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1 June 2011

MODART diaries 2011 - Timothy Tate

Timothy Tate Image: Timothy Tate  

In February 2011, seven young composers attended the first MODART workshops for 2011 in Sydney. This year is the 5th edition of the biennial professional development program, initiated by The Song Company and the Australian Music Centre. The participants discuss their experiences in their MODART diaries - for more MODART blog articles and information about the program and its participants, please see the MODART web page on AMC Online.

I have been very fortunate to be given the opportunity to take part in MODART11 with Roland Peelman and The Song Company and particularly excited not only to be asked to write a piece but also to be able to workshop the initial sketches. The latter has been invaluable to the creative process - almost like a revitalising tonic for the creative juices! The brief time that I spent with the group has been a catalyst in the conception of this piece and I am looking forward to having the time to write, reflect and allow the ideas to evolve as a result of these early meetings.

I arrived in Sydney with a general idea about what I wanted to write and had a few sketches in hand for the workshops. I have a rather old tattered book with translated Japanese haikus sitting on my shelf, with a few earmarked pages waiting for the right opportunity to be set to music. Each haiku I've chosen relates to a condition of life, time and place - all subjects that resonate with me. The brevity of each haiku and the instant transmission of ideas from each text was something I found appealing and there has always been something mysterious to me about haiku and the many opportunities for interpretation. Each sketch explored different combinations of the text and voices, and, working with Roland, these small sketches uncovered the wonderful resonances that can be created through voicing of chords to realise different effects. Roland's ability to understand what I was trying to achieve from these brief ideas resulted in many more ideas and questions for the next workshop.

At some point, over a beer with the composers, Roland mentioned that Cockatoo Island was a possible venue for the concert and that the trip scheduled there was to look at the venue and the island. Hearing this changed my approach to the piece and the overall sense of how it would be heard by the audience in the surrounding space. I have always loved Harold Cazneaux's Steam and Sunshine, Newcastle BHP photographic set, and visiting the island brought these images and their communicative power to mind. Exploring the island and standing in the venue, overlooking the harbour, clarified the need for communicating a clear intention through my setting of the chosen haikus.

I wrote more sketches after the first workshop, drawing inspiration from Roland's advice about voicing and resonance and taking this to the extreme by writing 21 individual chords in different voicings! Hearing these chords as well as more gestural figures that I wrote, including those exploring the resonance and combination of the voices, clarified the intentions of each haiku in the finished piece. I am both excited and humbled from my time in Sydney, meeting the composers and forging relationships with both members of The Song Company and Roland, and I am looking forward to the time ahead discovering the piece that will be written for them.

Further links

'Seven composers participate in MODART 2011 workshops' - Resonate 28 February 2011
The Song Company (www.songcompany.com.au/)

Timothy Tate (b. 1989 United Kingdom) emigrated to Australia in 1997 and is currently living in Brisbane. In 2010 Timothy graduated from the Queensland Conservatorium of Music with a Bachelor of Music (First Class Honours) in composition. Recent commissions include works for Sarah Curro, Alpha Crusis Ensemble, ensemble fabrique, Chronology Arts and ensemble chronophonie. In 2009 and 2010 Timothy attended the composition program at the AYO National Music Camp. He has also won several awards, including the Barbara Blackman Song Composing Competition (2007), MTAQ Gold Coast Composing Competition (2009) and the Harris Peck Composition Prize (2010). Timothy is also an active violist and co-founder of  ensemble fabrique and SOUNDING OUT Composers’ Collective.


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