Four bass clarinets + four contrabass clarinets - oh yes.

Okay so I was checking out this recording session at Abbey Road for Grace, composed by Austin Wintory, when I came across this picture which had me watering at the mouth.

Four bass clarinets plus four contrabass clarinets - OH YES. What a combination. I wish I could hear a little of what they were recording. Awesome!!

Benefit Concert – raising money for people with Autism

Gruppetto String QuartetGalina Bratuska (violin I), Marouso Kydonieos (violin II), Lilia Giousoupovac (viola), Eygeni Bratuska (bass) – all members of major Greek orchestras

Ryan Youens (New Zealand) – In Their Light (world premiere) C. Carsavassilis (Canada) – Baroque Revisited (European premiere) Alexey Kurtijian (Brazil) – La Componessa Also music by Filip Tsalaxuris (Greece), G. Matzafleris (Greece), Alex Pappas (Greece), Franz Schubert, Dass Dreimeadelhaus.

Artistic Director – Alex Pappas, Administrative Director – Dimitris Tsoutsos 6 Gravias Street, Agia Paraskeyh Pierce Theatre, 8:30pm, 10 November 2008, $18Euro

Just add an orchestra and ... magic!!

Well there's one thing that always gets me going. Gets me so excited that I want to start a project such as that myself. It is orchestral collaborations with bands etc. Just love it. Some "purists" hate it, but they are just boring. To me, they are something that the players love, because they are at long last doing something new and fresh, and the audiences love it because of too many reasons to note. Of course also, it brings a whole new audience to an "orchestra" concert. These were popularised firstly I guess by the legendary Michael Kamen. He orchestrated and conducted so many concerts, including ones with Pink Floyd, Queen, Eric Clapton, Aerosmith, David Bowie, Bryan Adams, Sting and Metallica. The latter, I think, is absolutely amazing. See a track from it here. It is so wonderfully orchestrated and put together. Of course the huge full size orchestra makes it all the more better.

MANY of these happen each every year and I wish there was some place where I could keep track of them all. Another one I found was a recent one from the UK. This orchestra is much smaller in size, but still, it's an orchestra. This one is The Bays, who are an improvisation kinda band, who teamed up with The Heritage Orchestra in Liverpool. They also do some amazing stuff with how the orchestra players get their music ... check it out.

Finally, I can't leave without mentioning a little homegrown talent. John Psathas recently arranged all the music for a Little Bushmen / Auckland Philharmonia gig. I couldn't make it to the concert, but have watched the documentary, and it's fantastic. It's a three part doco which starts here, but if you want to go straight to the final concert, see that here.

Well I've only briefly mentioned three, so do let me know if you have any favourites.

A few days in Wellington

Hey all, well I'm on my flight back to Auckland from Wellington, enjoying a wine with cheese platter - how posh is that, AND it's with Air NZ. Impressive. I was down for this years NZSO / TODD Young Composer Readings. It was a great few days with the orchestra and of course seeing all the other young composers at this years event. Below is a picture taken during the readings. NZSO : TODD 2008-28

Well I came down on Sunday afternoon, ready for the welcome dinner on Sunday evening at Nicolini’s Bistro on Courtenay Place. They have it there every year and if you've been there you'll know why. Absolutely beautiful. YUMMY YUMMY YUMMY.

Monday was the first day of recordings. The morning was great, with two very good pieces in particular. I was first after lunch and was very happy with how it all went. Of course the first run through is always a little bit hairy, but once a few things were clarified and we worked on some passages, it started to sound pretty good. The final tracks laid for the recording were excellent and I can't wait to get it. As well as from the composer mentor, Ross Harris, I had fantastic feedback from the players, saying how enjoyable and rewarding it was to play, and that it was very professionally produced (parts etc). This was fantastic as is what I am aiming for. How ridiculous to write a piece that the players and audience will not enjoy...

Scattered through the two days are some workshops with players in the orchestra, pretty much getting to know them and their instrument(s) a little better. These are always fun and is great to talk to NZ's finest about their instrument.

The second day of recordings again had some very good pieces in. The day ended with some drinks, nibbles and "awards".

So a successful few days - big thanks to the NZSO for looking after us all very well.

A long time ago...

At the moment I'm working for an Auckland University PhD student, typesetting some 15th Century German manuscripts. I did the first last year, and another is underway at the moment. They are flute concertos, with either string, or string and horn accompaniment. Apart from huge ink splotches taking out whole bars of music, they are going very well. But what I can't get my head around is just how long ago they were written. 15th Century? That's AGES ago. To think that these manuscripts have been sitting in a library for hundreds and hundreds of years. AMAZING. They were even written a few hundred years before New Zealand was discovered. Amazing.

The actual music? It is in fact pretty catchy.

KBB 2008

Well the craziest week of the year for Auckland school orchestras, chamber orchestras, jazz and concert bands, is that of the annual KBB festival. Gosh, it is busy. Last year I had the Kristin senior orchestra in, and it was my first year ... so everything is still a little bit of a blur. I remember being just so horribly nervous. BUT we got a bronze award, something the orchestra had never received before. This year I had three orchestras. WHAT FUN!! The first was the Carmel College Orchestra:

Carmel at KBB 28.08.2008

These guys were awesome. They were playing some tricky pieces and it all went fantastically well. My second biggest disaster of the day happened when I gave a very distinctive cue to the first violins at a place where I know they don't count and it's not clear what's going on musically - they just wait for the cue, a whole two bars early. But thank goodness they entered correctly.

Next up was the Kristin Symphonia.

Kristin at KBB 28.08.2008

 I had such a blast conducting these guys. With one down, I just relaxed and I could tell the players were also just having a great time on stage. Their programme also went wonderfully well.

Afterwards I was whisked away to the Carmel Chamber Orchestra who was warming up. While I was putting my favourite baton away ... it snapped!! DISASTER!! It was my favourite baton, which I only use in concerts, got it from America, and has my name engraved. I couldn't believe it. I sulked for a while, but since then however, I have had the superglue out, and it is like new ... well maybe just a little bit wonky.

Well finally was the Carmel Chamber Orchestra. Was number three for me, it was 4:40pm and they had been there since 9:30am. But we got up there and gave it everything. Luckily we had some light numbers ... a piece by Silvestri and one by the Beatles. They did very well and were well received by the audience, but maybe, like us, they just wanted to go home.

Well I was happy to get out of the venue at the end of the day. Being sandwiched in by hundreds of school kids all day is not to be desired. But was happy also that all my groups had done wonderfully well. Now I look forward to the results ...

Alexandre Desplat introduces me to the gong drum

Recently, award-winning composer Alexandre Desplat was at the Sony Scoring Stage to record his score to the highly anticipated drama, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Directed by David Fincher and stars Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. While catching up on the scoring session, I was HIGHLY EXCITED by the discovery of a gong drum.Look at this thing. I want to write a gong drum concerto. It's being played there by Greg Goodall ... what a job. I wonder what the likelihood is of one being in NZ. Hmm.....

Greg Goodall playing gong drum at Alexander Desplat scoring session

Bangers and Mash 2008

Hey everyone, well on the 29th May was The Committee's 2008 Bangers and Mash concert. The point of these concerts is to have composers write music which doesn't use any conventional notation or instruments ... as well as no computers and can be playable by non-musicians. It was great to be involved and it was a fantastic success. Initially I was completely stuck as what to actually do. I mean there are so many options ... using anything that makes a cool sound. An obvious one would be doing something to vegetables. (lol) One night as I was traveling down to Wellington, Wendy (my partner) and I stopped to help a lady change her car tyre. Afterwards we got back in the car and soon after I said "I'VE GOT IT!!".

So my piece was using five players, their spare car tyre and a pair of drum sticks. There was a set beginning and end, but then in the middle was much more freely organised. There were about six different sounds (or techniques), such as bouncing the stick on the tyre, rubbing it against the tyre to get a "squeaking" effect, and so on. There was a leader and they lead through each of these techniques. Overall creating these wonderful textures. It worked really well and was very well received.

The other pieces were fantastic as well, see below. Looking forward to doing more with "The Committee".

For photos click here.

So the pieces were:

  • "Gossip" by Yvette Audain (for spoken voices and used magazine headlines and quotes)
  • "Tyred" by Ryan Youens
  • "Kosurigami" by Anthony Young (was five of us making paper bangers, cranes and darts. Then either banging, flying or throwing them ... fantastic)
  • "Wishing Well" by Peter Willis (solo, dropping various elements into water)
  • "Spotted snakes with double tongue" by Claire Scholes (using text from A Midsummer Night's Dream and various items)

Last night's Kristin May Magic concert

Hey everyone, Well last night was Kristin School's May Magic concert. It is their mid-year music extravaganza and last night it went fantastically well. It had everything from the year one and two choir, through to the senior award winning groups.

One of my orchestra's, the Kristin Symphonia performed. It was our first big performance for the year. A few hairy moments, but went beautiful. I was so proud of them. Panning out to be a good year from them I think.

Photo link coming soon.

NZSO / SOUNZ Readings May 2008

Hey everyone. Well last weekend Wendy and I headed down to Wellington for this year's readings with the NZSO. It started with a lovely weekend, we chilled, ate great food and experienced Wellington. Then it was Monday.

I was first up in the morning session and so all the players were fresh and ready for anything. "Rakaia" is not too much of a challenging piece, although plenty of notes for the strings. First read through they did fantastically well. The huge brass and percussion sound was just fantastic. After working with Ken Young and clarifying a few things both he and I wanted to work on, they pulled it apart a little and started work. Was wonderful seeing them work on my music once again. This piece is very clearly written and is enjoyable for the players and this definitely show through the rehearsal.

Later in the day was the recording session. After the long day this final run through and recording wasn't as tight as they had it earlier in the morning, but still a remarkable performance.

I had wonderful feedback from the players. Complimenting the colourful textures, energy and effective writing. Also a comment about the likeliness of this piece to the music of Don Davis. A bit of a surprise, but came from a guy who used to play in Don Davis' scoring orchestra, so I gratefully took his word.

The rest of the workshops were enjoyable. Was nice to get mine out of the way. Monday had a selection of other young composers which were shorter works. All very different and extremely well written. Tuesday had two longer works.

Check out photos from the workshops here.

Thanks heaps to SOUNZ and the NZSO for the wonderful two days.