Developing a compositional language from amateur choral projects
My research project focuses on the development of my musical language as a composer, as informed by my musical background. Much of my earliest professional work involved amateur choral singing, in various capacities, including as a director, accompanist and composer. My immersion in this activity means that I value both its musical and social qualities. This focus in my formative composition practice also led me to favour pragmatically conceived composition techniques that respond to the specific, externally imposed constraints of such work: techniques that aim to create complex musical outcomes with relatively simple, practical instructions for each performer.
More recently, my composition work has expanded to a wider range of contexts. This has included chamber and orchestral pieces for student and professional players. As a means of focusing and developing my musical language, I explore how the adaptation and development of my choral-writing techniques for these diverse contexts. I aim to provide insight into the relationship between these techniques, how I present them in notation, and the resulting musical outcomes.
My recent compositions that have contributed to this project include two solo pieces: Pizzica (2020) for harp, written for the Academy’s ‘200 Pieces’, and Tree of Hundreds (2020) for guitar, written for the International Guitar Foundation. It also includes choral pieces Stairway (2018) written for Sing Healthy Choirs, Shakespeare Songs (2020) for the Festival Chorus, and an oratorio, written in collaboration with poet Clare Shaw, for children’s choirs and Academy soloists, for the Academy’s bicentenary celebrations in 2022.
Wherever possible, I have worked closely with players during the writing process for each piece, through multiple workshops. This has helped me gain further knowledge of how my choral-writing techniques may interact with the particular constraints and affordances of each context, and how I may adapt and develop my ideas and means of notation in response to these contexts.
Header Image Credit: Francesca Hilditch