COMPOSING

I have come to realise that there are four different ways to compose.

The first is having the composition fully realized in your head before you set anything down on paper or in the studio.  For me this renders the best musical composition and is usually the result of a happy, focussed and inspired mind.  This is the most traditional method and is encouraged by classical music institutions.

The second method is more labour intensive and involves a partial idea that has to be nutted out at a piano or at the computer (usually thanks to a pressing deadline).  For me this method can go either way…if I am quick enough it can sound inspired…alternatively, tired ears can produce a incomprehensible monster!

The third method is the most modern and most common.  That is, having no real preconceived musical idea, and composing by jamming, riffing, experimenting, exploring happy accidents or simply letting the software dictate the musical ideas.  Today, with the proliferation of experimental synth software, loops, sound generators, samplers, effects and a limitless number of tracks to record on, it is sometimes necessary for the musician to simply let the sounds themselves guide the creative process.

Obviously no method is exclusive and so the fourth method is simply a combination of all of the above.

BIG IN JAPAN (WELL NOT QUITE)

I was staying at the Park Hyatt Tokyo (the hotel from the film ‘Lost In Translation’) and one morning while having breakfast, I suddenly recognised the music playing on the ambient sound system.  It was my old album Tempest !  I composed and produced this CD in 1994 when I was 24 years old and it went on to sell over 60,000 units worldwide.  How wonderful and surreal it was to hear it being played 20 years later…in Japan…and on the playlist of such a famous hotel as the Park Hyatt Tokyo.

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SIGNAL HILL STUDIO.

I named my studio after the marine observation outpost nearby.  Signal Hill is situated on the clifftops of Vaucluse and overlooks the Tasman Sea.  It was built in 1858 after the Dunbar was wrecked on the rocks immediately below the station.

“The Dunbar was a full-rigged ship that was wrecked near the entrance to Sydney Harbour, Australia in 1857 with the loss of 121 lives. The Dunbar was launched on 30 November 1853 for London shipowner Duncan Dunbar and entered the passenger and cargo trade between London and Sydney early the following year. She was one of a number of large sailing ships that began trading to Australia as a result of the Australian gold rushes.

On the night of 20 August 1857, the ship approached the entrance to Sydney Harbour from the south, but heavy rain and a strong gale made navigating difficult. The ship’s captain, James Green, either erroneously believing he had already passed the harbour’s southern headland or mistaking a smaller break in the coastline known as The Gap for the port’s entrance, drove the ship onto rocks. The force of the gale caused the Dunbar to break up. Crew member James Johnson was thrown against the cliffs from the impetus of the collision and managed to scramble to safety, however he remained undiscovered for two days. The remainder of the passengers and crew were drowned. A day of public mourning was declared. The remains of the bodies of twenty-two victims were recovered and interred in a single large tomb in Camperdown Cemetery in Newtown. Several other victims have individual monuments. James Johnson was later employed in the pilot service at Newcastle, New South Wales, and was instrumental in rescuing the sole survivor of the paddle steamer SS Cawarra wrecked there in 1866.”

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FEATURE FILM

I’m about to start work on the new Fireman Sam feature film. Series 9 is now complete and currently being broadcast around the globe. Apparently, the BBC Proms music festival now includes a CBBC kids concert so I am hoping there is a chance my soundtrack for Fireman Sam could be included in the future. It is scored for orchestra after all.

On a more grown up note, I have recently purchased an original 1930’s Seitei woodblock print. This suits my studio beautifully.

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TAKEMITSU & RAVEL

I’m a massive fan of the Japanese composer Takemitsu and the French composer Ravel.  Both could be considered impressionist though maybe Takemitsu more so than Ravel.  What draws me to them is their sense of nature, mystery and the sublime.  In their music you should be able to hear similarities to the type of photographs I take as well as the Japanese woodblock prints I have collected (mentioned below).

Have a listen to Takemitsu’s Rain Spell.  

And to Ravel’s Piano Trio in A minor.  A true masterpiece.

My favourite woodblock prints sit nicely alongside both composers.

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SIGNAL HILL

My studio is located in one of the most picturesque parts of Australia.  It is so inspiring to live and work here and to follow the changing sea and cloudscapes through the seasons.

Here are a few photos I have taken around the studio and on my daily walks:

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