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Robbie Ellis talks about his "Relish in Immature Bombast"




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SOUNZ asks Robbie several questions about his work Relish in Immature Bombast, written as part of the Auckland Philharmonia Composer Development project 2012/13.

Written version:

Did your piece develop as a result of the workshops? The orchestral workshops didn't influence my piece in any grand structural ways. Nevertheless, they were invaluable for addressing balance issues and discovering how orchestral players would interpret their parts on first run-through. Equally as valuable were the slightly longer sessions with just my two soloists, organist Tim Noon and drum kit player Jono Sawyer. This was where we explored issues of organ registrations and tone colour in the hall, which of course will change completely when hundreds of human bodies populate it to hear the live performance.

Was the role of the organ as ‘rhythm section’ a challenge for Timothy? Indeed - he's told me that the piece is written in a jazz/funk/rock idiom that he's not familiar with, and the jazz tradition of improvisation is radically different to that of church organists. That said, Tim is not the entire rhythm section! I see the drum kit and the organ as a unit that has to project the feeling of the music, with the orchestra to follow. The major challenge has been that an orchestra knows how to play together and "speak" with an agreed-upon degree of lag. A drum kit speaks faster than the rest of the orchestra (on the beat instead of after the beat), and organs speak slower. Forming a cohesive rhythm section from two instruments with hugely different approaches to time-keeping has taken many hours, but we've got there.

What do you want the audience to take away with them after hearing the piece? Tinnitus. No, in seriousness, I always seek to write music that everyone in the process can invest in. The soloists, the orchestral players, the conductor, even the orchestra management, should all be so convinced by the joy and spirit of the music that they genuinely sell the performance to the audience. It's not easy to accomplish that when 70+ musical experts have 80+ different opinions on what is worthwhile music, but the audience knows when it happens. I want the audience to take that impression away.