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It’s been over a year and a half since we launched New Stories and over this past month we've seen the captivating results of the hard work of the three composers receiving mentorship.

In the first year, the composers – Electra Perivolaris, Georgina MacDonell Finlayson and Gillian Walker – worked with SCO Associate Composer Anna Clyne and writer/storyteller Janis MacKay to write and record a new work for a mixed ensemble of SCO players that were inspired by Scottish storytelling. The composers also worked with video producers EikCaffery Creative to create short films of their new works.

This past month, the composers have shared the films and answered all our burning questions on their compositions and writing process. There is still time to enjoy these vivid new pieces, available to watch until this Friday.

Do you remember when the rain came? Georgina MacDonell Finlayson

Watch the film

Are there any particular landscapes which inspire you?

I'm forever inspired by the landscape where I grew up in NE Scotland. In fact, the majority of my piece was written while at home during lockdown. When I wasn't huddled up in the corner writing my piece this was the landscape I'd venture out into. As you'll notice when you hear the opening of my piece, the landscape I was imagining in sound felt very raw and immediate.

How did you find the storytelling workshops, did they influence your composition?

They were brilliant. Right from the start I loved the sense of play Janis was encouraging in our creative and free flow writing. When we began exploring our stories in music and sound we did this through drawing and movement. (Below is a Selkie song!)

The ways in which Janis got us to think about words was really playful and liberating. Through the compositional process I kept coming back to this idea about image and movement.

Georgina answers all our questions about her new composition

Georgina began exploring musical storytelling with drawing and movement.

How did the idea come to you?

It all started with the story. I wanted to write a story about the climate emergency. It's something I think about most days. I was really taken with the idea of re-imagining the traditional Selkie myth. Shapeshifters, half human and half animal, on land and in sea, perhaps they know the world better then any human ever will. Traditional in selkie myths, selkies are captured on land against their will (usually by men), with their seal skins taken away from them and locked away. To summarise very briefly, for me this says something about the way we have manipulated and misused the natural world to our own gain. That's where my story began.

What are some musical inspirations?

I take inspiration from lots of different places, but I'm often inspired by the environment, the natural world and the climate emergency. I grew up very rurally so landscape and nature have always been a source of inspiration. I also really love working with text whether that's responding to poetry or story, or working with live storytelling or theatre.

Has this project changed the way you work at all?

Definitely! Right from the start in writing our stories it has helped me to be more playful and imaginative in the way that I create the music, whether that's visualising it in drawing or feeling it physically by dancing around the room. I also found it helped me to explore different ways of starting my writing, whether that's at a piano, straight to the page or by experimenting with layers of sound in logic. It was also a very interesting experience to have written music first, for which we then created films, putting together a visual narrative that related to music.

I grew up very rurally so landscape and nature have always been a source of inspiration

White City | Gillian Walker

What do you like to listen to?

At the moment I'm listening to a lot of vocal music, ensembles like EXAUDI and Roomful of Teeth. More generally I love pop music! An album that I've enjoying recently is 'La Folie' by the Stranglers.

Where do your travels take you next and how will that affect your compositional style.

I'm currently studying in London, and being exposed to music, art and creative people has heavily influenced my music! I think all this will eventually seep into my musical language in the future.

Do you have a favourite instrument or instrument family to work with and why?

I love writing for strings and exploring their palette of extended techniques. I've never played any string instrument so it took me a long time to understand how to write for them. But once I did I found it really rewarding and now I enjoy composing for strings all the time!

Gillian provides an insight into her compositional process

How does a working day in the life of a composer play out?

Generally my working day varies a lot, which is exciting! At the moment it involves going to rehearsals, speaking and collaborating with musicians as much as possible. Also, listening to lots of different music and going to concerts which often inspires me to write music. Currently I'm spending a lot of time on orchestration techniques.

How do you tackle "writers block"?

I do something else, like visit an art gallery/museum or go for a walk to take my mind as far away from the problem!

Did you write your piece thinking it would be listened to by the young ones at your former nursery?

This is a great question! My piece was definitely intended to be listened to, and is written for, the community. This was my priority when I started writing the piece. I wanted 'White City' to be a true representation of the place (in my personal experiences) and I hope that there will be some commonality and shared experience that comes across in my writing.

My piece was definitely intended to be listened to, and is written for, the community. This was my priority when I started writing the piece.

The Blurred Lines of Archipelagos

Electra Perivolaris

What was it like working with Anna Clyne?

I love the way that Anna Clyne works with instrumental colours, like painting with the instruments. Talking about that in our sessions together has been one of the real highlights.

How do you feel hearing the first notes of your work played by an orchestra?

Excited, joyful and nervous all at once!

How do you go about conveying a sense of place in sound?

The atmosphere sounds, smells, weather...all of these things influence my music.

How did the process of storytelling inform your compositional process?

My piece traces a story I wrote, exploring the blurred boundaries of my Greek and Scottish island heritages.

Electra talks about hearing her piece being played for the first time.

All three composers are now working towards writing a new suite for the SCO for performance in Summer 2022.

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