Go Compose! was a short, sharp burst of creative composition from 10 young composers. Over two and half days at the beautiful Woodend Barn, we explored a number of different approaches to composition, and 10 new commissions were premiered on the final evening.
My co-leader John De Simone and I were privileged to have with us three brilliant members of the Scottish Red Note Ensemble: violinist Greg, viola player Scott and bass clarinettist Jo. After some silly warm-ups, the composers heard from all of the players - a useful thing to note was Greg talking about his violin as a 'sound box' and that the idea of extended techniques was an unnecessary one.
Over the morning, we looked at a few starting points in which different musical parameters were limited - given the short timeframe, it was important to frame ideas quickly in order to be creative. The composers were encouraged to 'splurge' ideas, sketching quickly and always testing sounds out with our players.
On the second day, we looked at the importance of planning and structure, and developing core ideas. The composers settled down quickly to a routine of composing and coming to hear their work tried out by the players - much better than relying on it being played back to you on a computer! John always said brilliant things which I wrote up on the board as 'John's nuggets of wisdom'; my favourite one was that Sibelius died 100 years ago, and he can't write your piece for you, in reference to many young composers' reliance on composing software Sibelius.
On the third day, the young composers worked extremely hard in finishing their work (some had spent hours overnight, too), with a hub of activity in the computer room, and our Red Note players adding an amazing level of performative interpretation to the pieces.
The final gig was a fantastic mixture of music by our participants - compositions which used traditional reels and strathspeys; work inspired by dark stories and purely musical concepts; music that explored a range of unusual sounds on the instruments. Our indefatigable players did an absolutely awesome job, having learnt 10 new pieces in a ridiculously short amount of time! I loved the young composers' introductions to their work, and it was just a gloriously upbeat and creatively enriching end to the course.