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16 August 2011

First draft, second draft, third draft... (First Stones)

Nicole Murphy Image: Nicole Murphy  

In July, Halcyon and Elliott Gyger brought together a group of young composers, along with the drafts of new vocal works, for an intensive four days of rehearsal and discussion. Nicole Murphy writes about her involvement - for more First Stones blog articles, please see the Resonate blog. The First Stones workshops are organised with the AMC as a supporting partner. (See also: First Stones concert 19 November.)

In the middle of July, I travelled to Sydney for 'Round two' of Halcyon's First Stones project. Round one had taken place six weeks prior to this and consisted of sessions on writing for voice and the treatment of text in vocal works, accompanied by examples from the repertoire that Halcyon performs. Round one also included two composition tasks that were set one evening and workshopped to a gaggle of bleary-eyed composers the following morning.

Round two proved to be just as intense. In the preceding six weeks we had all written first drafts of our pieces, grappled with copyright issues and submitted our work for feedback from mentor Elliott Gyger and singers, Jenny Duck-Chong and Alison Morgan. As round two began, the pieces were rehearsed by Halcyon, augmented by instrumentalists Geoffrey Gartner (cello), Diana Springford (clarinet), Genevieve Lang (harp) and Josephine Allen (piano). After the first rehearsal we were given the opportunity to make revisions to our pieces and have them workshopped again the following day.

My piece (scored for soprano, mezzo-soprano, clarinet, cello and piano) uses text from the Japanese poet Yosa Buson. My original intent was to utilise the voices as another layer in the instrumental texture, effectively removing the focus on the text until the final section of the piece. This mirrors the ambiguity of the poem, in which the subject is not revealed until the final line. However, the first draft of my piece was rather unsuccessful in achieving this. Feedback from Elliott, Jenny and Alison allowed me to refine my ideas and create something that was much closer to my original intentions.

I am currently in the process of making more revisions to the piece based on suggestions and ideas that came out of the rehearsal process, before submitting the final score at the end of the month. The opportunity to build an aural picture of a range of possible solutions to sections in the piece was invaluable, and hearing the works of the other composers has sparked many ideas for future works.

Further links

'First Stones - compositions taking shape' (blog article on Resonate by Alison Morgan)
Halcyon - First Stones 2011 (http://www.halcyon.org.au/page/first_stones_2011.html)

Nicole Murphy is a Brisbane-based composer who is  completing her Master's degree at the Queensland Conservatorium of Music under Dr Gerardo Dirié. She is currently working on new works for the Ku-ring-gai Philharmonic Orchestra (Sydney) and the Definiens Project (Los Angeles).


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