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29 July 2010

ASQ National Composers' Forum: Composer Blog - Thomas Green

Thomas Green with violinist Sophie Rowell Image: Thomas Green with violinist Sophie Rowell  

[Update 14 September 2010 - links added]

I feel greatly privileged to have recently had my piece selected by the Australian String Quartet for their Forum with Carl Vine. In my case there are two reasons in particular for me to be pleased: Firstly, because I am not a native string player, and secondly because I am currently heavily involved with other very different styles of music, in spite of my continuing fondness for classical music.

My musical interest is presently very broad; not only in terms of what I enjoy but also of what I deliberately create (I imagine I'm just one of a growing number of composers today who are similar in this regard). My breadth of musical interest - and the difficulties and possibilities this results in - is perhaps the main starting point on any occasion I begin a piece for a traditional ensemble.

I understand that a string quartet (in reference to both the ensemble and a piece of music) is an historically significant structure, with numerous particularities. Yet I am interested in working on a cohesive musical style which acknowledges some debt to my other, non-classical musical influences. These have encouraged novel ideas about where else we might find complexity in a piece of music, apart from where composers traditionally looked.

This focus, combined with my non-nativity as a string player, made certain compositional choices manifest from the outset: A focus upon double stops with open strings, and arpeggiated ostinatos which I hope fit well under the player's hand. In this case I picture complexity as being inherent in the sonority of those strings, and the harmonic possibilities subtly, somewhat spontaneously, develop as the tonality extends through time by way of the arpeggios. This is as opposed to imagining complexity in more traditional ways, for instance purely in terms of abstracted pitches and their harmonic relationships.

However, as the piece progressed, I attempted to introduce some of my interest in melody and harmony into that sonority-centered texture. This was both to appease my own creative impulses but also to widen the scope of the piece beyond its fairly minimal beginning.

It's because I feel that I am as yet very much a beginner that I have avoided being excessively ambitious in composing this piece, in favour of producing something which has utility: That is, in regard to what I can learn; what is readily performable, and has a reasonable breadth of appeal.

In particular, I am expecting that the Forum will help me with the first and second of those three. I have to admit that I'm anxious about my technique in writing for strings and I'm sure I'll be much better off thanks to this opportunity. I'm sure I'll receive good advice on the technicalities of string ensemble composition; additionally I can't wait to discuss contemporary harmony and style with Carl Vine, whose music I have enjoyed for many years.

Further links

Thomas Green - website
Thomas Green - ASQ National Composers' Forum, composer blog, part 2
Melody Eötvös - ASQ National Composers' Forum, composer blog, part 1
Melody Eötvös - ASQ National Composers' Forum, composer blog, part 2
Adam Starr - ASQ National Composers' Forum, composer blog part 2
Adam Starr - ASQ National Composers' Forum, composer blog, part 1
Mark Holdsworth - ASQ National Composers' Forum, composer blog, part 1
Ross Carey - ASQ National Composers' Forum, composer blog

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