I recently attended the Gaudeamus Muziekweek Academy in Utrecht. My composition Parallax Error (2014) for any 4-string bowed instrument was workshopped by cellist Katharina Gross and double bassist Dario Calderone. I also had the opportunity to meet other selected composers from across the globe. The experience was enlightening and it introduced me to a whole world of music happening right now.
In the first cello workshop, we were introduced to a variety of contemporary music and Katharina Gross’ cellomundo project. Our own works were also performed and discussed. The academy also offered workshops about composing for harp and composing with live electronics. We were introduced to a range of harp music and extended techniques, and were allowed to experiment on the harps.
Composition workshop about composing for the harp in Muziekhuis. The room is beautiful.
During the cello workshop I was asked a number of questions that helped me understand and articulate my compositional approach:
- the aesthetic idea of the piece
- FORM/how is the ‘material’ structured?: this is so the performer can understand how is the piece to be perceived (by both the performer and audience).
- is the piece influenced by any existing composer, ‘style’ or movement? (again, so the performer can understand how to interpret the piece for an audience).
- why this instrumentation? And what is the musical ‘material’ that is formulated for this particular instrumentation?
- influence from a teacher?
In the second cello workshop, Katharina performed our pieces. I really like her interpretation, when she plays my piece, it reminds me of Lachenmann’s Pression; whereas when I play it, it’s sort of bouncy and daft, almost cartoonish.
My experience at the Gaudeamus Muziekweek Academy is one I’ll never forget. Composers from all over the world with different first languages were brought together by music.
As an additional note, Utrecht is beautiful. It juxtaposes industrial urban quasi-brutalist designs with Victorian buildings, brick roads and canals.