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Meet composer Tom Jensen

In this series, we present our new composers. We are proud to introduce Tom Jensen.

Please tell us about yourself and what you do. 

I'm a Dunedin-based composer very interested in counterpoint, fugues, Renaissance and Baroque polyphony, as well as the lush orchestration of the late romantic and 20th century. I've been forging my own tonal language, trying to capture 'organic' melodies and drawing on inspiration from everything from the landscape and history of New Zealand, to physicists, writers, and 20th-century composers like Schnittke and Martinů. I've had my music recorded by the NZSO and DYO and had pieces played at the Chamber Vulgarus concerts here in Dunedin. My main instrument these days is accordion: Singing and playing traditional songs.

Tom Playing gamelan

Please choose 2-3 of your works/albums and tell us about them.
Harbour Suite
This piano suite is inspired by the landscape and history of Dunedin Harbour, with everything from lush hills and scintillating sunlight on the water, to the history and 19th Century estates - even a Reggae Fugue.
It's a modern take on the baroque dance suite, with my own "kiwi counterpoint".

Fugue from E minor to B major
One thing I've been obsessed with for the last 3 or 4 years is the Fugue - this form keeps drawing me back, providing a way to experiment and balance economy of material with invention. This is the most recent of them, completed at the start of this month.

What are you working on at the moment?

I'm excited to hear my "Feynman Duo" for 2 clarinets played at the University of Auckland Clarinet Weekend, as part of the composition competition. The duo investigates the interactions of particles (or melodies) that pass very closely...

I'm currently working a set of canons for piano, and I have been setting Virginia Woolf's suicide note to music (writing a song, using her words as the lyrics), although this project has been on and off the back-burner for a few months. Last year I set Iris Chang's 2nd suicide note to music (she wrote 3), and this somewhat morbid fascination with the last words a person ever writes continues this year. I find it takes me a while to write these pieces - I very carefully set the words to music - trying to reflect the joy, sadness, regret, nostalgia and myriad other twisting emotions at every turn. Suicide notes are incredibly expressive and often very honest, and these two, in particular, have a lot of empathy with the people left behind and about remembering the good times, giving them a bitter-sweet feel.

How can people connect with you?



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