Last month we announced the winner and runner-up of the Fine Music 102.5/Willoughby Symphony Orchestra Young Composer Award, as Solomon Frank and Ashley Agar, respectively.
Here, we find out more about their inspirations and compositions.
Solomon Frank, 19, is currently in his first year of studying composition at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. He has always had an interest in music and has played piano and clarinet since a young age. He finished school in 2013 and after having a year off from study, decided he would submit a portfolio to the Sydney Conservatorium. Frank was “surprised and delighted” to be accepted and has relished his studies so far. After studying orchestration with Carl Vine last semester, he thought it prudent to write an orchestral piece.
The resultant piece, entitled Spectre, references the infamous villain from many of the classic James Bond films, and “this world of intrigue and suspense”, according to Frank.
John Barry wrote the score for most of the classic Bond films as well as many other Cold War 1960s thrillers, all “stimuli” for Frank in writing this work, as well as composers Leonard Bernstein and Shostakovich.
“The work revolves around the minor-major seventh chord, the classic spy chord, giving it a distinct tonal atmosphere of tension, fear and intrigue.
“The opening is mysterious and harmonically unnerving, exposing the listener to the unique sound of this chord. It then progresses into an exhilarating melody that builds up across the orchestra,” said Frank.
“Throughout the piece, I have harmonised melodies using parallel moving augmented chords, the augmented chord being an inherent part of the minor-major seventh chord. This is a distinctive sound contributing to the uneasy mood of the piece.”
However, there is contrast in Spectre and the slower middle section of the piece conveys a tenderness and emotionality, leading up to a climactic finale.
“This piece started last semester, I wrote one minute for a string quartet,” said Frank. “Then in the holidays I thought I’d continue that. I wrote that string quartet piece to about five minutes and then a week before the competition deadline I thought I’d write an orchestral score”.
So while the piece was conceived over a long period of time, the writing of the music and orchestration was mostly written within a specific timeframe.
“A competition is a great incentive to write something,” said Frank, adding that the sense of satisfaction he gains from his composing work outweighed the lure of prize money.
After submitting this piece to Fine Music, he was “astounded and overjoyed” to have been selected as winner of the Young Composer Award and to have his worked performed.
Frank’s piece will have its world premiere performance on 26 & 27 September, under conductor Stephen Mould.
While it’s daunting having his work performed by a professional orchestra, Frank is excited by the opportunity describing it as a definite “learning experience”.
When asked what might present the greatest challenge, he says, “Stepping away from it… leaving it in the hands of the orchestra and conductor”.
Runner-up of the Young Composer Award, Ashley Agar, comes to composition from a performing background, having studied orchestral and chamber music with a number of organisations. She is currently studying violin and composition at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and performs with the Musician Project Orchestra. Agar’s piece, Orchestral Overture No.1, is not strictly programmatic but it definitely tells a story.
“Each listener may come up with their own idea of what the music is depicting – for me it sounds like a journey, both of a physical and emotional nature. Whatever the narrative, I’m sure it involves an adventure,” she says.
You can read the full version of the article in the October 2015 edition of Fine Music Magazine. Link here.
Fine Music gratefully acknowledges APRA|AMCOS for its support of this competition allowing opportunities for emerging composers entering the Australian music community.