PhD composer Oliver Sellwood reports on this year’s annual postgraduate composer Get-Together:
This year our annual Get Together focussed on the particular challenges of writing for solo percussionist. Through individual composition classes with Tansy Davies, whose opera Between Worlds was recently premiered at The Barbican, and group workshops with the Norwegian percussionist Håkon Stene, postgraduate composers explored some of the omnifarious possibilities of contemporary percussion.
Day 1 centred on a presentation by Tansy Davies and workshops of pieces by Ben Jameson, Alex Glyde-Bates, and Martin Humphries. Exemplifying the versatile role of the contemporary percussionist, the instrumentation for these contrasting pieces ranged from electric guitar to electronic drums, triggering pre-recorded samples, via castanets. The discussions of the pieces were informative and beneficial to both composers and audience. The conversations continued into the evening and involved some well-earned post-performance beers on the banks of the River Itchen.
Day 2 saw Häkon’s presentation on his research as a performer and his thoughts about the historical construct of meaning in the use of traditional percussion instruments, and ideas on how to engage with this. The final two workshops featured new pieces by Máté Szigeti and myself.
This was an extremely enjoyable experience and was a great opportunity to speak with our guests for the two days. With thanks to Ben Oliver and Matthew Shlomowitz for organising the day, and Tansy Davies and Häkon Stene for their invaluable insight.