Matt Olyver is a second year Music student at the University of Bristol, and one of the most active student composers in the department. Just two weeks ago Bristol's Bierkeller Theatre hosted three nights of his chamber opera, The Boar’s Head, along with Jake Bright’s The Madness Game. Over the three nights 150 people crammed into the small theatre to see the two new pieces. Unsurprisingly, this was Matt’s first foray into opera, which he described as ‘an important learning experience’ for him as a composer, that would help him to move onto a larger scale in the future.
Thursday, 20 February 2014
Saturday, 4 January 2014
Yesterday evening I went to the first showing in Berwick-upon-Tweed of 'The Railway Man', a film that is in cinemas across the UK from the 10th of January. It was screened sooner in Berwick because the man upon whom the film is based, Eric Lomax, lived in Berwick for many years until his death in 2012.
Tuesday, 26 November 2013
There has been a bit of a boom in the discussion of music in education in the last week or two. Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Master of the Queen's Music, on announcing his retirement, also criticised the attitude in the education system towards 'classical' music, describing it as elitist. There has also been criticism of the music 'hub' system Michael Gove put into place last year. It's encouraging to see that people as well respected as Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and Nicola Benedetti speaking out against the current state of musical education, as they are the very people who will be the most influential in helping to fix the way we approach the study of music today.
Friday, 15 November 2013
Vocal music is a fantastic art form because it combines both music and poetry. According to advocates of 'absolute' music, music can transcend the expressive capacities of language; if this is the case then vocal music provides us with the opportunity to extend the expression of a text alone. Because of its fusion of music and language, for me, vocal music has more of a capacity to stir the emotions than instrumental music.
Thursday, 31 October 2013
‘Classical’ is an extremely misleading term in music. We use it to describe a whole variety of music that has developed over more than five hundred years; so perhaps 'classical music' is what we might call a supergenre. The term really describes the period around 1750-1825 covering composers including the famous triumvirate of Haydn, Mozart and (early) Beethoven. But even this is a simplification of the truth and so the term 'classical' really holds very little real meaning at all.
There’s no denying that the word ‘classical’ is used everywhere in the modern age, there is a ‘classical’ category in the culture section of the Guardian, as well as in the music section of the Telegraph, not to mention the BBC ‘Classical Music' magazine and Gramophone’s claim of being ‘The world’s authority on classical music’. So it's fairly clear that this alienating term is the popular choice when referring to this 500+ year period.
Wednesday, 16 October 2013
It's no secret that the arts is making its way to the periphery of journalistic writing. It was only around two months ago The Independent announced the hefty cutting back of its arts section, and if you were to open any other newspaper you'd be hard pushed to find more than a couple of pages on any of the arts. Despite only having a few pages to discuss their respective mediums, arts journalists cover relevant and interesting topics and make the most of their limited page space. That is to say, all arts journalists but the 'classical' music journalists.
Tuesday, 24 September 2013
I'm not a composer, I sometimes like to dabble but it's certainly not what I consider as my 'thing'. As a singer (and someone who doesn't play many instruments) I prefer to compose choral pieces. I like trying to evoke the mood of the text through the music, and I feel like sometimes the mood of a piece is not really well captured by a composer, I felt like this when I sang 'Go Lovely Rose' by Eric Whitacre. It's a beautiful piece of music, but I think in the middle stanzas the music is not quite reflective of the text, particularly on the lines 'That hadst thou sprung/ In deserts where no men abide,/ Thou must have uncommended died.' In 'A Boy and a Girl', however, I think Whitacre reflects the text brilliantly, particularly at the appearance of the word 'waves'.
Friday, 23 August 2013
I’m sure it’s not news to anybody that there seems to be a bit of a rift in music between the ‘mainstream’ and ‘alternative’ fans. I think many people who come under one or other of these titles would probably refer to the other as total crap, probably without ever giving it a great deal of attention in the first place. I’d place both groups firmly in the wrong because they are both guilty of blatant intolerance and are probably not very well informed one their opposing genre anyway. The existence of social networks like Twitter and Facebook (and Blogspot) allows everyone to be a critic; their opinions are visible to everyone they’re connected with. I think this is probably a contributor to this divide that has formed between the two sects of music fans.
Saturday, 10 August 2013
I think it's fair to say that classical music is often portrayed and thought of as a genre that is superior to other forms, or perhaps even considers itself to be. Whilst I am a big fan of classical music, and would probably have agreed that it is the superior form of music a few years ago, I think it's a little ridiculous to consider any genres of music superior to others. Like any other genre of music, the classical genre needs to assert itself as credible and relevant but in the media it's clearly detached from the mainstream of music. I'm sure you're probably thinking 'But classical music isn't at all like mainstream music! Of course they shouldn't be talked about in the same breath!' and while it's true that classical music is very different from mainstream music, aren't all the mainstream genres just as different from each other? Rap is certainly very different from rock, and rock is very different from pop, to speak broadly. I think the problem here is that classical music seems to operate as the superior art form, which is just not the case.
Monday, 5 August 2013
On Friday I finished a work placement with the Sage Gateshead where I spent time helping out with a Youth Music Programme course called Open Studio. This course had kids whose ages ranged between 8 and 16, and they were all fairly competent, and confident, with the instruments they played. Despite this, though, none of them seemed at all comfortable singing.