Throughout my meetings with Mark Bowden, we have been discussing a wide variety of issues pertaining to being a composer. At the heart of this were the various projects that I would like to work on moving forward. I realised during a year where I took a break from education that to be a composer requires one to have projects to work on even when there are no deadlines to act as an ‘inspiration’. Therefore, I should push towards creating my own projects and not be afraid to search for funding and jump into any possibility that arises. My current state as a composer is that of being reactive: working on projects organised by others. While this is a great state to be in, I can’t plan for this always being the case. Therefore, I have been setting my sights towards a large-scale project in the future. During my first two meetings with Mark, we discussed how I might go about this project. This included discussing potential platforms for the project to be performed, funding bodies that I could apply to and who I could ask to perform. While this project is in its very early stages of planning, Ensemble X.y. has expressed an interest in performing.
Another topic that we discussed was what I might do following the completion of my Master’s degree. Currently, I am studying in Aarhus, Denmark and am considering staying there for another two years to pursue a postgraduate diploma. One huge benefit of this course is that it concludes with a large-scale project that I must organise alone. Another option would be to pursue a PhD. As a professor at Royal Holloway, Mark had some great insight around what I need to consider when looking for an institution. Originally, I was thinking of studying at a Conservatoire but I have reconsidered this following our discussions. We also discussed what options there are available as a composer in terms of employment prospects. While this may seem like a somewhat boring topic, it is very important in terms of how I can fund my future projects! This was one of the major reasons for reconsidering where I may study for a PhD: Whether one studies at a university or conservatoire at PhD is much less important compared to Bachelor and Master level education and is much more dependent on which supervisor you would like to work with. Furthermore, universities give provisions for allowing students to teach which are seen as a great boon over a conservatoire student. Working as a lecturer would be one of my ideal positions in the future so going for a university course would likely be more valuable. Another avenue that is attractive to me is to work within event planning and curation for contemporary music festivals. As part of my course in Aarhus, we have just had a four-day contemporary music festival; Panorama festival which is run entirely by students. While the festival is essentially collaborative, I had the role of being the first point of call for everyone and was therefore incredibly busy. Despite being a very stressful week with lots of problems that had to be sorted out on the fly, the festival was a great success! All the concerts went well and without any serious technical failures. I am still riding the high of pulling it off and enjoyed the experience immensely and would therefore be very happy to find myself within a curation and organisation role.
For our last meeting, I was able to sit in on a rehearsal of Mark’s music theatre piece The Mare’s Tale prior to a performance in Cardiff at the end of February. It is always interesting to sit in on a rehearsal, both to see how the performers response to performing contemporary music and also to see how the composer interacts with the musicians. As The Mare’s Tale is propelled forwards by an actor’s dialogue, this makes the rehearsal somewhat different. The actor, Eric Roberts recounts a narrative inspired by artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins’ memories of seeing a Mari Lwyd procession. In this regard, the music must follow the narrative set up by the text. The title is a reference to Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale, a work that also has narration. As my own idea for a project will have some theatrical elements, it was great to see a different approach to how to combine the two mediums. I look forward to my final meeting later this month!