Composer Siobhán Cleary reports on the recent Soundscape Festival, which she attended in Italy earlier this month
I was delighted to be able to attend the 9th Soundscape Festival as the first Irish artist-in-residence, facilitated by the Contemporary Music Centre and the Association of Irish Composers. This residency was the brainchild of Peter Moran (secretary of the AIC) who himself was a participant on previous courses and later a guest of the festival. There have been several Irish participants over the years who have benefited from the festival’s unique opportunities, including this year’s Irish representatives, composers David Collier and Jen Kirby who joined fellow composition and performance students from all corners of the globe.
Soundscape is held in the beautiful surroundings of Maccagno on the shores of Lake Maggiore and the small town bustles for two weeks each July with the activities of the festival. There is a very strong faculty comprising of leading international composers and performers who give masterclasses, workshops, lectures and concerts. 25 or so guest artists drop in and out of the festival over the fortnight, a generous ratio indeed for the 25 students. This year’s faculty included soprano Tony Arnold, flautist Lisa Cella, pianist Thomas Rosenkranz, along with composers Paul Richards and Dan Visconti.
The composition students themselves get to hear their own work performed by their fellow performance students with guidance and mentorship from the faculty; this is a wonderful opportunity to form a working relationship with their peers which could last for years to come.
There are daily colloquiums led by the composition director Brian Hulse where the festival composers meet to discuss common issues and exchange ideas. There are also daily improvisation sessions led by Thomas Rosenkranz which offers participants an opportunity to develop practices that develop freedom and spontaneity in performance.
At 3.30 pm every day there was a seminar and I was invited to present one of these on Irish electronic music. During this seminar I introduced works by 15 different composers spanning 41 years to a very attentive group of participants.
A concert was held on 4 July by a large group of faculty and advanced students. This was the only contemporary concert I’ve ever been at where they had a spot prize! (a copy CMC’s latest CD, new music: new Ireland). Stephen Gardner was also in attendance and was delighted with the performance of his work the Mayfly (which was received with cheers and whistles from the enthusiastic audience). I was also very pleased by the premiere of my new piece Ondine which featured the renowned soprano Tony Arnold who brought depth and dramatic flair to the performance. The young ensemble rose to the challenge of the work with aplomb and were ably conducted by John J. Pears.
The feedback from both the seminar and concert was wonderful. There was a lot of curiosity about the Irish scene and a number of participants and faculty indicated their intent to discover more.
The festival is run with love and care by the artistic director Nathanael May (who was frequently in several places at one time and never seemed to need to sleep!). With great patience and efficiency Nathanael fielded the demands of all attending the festival. I am extremely thankful for all his work with regard to this residency.
I am also very grateful to CMC who supported this scheme and provided me with so much reassuring back up; Peter Moran and the AIC who instigated this residency and Culture Ireland who grant aided the scheme.