Welcome to TL Life: Crosscurrent.
Cue: Drip Fed News Feed drums & bass
This is a special interim episode to tell you about the Composition department concert which is tomorrow, Tuesday 27th November, at 1:05pm in the Old Royal Naval College Chapel.
I met 4th year composer Kieron Smith, organiser of the concert, to find out more about him and what we can expect to hear in the concert.
Cue: Kieron Smith Interview
WH: OK Kieron, thank you very much for joining me, welcome to the podcast.
KS: Well thank you for inviting me. It’s a different experience.
WH: First of all, I’d like you to introduce yourself.
KS: My name is Kieron Smith. I’m currently in my final year of my Undergraduate course studying Composition at Trinity Laban.
I’ve lived in Essex my whole life – mainly around Thaxted / Saffron Walden area. After A Levels, taking a gap year, I worked in Wetherspoons and I think I learnt more about life there than I did in school. After that gap year, I started with an Independent Study programme at Trinity Laban, and five years later, here I am, finally doing my final year.
I used to play viola but I mainly stick to flute playing nowadays. When I was serious about wanting to compose, I was about seventeen. I was in the youth orchestra and we used to go on tours for the Summers and there was this tour we went to in Germany and we played Mahler’s 7th Symphony and after playing that and listening to so much amazing music, I was like, “I want to write this stuff, I feel this is a real challenge, because it meant I had to think, I had to be creative.”
WH: I want to ask you about, first of all, the concert that’s happening on Tuesday.
KS: It’s just simply going to be called the ‘Trinity Laban Composers’ Lunchtime Concert’. It’s on Tuesday 27th November. Aim to get there for 1pm. It starts at 5 past 1pm and it’s over at the Old Royal Naval College Chapel.
The composers involved are Toby Carswell, James Layton, Sam Pradalie, Theo Finkel and myself Kieron Smith. Definitely different styles of music which is what I love about it.
WH: So this concert is your own initiative?
KS: It is something I have organised and I think it could be a new tradition. It doesn’t have to be an assessment. This can be purely to develop the composers’ skills of organising rehearsals, organising concerts, but more importantly, having their own music performed. And not just performed to students, but to perform to the public.
We’ve now got an ensemble of flute, oboe, 2 clarinets, percussion, french horn, piano in James Layton‘s piece and a string quintet. All the musicians are excellent and, obviously speaking on behalf of the other composers, but I would love to thank you for the musicians invovled.
WH: Tell me about the Cross-Conservatoire Concert.
KS: Since I’ve been organising one or two concerts throughout the years, I thought a Cross-Conservatoire Composers’ Concert would be a brilliant idea because I don’t know composition students from other conservatoires. In fact, I don’t know what the composition departments are like. I want to meet other composers out of Trinity Laban to really network.
I sent out a message last week to the other Conservatoires and already Royal College have been brilliant because at least 7-9 people have already sent me requests to be involved in this project.
I’m not looking for a certain style of music. The specifications were a piece lasting 3-5 minutes scored for up to 4 musicians. In terms of the venue, I think I’ve found a venue in Central London in Oxford Circus: Schott’s Music shop.
WH: Oh great.
KS: Yeah, they have a performance space there Friday and Saturday night where you can hire for £200. I’m looking for 3-4, maybe 5 composers from each of the following conservatoires: Trinity Laban, Royal College, Royal Academy and Guildhall. The concert I’m aiming to have around 8th March.
WH: That’s excellent. There’s really not enough interaction between the conservatoires, I think.
KS: And that is a huge shame.
WH: There should be scope for this to be the first in a series.
KS: Oh, that would be good.
If you want to get in contact, the best way at the moment is my college email address:
WH: What are you working on currently?
KS: I’m currently composing a piece for the percussion ensemble …
Cue: Drip Fed News Feed drums only by alumnus Thomas Leach
… It’s actually a commission for a concert in Spring Term in 2019. I’m scoring it for 10 musicians. Percussion instruments are still yet to be confirmed but I’ve got an idea of the structure. I’ve just got to crack on and actually compose with it. What I’m trying to strive for in my music at the moment is timbre and colour of the instrumentation, the colour of the orchestration.
My piece is a simple structure going from slow to fast. So I was going to start off quite sparse with some crotales and chimes – the higher pitched frequency instruments. And then as we gradually get faster, I was going to take inspiration from Ligeti and have some polyrhythms and well as some micropolyphony. So it’s like a sustained chord transitioning very slowly with the use of marimbas, vibraphone, glockenspiel. It might sound like a mess but the intention is to create this colour-world.
WH: That’s really exciting. I’m looking forward to hearing it. The last percussion concert in St. Alfege’s was a real spectacle, actually.
KS: What that the one with the West Side Story?
KS: Oh, I missed that one. I should have gone to that.
WH: I mean, they’re always very bold with their choice of music, in that, more than half of the pieces in that programme were written post-2000.
KS: Well, this is the thing I love about the percussion department here. The percussionists are the ones that really are so eager to help out the composers because they don’t have a huge amount of repertoire compared to, let’s say, a string player or woodwind player.
You know what? I love writing for percussion because you can’t have a simple melody. You need to think of music in different aspects. You have to think rhythmically, you have to think of textures, you have to think of colour, dynamics, and work out what sounds good together. What techniques can we get away with without annoying the percussionists? Because I know there’s one or two that doesn’t like the bowed cymbal.
And trust me. They’ll know who they are.
WH: I’d like to include a bit of music with this segment with you.
KS: There is a solo flute piece with live electronics I could include. It’s called Standing Upon the Edge of Loch Turret. It was inspired by when I went up to Scotland last Easter and we visited this loch called Loch Turret and I just thought, “I want to write a piece about it.” It was so atmospheric, so open. It was mysterious, it was foggy, it was beautiful.
WH: Perhaps you could just say a little bit more about what the electronics do.
KS: Essentially it is live electronics with a pedal machine with a reverb pedal because a lot of the piece emphasises the reverb to try and emulate the surrounding space. There are some moments where the reverb is more noticeable to the point where there’s a little bit of a loop to create an echo effect as if you were shouting or talking to the loch.
KS: My name is Kieron Smith and my piece is called Standing Upon the Edge of Loch Turret and it’s scored for flute and live electronics.
Cue: Standing Upon the Edge of Loch Turret
That was Standing Upon the Edge of Lock Turret by Kieron Smith.
Don’t miss the composers’ concert tomorrow and watch out for TL Life Crosscurrent episode 2 next week.
If you have a project, a piece or an idea you would like to share on the podcast, please do get in touch with me via my email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the Trinity Laban student body and do not necessarily represent those of the institution as a whole.