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4 March 2013

Otherwordly inspiration from the Balkans

MODART diaries 2013

Otherwordly inspiration from the Balkans

Michael Bakrnčev starts our series of blog articles by composers taking part in MODART13 composer development program. The first stage of MODART13 took place in Annandale, Sydney, on 25-28 February. For more information about the program and its participants, please see the MODART subpage.

Excitement, supportive, enthusiasm, exhaustion, fun, open-minded, progressive, wisdom, encouragement and bliss - all words that spring to mind when I reflect on the initial week of the MODART composer development program. Upon reflection, I realise just how fortunate I am to have been selected for this prestigious and highly sought-after program, which has over the years become somewhat of a milestone of achievement for emerging young artists such as myself and the other eight composers chosen from around Australia and the world.

I was surprised as to just how much information could be explained, taught, learned and applied in only four days. The infinite philosophies and art of the human voice were merely touched on throughout the week. However, many thoughts, ideas and things said are still resonating with me days after the week ended. For instance: all of the parameters of a work are defined in the very first bar; there are no mistakes; there is no need to overcomplicate ideas, simple music can be the most complex-sounding, and complex music can be the most simple-sounding; and (my personal favourite from tenor Richard Black) 'just how heavy is half a glass of water?' (the answer to which I found to be startling).

My initial ideas for The Song Company were quite insubstantial - I felt it necessary to try out a few fragmented sketches and ideas in the first week, to test the proverbial waters. What I discovered was that my Balkanesque-inspired sketches were very powerful, bold, strong as well as delicate, fragile and, at one point, 'otherworldly'. Mezzosoprano Jenny Duck-Chong's ability to capture the very essence of my Eastern European women's vocal tonal quality and aesthetic with an earthy and nasalised chest voice timbre was profoundly inspiring. Similarly, the high soprano's angelic and floating quartertonal accompaniment was indeed beautiful. I will be taking these ideas with me and intend to incorporate them in my final work. For the men, I have chosen a very quick, melodically simple yet rhythmically complex idea, which is playful yet primal in character. The text derives from a joke my granfather Yani told me which was said many years ago in his village of Negočani, Macedonia (now Niki, Greece).

It was sad when the week had ended, but it is uplifting to think that the journey has only begun. Having the opportunity to meet the support staff and young artists (alto Carly-Anne and bass Richard) of The Song Company, exceptionally gifted singers unmatched with their willingness to work with composers in a contemporary context, was very encouraging indeed. The CEO of the Australian Music Centre, John Davis, came to a few rehearsals and shared with us some of his wisdom and words of encouragement.

I can certainly see why MODART plays such an integral role in the development of emerging composers, one which I strongly believe Australia's musical culture could not do without. The friendships, connections and networking which have now been established, I feel will last for many exciting years to come. As I'm sure you can imagine, I am very excited for the next phase of MODART when we shall be writing for children's choir and meeting again in Sydney in September for the final rehearsals and first performances.

Further links

MODART composer development program (AMC Online)
The Song Company - MODART (www.songcompany.com.au)
'First week of MODART: what is in store?' - blog article by The Song Company's Clive Birch (www.songcompany.com.au)

Award-winning Australian composer Michael Bakrnčev graduated from the Queensland Conservatorium with first class honours and is currently living in Melbourne. His music has been commissioned and performed by many ensembles nationally and internationally.


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