Composer Spotlight Q&A: Siobhan Dyson

Siobhan Dyson is currently undertaking her Masters degree at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland studying with composer, Dr Oliver Searle. 

Siobhan's work has been featured at soundfestival over the past 2 years. In 2020 Siobhan opened our eyes to the everyday experiences of a person on the autism spectrum in her sound-commissioned audio-visual piece, Listen Carefully.

More recently Siobhan took part in a composer development opportunity with Red Note Ensemble writing a piece for marimba and double bass which was premiered in Aberdeen at soundfestival 2021.

What stage are you at in your career right now?

I am in the final year of my Masters programme.

When and what made you decide to pursue composition as a career?

It was sort of accidental in a way, I didn’t know composition was a career until I went to high school. I had already written roughly 3 pieces, thinking it was normal. It wasn’t until my high school music teachers pushed me to write more and to pursue it as a career.

Tell us about a favourite piece of music that you have written.

Possibly one of my favourite pieces I have written is my composition for concert band ‘the 45’. It was really fun to write and I enjoy listening to it.

How have you been coping with the pandemic and how has this affected your output?

The start of the pandemic had a negative effect on my mental and physical health. I had a few meltdowns due to routine change, lack of knowledge and other negative thoughts. However, I did manage to pull through and write a few pieces. I was commissioned to write a piece detailing the life of an autistic person through the media of film and sound. I also completed my undergraduate degree, started my masters, and wrote multiple pieces for larger ensembles. I believe my output has increased as I have had more time to reflect and focus on the pieces I am writing.

Were you involved in any special musical or compositional projects during lockdown?

Yes, I was commissioned by sound to write a piece detailing the life of an autistic person, I showed this through both visual and audio. Then I was commissioned to write a piece for marimba and double bass, with nature being the focus of the composition.

What are your compositional aspirations?

I love writing for many different things, I don’t like to stick to just one project. So my aspirations would be to have a lot of projects for different medias.

What forces do you prefer writing for and why? (Instrumental, orchestral, chamber music, choral…?)

I find this question weird; I definitely have things I prefer not to write for like solo instruments. I prefer to have more than 3 instruments to write for as I have a lot more harmonic possibility.

Which composer (dead or alive) has most inspired you and why?

I honestly don’t really have any composition idols. I feel as though inspiration from others influences my music too much and I prefer to being myself over someone else. I know its cliché to say but I inspire myself. I try and improve on my craft and reflect on my past. I look at how far I have come and what I have learned over the years.

What would you consider to be a dream commission?

My dream commission would be writing for a games company or a concert band composition. Vastly different styles but also very interesting.

What do you do to take your mind off composing?

I have a lot of outlets to take my mind off composing, some include: playing games, swimming, walking my dogs, playing an instrument, exploring, collecting rocks, fishing.

If you could describe your work in three words, what would they be?

Fun, playable, challenging.

What music have you been listening to lately that you would recommend to others?

Right now, I am working on a project where the person who asked me to write music wants ‘epic orchestral emotional music’ so, a lot of film music and generic “epic orchestral music”. Otherwise I do enjoy listening to concert band music. I love Brian Balmages, highly recommend Breaking point and Raging Machines.

Click the links below to find out more about Siobhan and listen to her music: