Nief Norf Summer Festival 2019: a musical adventure

A long story short.
This summer I’ve had a priveledge to travel to Knoxville, TN and share my music with the amazing artists and co-fellows within the Nief Norf summer festival program. The plan for the coming two weeks included lessons, workshops, lectures, multiple new music concerts + rehearsals of own composition before the world premiere at the end of the festival. But other than being a great music gathering, Nief Norf also have had some great activities such as hiking inbetween Smoky Moutains, Sonic Meditation (Pauline Oliveros) and socialising with a cup of coffee or a beer where we talked about life, art, music, ideas and feelings/experiences.

Nief Norf team 2019

The vibes of Knoxville.
I have never been to the United States prior to this year and it has always been a dream to go there one day so I’m happy that I didn’t just come as a tourist but as an artist and a musician.
I came to the town at 3am since my flight from Chicago was delayed for at least an hour. The town met me with a steamy weather, empty neighbourhood and a nice uber driver – who’s American accent was the only indication at the time that I, in fact, have not returned to Australia. And it was weird to realise that my Australian accent was interpreted as foreign to locals while I thought that the local accent sounded foreign to me.
During my stay I’ve had an opportunity to take a walk through the town, and embrace the unknown, different and unusual.
I figured that Knoxvillians were quite friendly people with open minds and their own lovely quirks and it was a pleasure to connect to these people.

D-formation: formation of the “D”.
I’ve had a big plan for my composition, I wanted it to be intense and memorable so I thought that a percussion trio and a bass clarinet would be an amazing combination to try out. Back in my time at the Queenland Conservatorium I have had an attempt to make that combination happen. It presented a challenge as I have never written for percussion before and I was quite busy with other assignments and study commitments.
But I have not forgotten the idea! This time I was determined to make it work even though I wasn’t quite sure how. To be honest, that sort of mindset represents me as a person too: curious, corageous and daring. Or at least I’m trying to be like that!
Throughout the first week of the program, two lessons with the amazing Sara Kirkland Snider and Chris Adler + the first reading I realised that if I wanted to try something else music-wise, then this festival would be the perfect opportunity to do so. There came the idea of chance music and rapid composing throughout the first week. This, in addition to having a limited amount of time where I needed to make it work, as a conductor’s score and the parts. I have made a not-so-smart decision to write everything by hand as I was still figuring out how to notate my ideas.
I probably didn’t have the digital tools necessary on this occation anyways. I have noticed that an ipad is a popular option for the performers for the obvious reasons and it worked out well in many cases such as score study, eco-friendly and convinient in terms of space.
Still, I was behind the technology and going old school this time. But despite the hand-writing being a very time consuming activity, I thought it was a necessary discovery and a good (or maybe not so good) experience. I have been asking the experienced composers about the notation methods and how it’s been working for them and the answers were quite broad: everything between Finale and Photoshop + some Sibelius for playback, which I felt I have had enough of in the past three years.
Nevertheless, it’s been great to see some scores by Christopher Adler and Alexandre Linsqui as well as listen to the charming music of Sara Kirkland Snider, all of whom have had multiple performances throughout the two weeks of the festival.

Musicians and friends.
The high standard of musicianship at the festival amazed me, so did the social environment between the fellows and teachers. I’ve seen some very unique personalities through music and talks and maybe has been a bit too reserved to come forward too much. What I thought was a particularily great idea – letting the experienced meet the emerging at the platform where ideas can be shared. In that way, I’m a true believer that everyone has something to say and contribute with no matter of the current writing skill (always improving).
My composition ended up getting titled as “D-formation” for the amount of D’s in the picture and how I based the whole score around one note. I’m quite prone to work with tonal centres in music and have very visual approach to my scores. On that piece I’ve had a priveledge to work with the stunning clarinetist Alexandra Hecker, who’s personality had a lot of depth. She otherwise proved to be such a supportive and engaged person in many ways. Along with her, my percussionists were Kevin O’Connor, Dustin Haigler and Andy Holmes did an amazing job at their assigned instruments and demonstrated some real craftmanship throughout the rehearsals and during the performance on Friday night the 21st of June.
I feel honoured to have met and worked with these amazing souls and hope to collaborate with them furher on!