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12 June 2009

The MODART diaries, part VI

Alexandra Hay Image: Alexandra Hay  

Alexandra Hay (NZ) continues our series of Modart diaries. The fourth edition of the Modart composer development initiative by AMC and The Song Company was set to motion in Sydney at the beginning of February. The works will be performed in two concerts in Melbourne and Sydney in July.

The workshop in January/February was an incredible luxury, a chance to listen to my own ideas being realised, to the particular sound of the ensemble and each individual singer, and to hear the ideas of my MODART colleagues.

My idea for a contrapuntal, web-like opening was mostly successful: I chose the right register for the cluster chords, the pacing worked well and the voice leading was logical. No surprise really, considering this technique has been employed extensively in vocal music for hundreds of years! Roland encouraged me to think carefully about including even more detail and complexity in the score, and also to rethink my dynamic markings. Several singers commented that extreme dynamic markings and other restrictions (in my case extremely soft dynamic markings) can create unnecessary tension. I have therefore been reviewing detail relative to the language and breadth of expression within the work, rather than relative to any external scale. Other comments were regarding consistent notation of the text (a mixture of IPA - International Phonetic Alphabet - and written word fragments using the English alphabet). I have amended this and am now using only IPA symbols in the score.

My piece has since developed in a slightly different direction, although the opening remains the same. The second sketch I took to the workshop (my piece’s possible ending) is no longer included in the work. Perhaps it still bears some relationship to the work’s concept, but it felt to be not enough of a conclusion somehow. Without hearing this at the workshop stage, I’m not sure I would have been able to make this decision with such certainty. This is in part due to Roland’s perceptive comments about my piece needing a 'balance of textures and ideas, contrasts and continuity'. My piece now leads the voices from their intertwined, slow and stretching state to greater individual freedom through a proliferation of pitch groups, registeral capabilities, and movement within the pitch-noise spectrum. Time and density accelerate and contract as each line begins to think for itself. Eventually each voice expresses different words from the final phrase of the text.

Perhaps the most interesting element of the workshop in January/February was the diversity of musical and conceptual thinking among the composers. I have since maintained contact with several of the others involved, and with one I have planned a collaborative project, due to be realised later this year. I’m very much looking forward to hearing the completed MODART works in July!

Further links

Melbourne concert details (18 July) - AMC calendar
Sydney concert details (19 July) - AMC calendar
The Modart Diaries, part I - Lachlan Skipworth
The Modart Diaries, part II - Amy Bastow
The Modart Diaries, part III - Melody Eötvös
The Modart Diaries, part IV - Rae Howell
The Modart Diaries, part V - Mark Oliveiro
The Modart Diaries, part VII - Anthony Dunstan
The Song Company (www.songcompany.com.au/)
Alexandra Hay - SOUNZ (http://sounz.org.nz/contributor/composer/1690)
Article on the SOUNZ website by Alexandra Hay (http://sounz.org.nz/news_articles/show/162)

Alexandra Hay (b. 1985) is a Wellington-based composer, arranger, conductor and teacher who works with instrumental, vocal and electroacoustic media. She completed an Honours degree at the New Zealand School of Music in 2007, and spent a semester studying musicology at the Freie Universität in Berlin under a DAAD scholarship in 2006/2007. Alexandra has had works performed and workshopped by gateseven, the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra and the New Zealand String Quartet, and in 2006 she won the NZSM Composers Competition with White Rain, a work for flute and tape. In 2008 her orchestral work Bellum Nocturnis rwas ecorded for the NZSO/Todd Corporation Young Composers Competition.


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