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14 March 2013

A montage of found texts

MODART diaries 2013

A montage of found texts

Auckland-based composer Celeste Oram came to Sydney in February 2013 to take part in the first stage of MODART13 composer development program in Annandale. Her article continues our series of MODART web diaries on Resonate. For more information about the program and its participants, and for more blogs, please see the MODART subpage.

After many weeks of involved preparation, I arrived at MODART with a fiercely strong concept of what it was I wanted to create, but the need to discover exactly how I would create it. Stylistically, I knew I wanted to write something which might be dubbed 'documentary vocal theatre': corralling a rich array of found texts (poetry, statistics, reportage) into a dense and highly expressive montage - like an operatic radio play. In terms of content, I wanted to investigate the presence of myth in the way current events are processed in our age of scientific and statistic quantifiables - and perhaps even re-inject the often moralistic severity of myth into contemporary issues which portend impacts of mythical proportions. More specifically, the texts I have chosen address drastic meteorological events and changing landscapes.

The material I brought to the workshop was the exposition of what would become the larger work. To be able to hear the Song Company realising this material was extremely useful on two fronts: firstly, to judge the success of the piece's relative proportions, and the rate at which the dramaturgy develops; and secondly, to hear how the often-dense textures of many palimpsested texts played out in performance. My discoveries based on this initial excerpt will give me some very helpful, concrete touchstones to inform my composition of the rest of the work.

Between them, Roland Peelman and the members of the Song Company have an extraordinary wealth of knowledge and experience which they are immensely generous in sharing. The workshops were genuine open forums, with each member of the Song Company contributing positive and provocative responses to the composers' work based on both their individual and collective expertise. Throughout the process, they were sympathetic to the composer's intentions, indefatigably adventurous and open-minded, and committed to bringing the best out of each composer's offering. It is a thrilling privilege to be writing for this group.

For myself, and I daresay for the other composers in the MODART13 cohort, this opportunity has come at a critically timely point in our careers: having recently left the university cocoon, and hungry to work at a professional level, we are now broadening our scope in order to forge careers as emerging composers. MODART is an invaluable launching-pad for these aspirations: it offers mentorship with established professionals, a performance by one of Australia's leading ensembles, a platform for our music to be heard more widely in Australasia, and the opportunity to interact with like-minded young composers at similar stages to our own. This initial stage of the process was a thoroughly galvanising experience.

Further links

MODART composer development program (AMC Online)
The Song Company - MODART (www.songcompany.com.au)
'First week of MODART: what is in store?' - blog article by The Song Company's Clive Birch (www.songcompany.com.au)

Celeste Oram is an Auckland-based composer, performer, and director, seeking out bold performance experiences and collisions between diverse artistic disciplines.


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