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17 September 2010

Composer blog - TSO Composers' School 2010

Anne Cawrse Image: Anne Cawrse  

Anne Cawrse writes about her experiences at the Symphony Australia TSO Composers' School in Hobart 4-11 September 2010. The participating composers were Anne Cawrse, Lorenzo Alvaro, Daniel Masmanian and Nicole Murphy, with tutors Andrew Ford, Jim Ledger, Richard Mills, and Kenneth Young with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.

Browsing the AMC website earlier this year, I happened upon a call for scores for the TSO 2010 Composers' School in Hobart. The addition of a voice and orchestra category was too tempting to ignore, despite the tasks facing me in the coming months: completing my first major orchestral commission for the ASO, and giving birth to my first son, all around the same time the TSO would be requiring a finalised score and parts. 'I'll apply and see what happens', I thought, unsure that I'd be able to attend should my orchestral arrangement of Stanzas, a song composed in 2005 for soprano and string quartet, be selected. Fast-forward a few months, and I found myself in Hobart with an orchestral score of Stanzas, four-week-old Oscar, and my Mum, relishing her newly acquired role as Nanna.

During my week in Hobart, I learnt such a tremendous amount about myself, my new son, my new role as a mother, and the balancing of life, work and music. If the learning curve had ended there, the experience would have been more than worthwhile. But of course the focus of the week was undoubtedly composition, and specifically for me and one of my fellow composers, composition for voice with orchestra. A lot of my time as a composer is spent in solitude, putting notes on paper, arranging them and refining the resultant music to create a particular sound, texture and emotion. My lesson in Hobart, however, was in the removing of notes, the thinning out of textures, and the clarification of the emotional world I was attempting to portray.

I have composed music for orchestra before, and also for voice, but from the first rehearsal the rich, luxurious and voice-swamping sound emanating from the orchestra, together with the concerned glances coming from the tutors' table, suggested that the combination of voice with orchestra called for a new set or orchestration rules and considerations.

Over the week my piece underwent some dramatic changes, mostly in the trimming back of orchestration and changing the range of the vocal line to allow the voice to soar above the orchestra rather than be hidden by conflicting lines and ideas. To my delight, much of the richness and dynamic I had envisioned when completing the original score was not lost in the removal of my more lavish scoring moments. The final result, beautifully performed in Friday night's concert by the lovely Jennifer Barrington and the TSO under thoughtful instruction from maestro Ken Young, maintained an appropriate balance between the lyrical soprano line and the varying colours of the orchestra.

I am indebted to our wonderful tutors for offering their wisdom and experience throughout the week and enabling us all to get the absolute most out of the generous rehearsal time and receptive orchestra, and to my fellow composers for inspiring me with their own passion and music. Returning to Adelaide, mildly exhausted, with my brain buzzing with ideas to implement in current and future works, I can wholeheartedly encourage any composer with an interest in writing better for orchestra to seek out this unique and highly rewarding opportunity.

Further links

Anne Cawrse - AMC profile
Composer blog by Lorenzo Alvaro, Symphony Australia TSO Composers' School 2010
Composer blog by Nicole Murphy, TSO Composers' School 2010
Symphony Australia TSO Composers' School information and guidelines for 2010
Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra (http://www.tso.com.au)

Anne Cawrse (b. 1981) is a composer and music teacher based in Adelaide, South Australia. She gained her PhD in music composition in 2008, following years of study at the University of Adelaide with Grahame Dudley (undergraduate) and Graeme Koehne (postgraduate). She also holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and History. Her works have been performed both in Australia and overseas.


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