Thursday, October 27, 2011

Alice: Composer with Distinction

Alice is a young, UK pianist that composes a variety of great musical pieces that go far beyond simple piano music. She, along with many of us out there, has discovered what computers can do to your make your ideas become a reality, since it is not too common to have hundreds of professional musicians at your disposal exactly when you need them. Her Take Two composition is a jazzy creation that was inspired by the soundtrack to the movie Monsters, Inc. (that, Emperor's New Groove, and perhaps the Incredibles, if I'm not mistaken, have amazing musical themes). I could definitely hear a song like this in Disney/Pixar's next feature film, or even one of their funny "shorts" they play before each movie. Yes, this would fit nicely to a wordless short because then the music can correspond with the actions of the characters. I recently interviewed Alice, and here is what she had to say:

1) Tell us about yourself:

My name is Alice, and I am a teenager from England, UK. As well as composing, my musical hobbies include playing the piano and teaching myself the ukulele.

2) What equipment do you use to record your music?

To compose I use the notation software Sibelius, currently Sibelius Student 6. The actual sounds also come from Sibelius, as I am not able to own my own orchestra... yet!

As for the process of creating a piece of music, firstly I find a melody or a collection of chords I like from the piano. Then, I write down any ideas in a low-tech (but extremely useful) manuscript notebook. After that, I copy the tune down onto Sibelius and just go with the flow.

3) What inspires you and evokes your passion as a musician?
What doesn't? I'm easily inspired, which is a good thing for musicians. I could be listening to an advert on TV, a song on the radio, a YouTube video, even background music at a theme park! (Yes, that is true.) I hear the elements and structure of any piece of music, and think how I could use something similar in my own work.

Because of this, I don't tend to focus on one genre of music. One day I might find a perfect melody for a jazz ensemble, and then after that discover brilliant chords for a piano tune. Sometimes it's electronic, sometimes it's classical... I learn best that way.

Compared to others, I have just started my journey in composition, so I am constantly on the lookout for extra knowledge and advice. Being on YouTube has helped this tremendously. Simply hearing the work of others and receiving feedback about my own pieces gives me the boost to go on.

But I think the biggest motivation for any composer is the self-satisfaction you get when you can sit back and listen to your own music, knowing the time and effort you spent with it.

4) What are your musical goals?

Just for as many people as possible to enjoy my music. One day I would like to get my music heard outside the realms of the internet, played by a real ensemble. I also want to be in a position where I can spend as long as I need composing a song, because now I sometimes feel like I rush things.

Oh, and to achieve grade 8 piano! :)

5) If there was one place you could go to write a song, where would it be?
As boring as it sounds, I like my current setup. I don't think having a huge studio with expensive equipment will necessarily make you a better composer. Fundamentally, it is your original music that will determine it.

But if I could choose, it would be a place where no-one could disturb me, because that is when I generate my best ideas.

6) Random thoughts:

Don't try the door Handel. I've made a Liszt and gone Chopin. I'll be Bach soon.

My thoughts on the interview:

I've never gotten the chance to use Sibelius, but am very curious to see exactly how it works, since it is so different from other programs. I hope you do get to own your own orchestra! And I want to meet you when that day comes so I can say that I know somebody who owns an entire group of people that play music for her at her command :) Maybe I should look into getting one of these for myself!

Learning as many styles as you can is just plain fun. It also tends to impress your friends, especially when you know styles of music that they have never even heard of. Also, being easily inspired is a great thing, even if it means you are going to compose the world's silliest or strangest piece that no one but yourself will like.

I too want my scores, songs, and other compositions to be played in concerts or shows. How exciting that would be. Also, I would hope by that point to have music as my full-time occupation, which would then give me time to create pretty much whenever. As far as grade 8 piano goes, I doubt I'll ever have that much free time or specific piano focus to get anywhere close... but if you keep working at it, I think you'll easily achieve it. Did you catch my reference in the title? Passing with distinction I believe is the highest honor you can get on the exam!

Location cannot make you a better musician, true, but it sure can inspire different tunes! For example, if I went to a forest to write, the song could be very mystical and fantasy-oriented, but if I composed on a beach, it might be more upbeat or fun. What I tend to do when writing is remember a specific place or experience to help me feel what I want to portray, since I can't necessarily just go anywhere at any moment, especially back in time!

I'd like to see somebody try to include Mozart in your final phrase... Possible? Ok, then try Beethoven :)
For more grooves, scores, and original compositions by Alice, visit her YouTube page here.

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