CAITLIN ROWLEY
composer

A year of change

So it’s been nearly a year since I started my Masters degree at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance – 11 months – and today I’ve been doing a little thinking back to where I was then and where I am now, as I take a short break from working on pieces for my final recital in September. I’ve done a lot of experimenting this year, and worked through some big concepts and while I think my overall soundworld hasn’t changed a lot, I find that the way I think about music and how I write has altered considerably.

In particular, reading over the credo currently on this site, I find I no longer agree with what I wrote there back at the end of 2011. Only 18 months ago, and yet about half of that list no longer applies. Over the course of the past year:

  • I have come to appreciate muddy textures and thick harmonies as part of a palette of sounds that can offset lighter textures, helping them to have more impact
  • I still love simplicity in music, but as I face more and more notational complexities in the music I write, I have to face the fact that I probably can’t in all conscience call simplicity an overarching factor in my music any more
  • I have discovered value in music which on a first hearing I found quite impenetrable, so that I no longer believe that music shouldn’t be hard work to listen to any more. I don’t believe in difficulty for difficulty’s sake, but different types of music require different levels of effort – and different levels of effort for different people – and I feel that my previous ideal of enjoyable-yet-challenging is no longer relevant. Not because I don’t want that any more but because issues of difficulty or ease of listening don’t really matter much to me now.

I’m more interested in dissonance now than consonance, instability instead of balance, texture more than line. True, I still think more linearly than harmonically, but whereas melody used to be a key factor in my work, I now feel it’s secondary to texture. I’m finding stasis more interesting than momentum quite often, although I don’t imagine I’ll stick with that for long – there’s too much fun to be had with other approaches.

So I guess I need to write a shiny new credo. It’s harder than it seems – right now everything feels very open, very much in a state of flux. All paths seem valid to me now – when I wrote the present credo I felt I knew where I was. Now I don’t really. If that sounds negative, it most definitely isn’t. I am delighted to be confused! From my perspective now, when I wrote that credo I was frozen, stuck with these rigid ideas that prevented me from exploring new ideas, that restricted me to learning from things I already liked or was predisposed to like. It’s like the past year has opened up the whole world of music for me to learn from.

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