Go Compose!

16 Oct 2014

Composer Pippa Murphy was looking after the sound Festival Go Compose! course in Banchory with Gareth Williams. Here she tells us all about it.

Day 1


After a beautiful Sunday morning drive from the borders to Aberdeenshire I arrived at Woodend Barn in Banchory to 15 degrees of autumnal bright sunshine. Delicious soup and sourdough bread was served whilst we finalised the planning with Red Note Ensemble players, Robert, Ruth and Jo and my partner in composition, Gareth Williams. The participants began to arrive early and keen with parents coming to say hello form about 1.30 and by 2pm we were ready to begin. Compose compose compose.

As composers, often the hardest stage of the task in hand is to get started. It’s quite an overwhelming  feeling to be sitting in front of blank manuscript paper or Sibelius software on a laptop with an absolutely open brief, your only guide being the instruments you are writing for. So we did an ice-breaking, idea- generating challenge where the participants drew with charcoal on scraps of paper  some ‘seeds’ generated from sounds I played and photos I displayed, with just 20 seconds to scribble. In groups, the participants created a graphic score with the scraps of scribbles, discussing which material looked textural, which material looked rhythmic, loud, intense, delicate, repetitive, gestural, intricate, aggressive. When arranged on the floor as a score the players played made the ‘seeds’ into music, and the smiles on the participants faces were widespread. My favourite part of any composition workshop: The smiles of creators as their creations are realised…

The rest of the day was spent writing musical seeds and trying out ideas, listening and sharing, discussing and adjusting. A great start to the course with lots of enthusiasm and encouragement from the Red Note Ensemble players.

Concert day!


After a full day of composing and a chance to try out more developed compositional ideas with Red Note Ensemble, the pieces are shaping up beautifully. We have been working hard on distilling ideas, fine-tuning notation anomalies, refining dynamic markings and re-adjusting structures. All the pieces are so different and full of individual character.

We’re so pleased that all participants have felt empowered to make decisions and clearly communicate to Red Note Ensemble their compositional intent. It is such an important opportunity and resource for young composers to be able to work so closely with the players, try ideas and confidently proceed on the journey of composition. What an amazing achievement for the participants to create a piece in such a short period of time. I can’t wait to hear them at 6pm this evening!

A big thanks to all participants, Gareth Williams, Robert Irvine, Ruth Morley, Jo Nicholson, John Harris, Suzanna Eastburn, Fiona Robertson, Chandra Chapman, Anne Watson, Red Note, SOUND Festival, Sound and Music, Woodend Barn.


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