This week’s projects

I’m in the middle of a somewhat prolific period at the moment, rolling out project after project.

ANAM/Elwood Primary School

I’m taking a small group of Academy musicians to Elwood Primary School to work with their school orchestra for a day and a half. We are going to create compositions around the idea of chameleons. I’ll ask them to create musical depictions of chameleon-like qualities – how can you depict transformations in music? I think music lends itself beautifully to this kind of task.

We’ll warm ourselves into the task by jamming on Herbie Hancock’s Chameleon (which the school students already know). At the end of the project, we’ll perform all the music we’ve created to the rest of the school, and include some instrument demonstrations and discussion by the Academy musicians as part of that concert.

Sound Safari

On Friday my colleague Nicole Alexander and I will be presenting the Sound Safari Professional Development course for teachers in Melbourne at the Abbotsford Convent. The course is one that is offered by Musica Viva, and it utilises music and ideas for activities from a huge range of Australian-based groups who all perform within the Musica Viva In Schools stable. The course is very hands-on and participatory, and it focuses on composing using percussion instruments. Nicole and I presented it a few weeks ago in Horsham (regional Victoria), and the music created there was beautiful. For me, the highlight was the soundscape/composition that we created together inspired by a poem about drought. The teachers explored all sorts of evocative sounds on the instruments, and the music that resulted had a powerful emotional intensity.

AYO Wind Quintet/Armidale

Then on Friday night I jump on a plane and head to Armidale, New South Wales, for a weekend of work with an ensemble from the Australian Youth Orchestra. This year, the AYO Ensemble-in-Residence is a wind quintet, and we will be working with local young musicians who all play woodwind instruments. Some of them are very recent players, with only a few months of playing under their belts. We are going to compose music inspired by a piece for wind quintet by Australian composer Ross Edwards, called Incantations. There will be sections of the Edwards intersecting the student compositions, and the student works will all be responding to the idea of magic spells, incantations, and conjuring chants. Ross Edwards’ music connects strongly with the natural environment, so the local New England landscape and features will be a point of reference for our compositions as well.

The projects in Armidale are always a delight. That city has an extraordinary amount of musical activity available for young people, generated out of the New England Conservatorium of Music. This is my third – maybe fourth? – time working there.

These intensive project periods can feel very full-on in the lead-up to them, as I’m building up my ideas for each one, delving into scores and listening intensively to recordings of the music I’ve chosen to focus on. But I love the weeks when they roll out, one after the other. It’s such a delight to create music like this, to think on your feet and be almost surprised, sometimes, at the turns your imagination takes.

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