Every year, we run our Peter Reynolds Composer Studio for six emerging composers. The scheme offers a week of intensive learning and a chance to have work performed by leading musicians.
This year was a little different, but the participants were still able to have their pieces recorded by piano-percussion duo Siwan Rhys and George Barton at home.
To help us get to know them a little better and tell us more about their compositions, we interviewed this year’s participants. Next up is Cameron Biles-Liddell, and his piece Bustin’ The Groove:
1. When did you first start composing, and what made you pursue it?
I started composing around my early teenage years where I would often improvise pieces at the piano and write them down (though I definitely preferred improvising at that stage!). It was only after taking composition at the Junior Royal Northern College of Music and hearing a composition of mine performed live did I start to think that I was a ‘composer’.
2. What is your most memorable musical experience?
Definitely performing in Blue Riband Competition in the National Eisteddfod in Llanrwst. It was the first time I had performed on live television and the experience was totally surreal.
3. How do you know when a composition is finished?
Is a piece ever truly finished?! To me, a composition is finished when I have said musically what I set out to say. Then comes the refinement. The editing and fine tuning stage is what makes the piece, the rewriting, editing of notation and proof reading is what enhances the original idea.
4. Would you say you mostly consider your audience or your players when composing?
It’s honestly a mixture of two. Obviously you have to consider the capability of ensembles (luckily working with performers like George Barton and Siwan Rhys, means I can push them to their limits!). However personally I like to entertain and engage with the audience, after all if there isn’t an audience to hear music what’s the point in writing it!
5. When you compose, do you have an idea of a story or concept that you want to express, or is it abstract?
It really depends on the piece, some pieces take an abstract form where I want to express a musical concept, whilst some of my more recent pieces this year take influence on natural landscapes and environments surrounding us.
6. Which composers have had the biggest influence on your music?
My influences are quite a mix! I really enjoy the work of Oliver Knussen and Julian Anderson, particularly their orchestral pieces. However, I also take a lot of influences from popular music like Jazz and artists like Radiohead. That said, the French Composers of the 20th Century like Ravel, Debussy and Messiaen really have had a profound impact on my language and ways I approach orchestration. I owe a lot of the way I think compositionally to their school of thought.
7. Can you tell us about the piece you worked on with George Barton and Siwan Rhys for the Peter Reynolds Composer Studio?
Bustin’ The Groove was an experiment in combining ideas from the jazz idiom with my own contemporary composition approach. Overall, it functions as a compositional study in rhythm and musical propulsion, where I wanted to set up a groove idea and then gradually break it apart. These rhythmical interchanges between the percussionist and piano gives it a wonky, disorientating feeling which I think is pretty cool!
Bustin’ The Groove
8. What are you looking forward to about rejoining the Scheme next year?
Working with live musicians in person again! After this strange time where music and performances had to go digital through streaming, I really miss the excitement and buzz of live performance. Another aspect is just seeing and meeting new people, before Covid we really took our social interactions for granted so I’d be glad to come off video calls to see people in real life again.