Saturday, May 1, 2010

Back... sort of...

A very very large hiatus in this blog. Time slipped away and I got run over by Life in general. But I thought it might be time for a quick update.

Well, 2010 has been busy busy busy so far, and it's 1st May -- I can't believe it. I am powering through my third piece this year. I really do not know how I managed that, but there have been some major melt-downs along the way and fortunately my wonderful mother-in-law has been on hand to babysit when I am lurching headlong towards a deadline.

Two weeks before Easter I finished "Rollicking Rhymes", a commission for the Elanée Ensemble of viola and double bass, Jo St Leon and Stuart Thomson. Wonderful, wonderful players! The piece is three movements, a whimsical take on nursery rhymes with the third movement a bit of an impression of that famous cartoon rabbit from Looney Tunes... you know the one.

The week before Easter I started working on a project in which I'm involved, with my colleague pianist Shan Deng. We are investigating the use of Chinese folk tunes within new Australian compositions for pipa and piano. I went to Brisbane in early March to meet Deng Wei, Shan's father, and learn how to write for the pipa, a Chinese lute with an ancient and fascinating history. That was a beautiful experience and I came home raring to go. Within three days I'd written a 5-minute piece for piano and pipa called "Little Bird," based on a Chinese folk song titled "Shoo-shoo bird". Fun.

But the biggest news of all was that in early March I found out I've been accepted for the Music 10 Festival in Blonay, Switzerland, in June. Over 120 composers applied and 20 were accepted. There will be 20 performers in addition to eighth blackbird chamber ensemble, and composers Stephen Hartke, Martin Bresnick and Joel Hoffman. I absolutely cannot wait. So I'm now writing for two flutes, piano and percussion. It's called "These Dark Notes Drifting" and so far I'm happy with it although am trying to hold on to the remnants of my sleep-deprived sanity as I desperately scratch around for the time to concentrate. Many many late nights. Which I'm getting very sick of.

Family is doing well: Alexander is 6 and 7 months, Lillian is 2 and 7 months. They are demanding and gorgeous and frustrating and delicious and infuriating and clever, all at the same time. We love them to bits. And apart from Lillian being a bossy britches, they love each other and quite happily while away the day just pottering around together. She is Spider-Girl while he takes her off into the garden for MI-5 spy training. She didn't quite get the dress code memo though, as was climbing ladders and fighting with sticks today wearing a pink striped polypropylene top, red gumboots and purple fairy dress with sequins. Indeed.

So, off I go. More little black dots!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Teaching composers

Where has the time gone? As you might imagine, I don't get much spare time anytime these days, so I'm not a reliable blogger, sorry. What with work, family, running the house, other things, life runs away from me quite regularly.

This year I've had the opportunity to re-structure the composition curriculum where I teach. I am fairly happy with the results, particularly with setting composition projects (with prescribed parameters) for individual students at each level. However, each week we meet as a seminar class twice a week for 1 hour each meeting. A combined-level class is always a challenge: what can be taught to 1st years without being boring and repetitive to the 3rd years? What can be taught to the 3rd years without being over the heads of the 1st years? It isn't quite like a performance masterclass where everyone can learn from observing the student who is playing.

My most recent thoughts about dealing with the seminar is to run it as a three-year cycle on topics/composers/eras, so that in three years of a degree, a composition major would cover (in general terms) each topic regardless of what year they are in.

I'd be very interested in any advice on this, from a musical or pedagogical point of view. Or any alternative suggestions!

Thanks in advance...

Saturday, July 4, 2009

On pause

After a particularly trying and stressful month, we are hopping on a plane tomorrow. One night in Adelaide to break the journey, then 6 nights in Darwin to be at the wedding of two lovely friends. Then back to Adelaide for 8 days before heading home. Really looking forward to a break. Work has been madness, and I've had back-to-back deadlines (not the note-writing variety, sadly) for several weeks now, with the TSO Composers' School thrown into the mix.

The kids are growing and changing so much. It's going to be lovely to have some warmth and sunshine and just enjoy some time together without running from one thing to the next. Alexander is going from strength to strength, his teacher is very happy with him, particularly his reading, and he seems to have settled in well at school after a few months of testing the boundaries.

Lillian is 21 months and toddling around with increasing confidence. She has a killer grin and such an animated face. She's suddenly acquired a lot of words; they're not crystal clear (she is so little after all), but her favourites are 'bath', 'car', 'cuddle', 'wa-wa' (yoghurt), 'nana' (banana), 'A-sanda' (usually yelled very loudly at the top of the stairs first thing in the morning), 'apple', 'gee' (drink)... sorry, I've forgotten that relating toddler development milestones is excruciatingly boring to anyone other than parents and grandparents!

I'd quite like to get back to writing some music one day soon. I wonder when that will happen? Next semester looks to be pretty heavy-going with four visiting composers coming to Hobart, which is tremendously exciting. Katy Abbott came in first semester to teach and speak about her work, and next semester's composers include Roger Smalley and Raffaele Marcellino. I really like this program of composers-in-residence. I think it's great for the students and also gives me an opportunity to meet these composers and get to know them and their music.

See you when we get back!

Friday, April 17, 2009


A fantastic article in the Australian about music education.

Bravo, bravo. Now, how can we act? More on this in time. (I'm busy transcribing/arranging at the moment...)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Darling Heart

Here is my very talented brother-in-law Gareth, with his debut single Darling Heart.

Also the trailer for Natalie Imbruglia's upcoming movie Closed for Winter - Gareth singing at the end of the trailer...

Free voice lesson

The ever-lovely Gina B sent this to me and I just had to share it. Hysterical!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Desperately Seeking Sleep

Well she's at it again, our little cherubic nightmare. Almost every other night she's waking every one or two hours, for no reason other than seeming to need to be put back to bed. She gets no feeds, no drinks, no conversation, no nuffin and STILL she wakes. Some nights are fine, but last night was a kicker - awake at 2am, 3am, 5.15am, 6am, and then 6.30am. She is not sick (hallelujah and pass the potatoes).

We have come to the conclusion she's doing this because she is constantly whinging to be picked up during the day, so spends most of the time being carried around, on account of the fact she's not walking yet, at almost 18 months - I am not worried, just exhausted and frustrated. I'm so tired I can't think straight half the time. Apologies to those of you who have noticed, LOL!