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2012 SOUNZ Contemporary Finalist Interview with Alex Taylor




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How important do you think the SOUNZ Contemporary Award is to contemporary music composition and composers in New Zealand?
The SOUNZ Contemporary Award is really the premiere award for composition in New Zealand. To me it’s so important for composers to be recognised for their contributions, which are not often commercially rewarding. The role SOUNZ plays in fostering and promoting New Zealand music is invaluable, and this award is one part of how SOUNZ contributes so richly to the cultural landscape.

What does being a finalist of the SOUNZ Contemporary Award mean to you?
I’m genuinely surprised to be chosen as a finalist. It’s very humbling – the list of previous finalists for the award is just so impressive: truly wonderful composers like Ross Harris, Gillian Whitehead, Eve de Castro-Robinson. But also it’s a really satisfying recognition of the things I’ve been doing over the last few years, particularly with my Masters, where I feel I produced a substantial amount of quality work.

What are you currently working on?
I’ve just finished a commission for the NZTrio, a work called burlesques mècaniques, which is a totally different beast from [inner], rather grotesque and hyperactive. I’m working on a piece for 175 East and some song settings of Ferlinghetti poems. I’ve just arrived back from a week-long camp with Wyn Davies and the NZSO National Youth Orchestra, who performed my work feel in Christchurch – a completely fantastic group of musicians to collaborate with, and I’m sure future projects will come out of connections I made there.

[inner] has become part of a larger work in four movements for orchestra, feel, which recently received its' premiere by the NZSO’s National Youth Orchestra. The title [inner] suggests it was destined to be part of a larger work - was that your intention when you first conceived this work?
[inner] was originally conceived as the slow movement of a viola concerto, but it’s evolved in a different way. I intended to write the viola concerto in full for my Masters but other projects turned up, as they always seem to do, and [inner] ended up as a stand-alone work. Then the NYO residency came along, and I saw this as a great opportunity to expand the work into something more substantial and diverse. feel is not a viola concerto but the idea of a trapped middle voice runs throughout the work – beginning with cor anglais, then principal viola, and then clarinet.

[inner] was performed as part of the Leaps & Bounds collaborative project between the NZSO and Royal NZ Ballet. How closely did you work with choreographer? And how did the dance element change the impact of the music?
I didn’t actually have any collaboration with the choreographer, Brendan Bradshaw, but he did a wonderful job with the piece. In many ways it was quite lovely to see what someone else had done with the work, and he really understood the intimacy of it, the slowly unfolding, quiet, introverted sensuality – before I saw it I thought, “how could this be suitable for dance?” but he captured the character perfectly, and it was beautifully performed. I think I still prefer the work as a purely orchestral thing, without the dance element, as there’s so much detail that get lost aurally when the music becomes in a sense accompaniment or background to a visual element. But I liked the choreography very much.

SOUNZ Contemporary Award (2012) [inner] was the winner of the 2012 SOUNZ Contemporary Award