wellington and used throughout the thirteen episodes.

The Cult also won awards in acting, design, editing and cinematography for the Great Southern Television production.

Blogs - read, write, sing, play

I have a routine: every morning I wake up, lean over and pick up my iPhone, I check the news, then I read all of the latest feeds from my favourite blogs. The blogs are music ones of course, and for years I have been filtering through them and the ones I like are the ones that stay. I use the term of "blog" rather loosely - some of these are actual blogs, some are more updates and news, but all just as interesting and worthwhile. Just a note, the links are to the actual RSS feed, not to the website, so they will open in your RSS reader.

  • Sibelius Blog: A must if you're a Sibelius user. News, interviews, the latest movies to be scored on Sibelius, tips and more. Run by Daniel Spreadbury, Sibelius’s Senior Product Manager.
  • The Electric Semiquaver: All about writing with music notation software. The first line of his latest blog sums it up very well: "How music notation software can both assist, and completely destroy, musical texture."
  • CompositionToday: Nice updates, news and resources about and for classical composers.
  • Musical Perceptions: "Perceptions about music, perceptions that affect music, perceptions colored by music, perceptions expressed by music".
  • Echoes: They are disc manufacturers for independent artists but it's a really nice blog of "insights for independent artists".
  • New Music Strategies: Self explanatory.
  • Professional Orchestration: Nice feed on all topics related to orchestration.
  • Scoring Sessions: The feed from what I think you all know is one of my favourite websites.
  • Soundtrack.net: Feed of reviews and news of film soundtracks by Dan Goldwasser.
  • Sequenza21/: Great feed of news and reviews from this contemporary classical music community.
  • The Naxos Blog: Sounds a bit heavy - it's not. Got great blogs and news articles.
  • Apple Creative Professionals: If you're a mac lover you'll have to have this one.
  • ryanyouens.com | blog: Am I allowed to put this on here?

While you're at it, these are two well updated and completely essential news feeds:

Well, enjoy. If you have your own favourites, or any in particular that you can't live without ... let me know.