May 11, 2020
The CoDI Mentors scheme has been an absolutely fantastic opportunity. Being paired with Sally Beamish was a dream come true - I knew it would be invaluable to learn from her experience as both a composer and performer. Over the last two months we have met six times via Skype and the journey has been one of exploration, discovery, and development. Sally has really energised my thought process by challenging and inspiring me and her sessions have given me a renewed focus on what I wish to explore through my compositional voice. The discipline needed to prepare for each session really gave me great goals to work towards and it has given me important structure and motivation during these uncertain times. I don’t think I would have been able to compose much during this period without Sally guiding me to unlock several compositional blocks. Sally helped me to try out different structures and approaches to the writing process. Particularly, using methods such as the Pomodoro Technique to help me to manage the time I spend composing (for instance to write earlier in the day and do clarinet practice later in the day, whereas before I did it the other way round!). It was also great to explore how our knowledge of performance informs how we write music. We also worked on potential ways to ‘spark’ creativity in different situations, which is essential for a composer and performer. I have also learnt lots about how to approach situations in which you are juggling writing several different pieces at once! Setting short term achievable goals and allowing time to listen to music that inspires me has become key to this. The last two sessions really developed my technical understanding of writing for string instruments – as a wind player this has always been an area of confusion for me, but thanks to Sally’s mentorship I now feel more confident approaching string writing and have enjoyed composing a miniature solo piece for violin. We discussed using smaller instrumentations as a creative vessel to spark ideas for a large orchestral work. Sally pointed me towards many amazing pieces, composers and poets - I particularly loved learning more about the Prokofiev Piano Sonatas, the poet Sara Teasdale and the extraordinary audio clip of the duet between a Nightingale and the cellist Beatrice Harrison! Check it out with the this link: https://www.bbc.com/historyofthebbc/anniversaries/may/cello-and-nightingale-duet
Apr 15, 2020
I’m now halfway through my CoDI Mentor sessions with Sally Beamish. Over the past month I’ve been meeting her over Skype. Sally is a composer and a viola player, so it has been invaluable for me to learn from her (as I’m a composer and performer too). She has given me so much advice about sustaining a career in music when composition, performing and teaching are all involved. We have discussed the pieces that I am currently working on and she has really helped me to balance writing different pieces at once efficiently, without sacrificing musical creativity. It has been great to be able to share ideas with her and it has really given me creative focus in these very uncertain times. We have also talked about how to break down compositional tasks into more manageable chunks using the Pomodoro Technique (a time management tool). It’s also been so interesting to learn about how to create large scale instrumentations by first exploring the ideas in smaller-scale instrumentations, such as a trio. Sally has also given me lots of inspiring listening to explore, and I’m currently really enjoying discovering Prokofiev’s piano sonatas, the Bartok string quartets and the Walton string quartet in A minor. It is so great to be able to share the often strange and difficult process of composing with someone so experienced who understands! I’m really looking forward to the rest of my mentoring sessions with Sally as I have found them so inspiring. Through our discussions, she is opening my mind to many different potential ways of working and has helped me to unlock a lot of musical ‘blocks’.