The Composing Women group led by Professor Liza Lim visited both Harvard and Columbia Universities in September as part of a research program supported by Sydney University's Office of Global Engagement. The composers participated in a public lecture-demonstration in collaboration with Professor Claire Chase's flute studio at Harvard's Artlab, a newly opened facility for interdisciplinary research. The group was then joined by Australian composer Brenda Gifford in New York for a high-profile concert picked as one of the events not to miss in the Fall listings of the New York Times. Claire Chase gave high energy performances in the concert of premieres which was lauded for its ‘bold new works…part of an inspirational event at National Sawdust, New York’s trailblazing Brooklyn-based new music hub.’ (Clive Paget, Limelight).
Composition teaching at the Con is all about the development of the next generation of creative, critically engaged and ethical musicians who acquire skills to excel in their art-making, build community and flourish in the wider world.
Professor Liza Lim said, "It's been fantastic to see the level of creative risk-taking coming out of this program and the leadership each composer has demonstrated. Composition teaching at the Con is all about the development of the next generation of creative, critically engaged and ethical musicians who acquire skills to excel in their art-making, build community and flourish in the wider world."
A Real and Imagined Map of Claire Chase (2019) - Bree Van Reyk
"The Harvard research exchange with Prof Claire Chase, Prof Chaya Czernowin and their flute and composition students was an enlightening experience. To be able to present our work at that esteemed institution in itself was remarkable - humbling, inspiring and empowering - and I still can't quite believe that my music has now taken me as far afield as Harvard! We made meaningful connections with our post-grad composer colleagues there, and now feel connected to that world and the possibilities of future collaborations in the U.S," said Bree van Reyk.
In November, the Conservatorium's Roger Benedict conducted a workshop of the composers' orchestral works at the Seymour Centre. The SSO joined by the current group of SSO Fellows led by Jessica Oddie played Georgia Scott's rhythmically exhilarating 'The Monstrous Birth of the Woman Machine'; Josephine Macken's work 'Apertures for Surface Singing' which explored taut harmonies through a lens of breath and distortion; Peggy Polias's deconstruction of aspects of pop songs, 'Streets', and Bree van Reyk's conceptually provocative 'Infinity opposing Eternity' which had members of the orchestra snapping pencils and ripping pages from 'books of the patriarchy' framed by a musical dialogue between Hildegard von Bingen and the 16th Century noblewoman and composer Leonora d'Este.
"Bree, Josie, Peggy and I were incredibly fortunate to work with both the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and the SSO Fellows led by the ever patient conductor Roger Benedict, " said Georgia Scott.
"The continued collaboration across two years gave us the ability to build upon ideas workshopped in 2018 (and in my case begin again!) moving from sketches to finalised orchestral works. We were also mentored by the fantastic Alastair McKean, the SSO's librarian, whose knowledge of the ins and outs of a score is second to none. The experience of working with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and SSO Fellows was a highlight for me in my compositional career so far and is something that will continue to inform my compositional practice throughout the coming years."
A quadruple bill season of the composers' four chamber operas is scheduled for performance by Sydney Chamber Opera in 2020. Each composer has devised their own libretti as well as writing the music, developing their operas in collaboration with the SCO team mentored by Artistic Director Jack Symonds, librettist Pierce Wilcox and director Imara Savage. Stay tuned for the announcement in February of more details for the premieres of these bold new works!
Josephine Macken said, "These stage works have been in development in various forms since 2018. It's been extraordinary to work with the support of the SCO's creative team, practitioners whose broad experience in the field and generosity in sharing from it has been invaluable. It is a privilege to have been given the creative space and support to entertain strange ideas and challenging subjects in a musical form too often anchored by its patriarchal history. I can attest to the boldness, sincerity and originality of the works developed by my cohort, and am looking forward to watching them take form in the coming months."
Peggy Polias said, "In 2019 the Composing Women have been fortunate to reap the benefits of a two-year training period. Through continuing and building on material composed and workshopped in 2018 I’ve personally seen my technique and craft extend in new directions. We’ve been able to follow through on conversations and suggestions from performers to craft stronger, more refined works on a larger scale. Our trip to the USA in September 2019 was a highlight! Many thanks to Professor Liza Lim for leading us on this trip with such a thoughtful itinerary, to the other Composing Women for being such wonderful travel companions, and to Fiona Chan at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Thanks also to the generous supporters of this trip and program."
Many thanks to our 2019 partners: Claire Chase, Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Sydney Symphony Orchestra Fellows, Sydney Chamber Opera, Sydney University's Office of Global Engagement (Harvard mobility grant), APRA AMCOS, Australian Music Centre, ABC Classic, Musica Viva and our generous philanthropic supporters.