Con composition student heads to Russia

Aidan Rosa

A few months ago, Moscow Contemporary Music Ensemble (MCME) were touring Australia and presented a seminar and workshop at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. They extended an invitation for composition students to apply to study at the 7th International Young Composer Academy (IYCA) to take place in Chaykovsky City. I thought the idea attractive, especially the incentive of having a new work performed by MCME during the academy’s finale. A few weeks after submitting my application I received an acceptance letter, a visa invitation, and— before I could say “I don’t speak Russian” in the Russian language— I was already on my way to Moscow.

Moscow was an eclectic blend of different styles of architecture, each signifying a different political era in the countries modern history. I was fortunate enough to have seen a lot of the city in the little time I had before the start of IYCA. The academy itself took place over the course of two weeks. We met in Moscow at the Kazanskaya railway and caught a 16-hour night train to Izhvesk and then a 2-hour bus to Chaykovsky the next day.

Before reaching our place of residence, we stopped by the town of Votkinsk and visited the house where Pyotr Tchaikovsky was born and lived during his early years. There was a haunting charm to the estate, a kind of overwhelming presence of musical legend where the genius suddenly becomes much more man than myth.

Chaykovksy was a Soviet city founded in the late 1950s and has been virtually untouched since then. The building designs are almost indistinguishably similar and civilians still commute in vintage mini buses. It was here, in the grey wake of Russian modernism, where we commenced our endeavours in contemporary music.

The young composer cohort was comprised of 10 composers and five auditors, all proficient artists in their own rights; I was already familiar with some of their music. I would have to say that one of the most incredible things about my time at the academy was being able to experience such a diversity of artistry and craftsmanship.

Each composer was able to audit the masterclasses of their peers, thus we became familiar with the work of one another very quickly. Each masterclass was taught by one of four composers-in-residence: Dmitri Kourlianski, Jerome Combier, Yannis Kyriakides and Elżbieta Sikora; each of whom had a unique philosophy, set of aesthetic values, and a wealth of experience in their fields.

Composers (professional and student alike) ate and drank together daily. ‘Mafia games’ were frequent and loved by all; a touching reminder that we were all people before musicians, and there was indeed a very personal air of camaraderie that flourished throughout the event. One such evening, I met a violinist whom I then composed a ‘miniature’ for the very next day. Only a few days after that, she had already performed and recorded it!

Student composers were also able to work closely with the musicians of MCME in the development of new works to be composed for the ensemble. While IYCA was running, MCME ran workshops for local music students. The ensemble orchestrated several concerts featuring both students and MCME performing new music alongside each other. MCME premiered a total of 10 new works that were composed in residence by the young composers (including my own piece, Kazimir^3) , first in Chaykovsky and two days later at the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow.

The very next morning, I departed the Russian Federation with a renewed love for what I do, a new perspective on music, and the motivation to continue to further refine my craft.

Aidan Rosa, Bachelor of Music (Composition) ’16, Master of Music (Composition)