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 Euchar Gravina with his piece for piano, vibraphone and pre-recorded sounds:
1. When did you first start composing, and what made you pursue it?
My first memory of anything resembling ‘composing’ goes way back to my first few years of piano learning. I remember amusing myself through the boredom of prepping for an exam by ‘editing’ the pieces which I was learning – from adding notes to changing registers, from repeating bits I like to exchanging materials from right to left hand.
2. What is your most memorable musical experience?
There are quite a few! As an audience member, I’d have to say Salzburg Festival’s concerts of Grisey and Schnittke back in 2018. As a performer, singing with the London Symphony Chorus/Orchestra across Germany just a few weeks before the pandemic really hit us hard.
3. How do you know when a composition is finished?
That’s a tricky question as I rarely tend to think of a piece as ‘finished’. Several times, when I manage to go back and have a listen or read through one of my scores, there’s always something I’d want to rethink and change. That’s usually what propels me into the next piece or project.
4. Would you say you mostly consider your audience or your players when composing?
I’m thinking about the players first! Ideally, I get inspired by their performing interests from a particular likeness to a certain repertoire or stylistic way of playing, or even another performer of their instrument which they admire. The audience is always in the background too as is any context in which the piece would be performed.
5. When you compose, do you have an idea of a story or concept that you want to express, or is it more abstract?
It’s never the same! These days I’m more interested in a particular ‘sound’. By this I mean a short melody, harmonic progression, a texture or simply the sound potential of the instruments at hand (especially if I can manipulate that electronically or some other way). Then I start thinking of ways to transform that into something longer or larger.
6. Which composers have had the biggest influence on your music?
The list is rather too long and constantly getting longer!
7. Can you tell us about the piece you worked on with George Barton and Siwan Rhys for the Peter Reynolds Composer Studio?
The piece started off from a series of chords which I wrote the previous summer for a chamber orchestra work. I rearranged them and sent them off to George and Siwan who kindly recorded them for me over lockdown in different formations. Using the recordings, I then built a piece out of them which required the players to play the ‘new’ piece to their own manipulated recordings. I guess, it was an attempt at trying to overcome the challenges of realising a piece at a time when live performance in a traditional concert setting wasn’t happening!
Euchar Gravina – for piano, vibraphone and pre-recorded sounds
8. What are you looking forward to about rejoining the Scheme next year?
Writing music is a starter! It’s such a pleasure to have projects to look forward to especially during these rather strange and uncertain times. Along with that, I’m greatly looking forward to (hopefully) making my way to Cardiff, meet the musicians and other composers on the scheme and be part of something which is live and in-person!