Interview: Florence Anna Maunders

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. First up is Florence Anna Maunders, and her piece Nest/Mound:

1. When did you first start composing, and what made you pursue it?

I started composing as a teenager, and I think the thing that made me want to become a composer was the enjoyment of the composition process itself – the imagining of new sounds and then writing them down. But then I quit composing for about 10 years or so and only restarted seriously writing music in 2018.

2. What is your most memorable musical experience?

I heard Bruckner 9 for the first time at a live proms performance, and I was standing in the front row. I’d never heard anything like that from so close before and it left me physically moved by the experience.

3. How do you know when a composition is finished?

I tend to know how a piece is going to go, before I write it down, and then at some point in the process, the last note is written and the work is abruptly complete. Actually it’s rarely a last note, it’s more often something like fixing a typo or adding a missing dynamic mark which is the finishing moment.

4. Would you say you mostly consider your audience or your players when composing?

Definitely the players. They’re my “first listeners” and they’ll hear the music much more often and much more intimately than an audience who will probably only be given one chance to take it all in. Also, in my experience, it’s players and ensembles of players who commission works from me, not audiences!

5. When you compose, do you have an idea of a story or concept that you want to express, or is it abstract?

A lot of my music uses abstract musical processes to communicate non-musical ideas. So a bit of both, I guess!

6. Which composers have had the biggest influence on your music?

Oh gosh, so many! A lot of my musical influences come from music outside the “composer/performer” tradition, for example the traditional music of the Middle East and contemporary electronic dance music, but I guess I should acknowledge a debt to Steve Reich and Louis Andreissen in particular.

7. Can you tell us about the piece you worked on with George Barton and Siwan Rhys for the Peter Reynolds Composer Studio?

I wrote a piece called Nest/Mound, which is inspired by the towering verticality of the giant termite mounds of Australia, and my deep love of electronic dance music. It’s a really pumped-up, driving, danceable stomp of a piece, which George and Siwan played with the huge aggressiveness it needed.

8. What are you looking forward to about rejoining the Scheme next year?

I’m really looking forward to meeting up with the other composers, and hearing an astonishing range of different new music. I get a lot of my ideas and inspirations in concerts of other people’s pieces!