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1 June 2011

MODART diaries 2011 - Tristan Coelho

Tristan Coelho Image: Tristan Coelho  

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.

During the first workshop week, the composers start developing a new work. In the words of The Song Company's artistic director Roland Peelman, 'This is the time when ideas fly and discussions continue well beyond allocated rehearsal times. What it eventually leads to you will get to hear much later in the year, once all the dots have crystallised on paper and the music has been rehearsed. The unique nature of this project has been much commented upon and has even become the subject of academic research. Yet the importance of this composers' forum cannot be understated, both for the development of high-quality vocal writing and for the many benefits and ongoing relationships that flow from our engagement with the best young talent around.'

The week of Song Company workshops was a great chance to meet the performers and other composers involved in the MODART project. The composers brought with them various sketches, ideas and texts forming the basis for lengthy discussions on everything from the voicing of chords to text setting and vocal techniques.

The performers have very strong improvising abilities and this in turn really encouraged the composers to try out a range of ideas to see what worked and what didn't. Roland would add further advice and often concentrate on more compositional and structural considerations.

The musical sketches I had prepared were fairly basic and more of a study in simple polyphonic ideas. It wasn't necessarily my intention to use this material in the final piece; I really wanted to get a sense of balance and density of sound. What struck me immediately was how thick and heavy a group of voices can come across when the part writing is fairly detailed.

Towards the end of the sessions I brought in a text by the British surrealist poet, David Gascoyne. His work entitled The Writer's Hand gave me some fresh ideas which I hope to pursue. Roland seemed to like the text and we talked about its potential for setting.

After one of the sessions we all headed out to Cockatoo Island to get a feeling for the eventual performance space. It's a rather eerie place but equally fascinating and I think all the composers found it quite inspirational.

The week was exciting due to the great diversity of ideas exchanged and the suggestions offered by fellow composers and the ensemble. I look forward to the next meeting with everyone and the final performance later in the year!

Further links

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

Tristan Coelho is a Sydney-based composer. He received his Bachelor's degree in composition from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music with first class honours and university medal, and his Master's degree with distinction from the Royal College of Music, London. He has worked in a variety of mediums, including concert music, musical comedy, contemporary dance and film. His scores trace a range of styles from art music to electronic and popular music. Tristan has written music for numerous ensembles and performing arts organisations including the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, Kammer Ensemble, The Song Company, Chronology Arts, the Royal College of Music Symphony Orchestra and the Composers Ensemble.


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