Composing, Line upon Line

Postgrad composer Olly Sellwood travelled to Texas last month to workshop his new piece for percussion:

This January I took a long ride over to Austin, Texas to take part in Line Upon Line’s winter composer festival and course. Line Upon Line (a percussion trio made up of Matt Teodori, Adam Bedell and Cullen Faulk) has been performing together since 2009 premiering, performing and recording works by composers from Aaron Cassidy to Jessie Marino. This was the first festival based on a format of inviting composers to come and stay in Austin for a week, developing new work and sharing ideas.  Seven composers came from all over (mainly the US) to workshop a new piece that would eventually lead to a performance in their regular downtown venue of First Street Studios.

Added to the LUL guys, there were two guest composers as part of the faculty for the festival: Steve Snowden and Laura Steenberge. Their music made up the introductory concert the first night we arrived, they gave lunchtime talks about their music and practice, and they gave individual lessons.

Sunset from a dive bar
Sunset from a dive bar

Additionally, all the festival composers Margaret Kogos, Huijuan Ling, Daniel Meyer-O’Keeffe, Ted Moore, Cullyn Murphy, Cassie Wieland and I performed during the first weekend of the festival. Matt is a big fan of composers performing and it gave me the opportunity to perform (with Ted) Louis d’Heudieres Laughter Studies I, which went down really well with the audience.

Each day followed a similar pattern: an early morning start of workshops, rehearsals or recording sessions; trip out to a taco place for lunch, which included a guest speaker to chat through a range of topics with us; return for more workshopping and then to a bar until late.

One of the (many) taco trucks that provided lunch
One of the (many) taco trucks that provided lunch

Ted and I were kindly put-up by Barbara and Alex, two ensemble board members, whose house was a little out of Austin itself and into the wild Texan countryside (see below).

View from the back of Barbara and Alex's house
View from the back of Barbara and Alex’s house

I met a load of open, warm and friendly people during this stay and all the conversations about music – from early-morning bleariness to late-night booziness – were hugely interesting and engaging. All seven of us had vastly different approaches to composition so watching the various rehearsals/recording sessions, performing and hanging out was a great way to share this.

The highlights for me included both extended individual lessons/conversations with Laura and Steve, watching the pieces develop in the short time we had, and post-hang* return drives with Ted during which we picked through the remains of the day’s events.

I am massively grateful to Line Upon Line for the work they put in on my piece Mikrophonie III. The performance on the last Saturday of the festival was a monumental effort in set-up as well as performance, and I am super-pleased with how it turned out. I’ll put it on my website (once I finish editing it…)

* apparently this is a word.