Meet our Change Or Be Changed young composers

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Meet our Change Or Be Changed young composers

Last month we announced our two Change Or Be Changed young composers: Michael-Jon Mizra and Benjamin Finney.  Here we find out more about them and their ideas for this exciting commission.

Michael-Jon and Ben will each be composing a new body of work, in any genre, over the next few months, leading up to a premiere performance at Band on the Wall. They’ll be blogging about their progress, giving us insight into the people, places and events that influence them on the way, the challenges they face, and how their ideas are developed over time. 

After their first meeting with mentors Sara Lowes and Ben Cottrell, we caught up with our Change Or Be Changed young composers…

 

Benjamin Finney

Tell us a bit about yourself

I’m a multidisciplinary composer and producer from Stoke-on-Trent. I graduated from the University of Salford with a degree in popular music and recording, choosing composition and music production as my electives. 

Since graduating I have gone on to set up my own guitar teaching service specialising in teaching beginner guitar lessons to children in primary schools aged 7+. I started this with the aim to get children interested and playing an instrument, putting more emphasis on playing songs. As well as teaching I write for my solo project and I also arrange and play guitar in a Gypsy Swing band, playing music ranging from Queens of the Stone Age to traditional folk music.  

Benjamin Finney-4 copy

Last year I took part in Brighter Sound’s Everything Everything presents: Chaos to Order project at Manchester Central Library. I was part of a group of 14 emerging musicians set with the task of composing a 45 minute set within five days to perform on the sixth day. The whole project was a brilliant experience for what could be achieved in a week.  Recently I took part in Video Jam at Blaze Festival in Burnley, where I had to compose a piece of music to perform live to a stop motion animation film called ‘Lepus Fagus’ created by Laura Spark.


Aside from the Change Or Be Changed commission, what projects are you currently working on?

I’ve been working on an ongoing project entitled 'Ambient Postcard'. The project explores the average listening time of a new audience by using a postcard to create an inspired piece of music at just 40 seconds in length. For this project I take a photo or borrow a photo someone else has taken and compose and record a short piece of music to compliment the photo. This project has been quite successful particularly on Instagram making use of the 15 second video length to create a short snapshot of the ‘Postcards’. This has also led to me being contacted to donate these recordings to the British Sound Library Archive to add to their collection of music and sound.


What kind of music do you compose?
I compose ambient and experimental music, utilising the guitar and effects to create atmospheric instrumentals. I do make use of other composition tools such as Logic to try and create exciting creative music. As a result of arranging/ composing my own music I have gone on to compose music for student films to build up a catalogue of compositions. I have also composed/ arranged music for an on going YouTube mini series called ‘Cold Light City’ by American writer and director Raul Urreola. For this I mainly used my guitar and effects pedals to create atmospheric soundtracks to fit the mood, such as arranging Erik Satie’s Gymnopédie No. 1 to create a more washy and atmospheric sound.

Ambient Postcard: Day 1-. Õsanbashi Pier

Wild Fish

Solace

What are you going to use this commissioning opportunity for?

I’m going to use this COBC commission to help further improve on my skills as a composer and to push myself to experiment with what I can achieve. It is exciting to be given this opportunity to compose in any genre and to have freedom to experiment with my ideas in any way I feel. I am excited to have been given this opportunity to showcase my own composition and see it performed in a way that might not have been possible otherwise.

Can you tell us a bit about your initial ideas?

My current ideas for this COBC commission are to explore using polytempos, combining different tempos simultaneously, overlapping each other to create interesting sounds which go in and out of sync with each other.

This recording is a Polytempo test/experiment I composed using four simple guitar parts each playing a different tempo at 40 – 60 – 80 – 100 Bpm. The result is interesting and I’m going explore this area more.


Find out more on Benjamin’s website here.

Michael-Jon Mizra 

Tell us a bit about yourself

I’m a musician and composer from Manchester. I studied music at The University of Leeds and whilst there, I developed a strong interest in technology, composition and musicology. As a musician I first started playing the saxophone and guitar when I was younger, and moved into electronic music composition.

As with the commission, my performances have a ground upon which a lot of one-off performance parameters take place. Every live performance is different, even if I play the same set of songs in the same order. I am very much interested in how to make software based computer music very 'live' in the traditional sense, by exploring non-traditional methods of performance.

Michael-Jon Mizra

I also work as a music facilitator encouraging children to participate in musical performance as a form of expression and a way of learning, and I have been doing that through Brighter Sound's trainee program over the last six months. I’m looking to branch this practice out into a larger community, using my work as an artist to give back and encourage others to take up a creative outlet.

Aside from the Change Or Be Changed commission, what projects are you currently working on?

I’ve been working with composer Kaffe Matthews as part of her Bicrophonic Research Institute, creating thematic material that was used in a protest ride through London during the COP21 talks. 

What kind of music do you compose?

My work to date has included working with a variety of sound sources, electronics and live audio visual work to explore new methods of composing and developing a unique creative practice and live performance. I play the software Ableton live, using a sound pallet of loops to generate my songs in each performance.  I perform the reverberation and delays, the stereo image, and the time of the loop, playing with the space of the performance area. I’ve also started to explore the relationship of visuals to music, in a performance setting. I use the same principles for sound as visuals, playing my sampled video content next to my music, using effects and layers to construct narrative and abstract stories.

Pedal

Cop21

What are you going to use this commissioning opportunity for?

I am using this commission as an opportunity to challenge myself. Through this commission, I can break away from any sense of what I am meant to be as a composer and performer, and address ideas I have wished to experiment with, but not had the platform to do so.  It feels great to get this; I'm in for a challenge!

Can you tell us a bit about your initial ideas?

The first part of my research involves a literature review of sorts, taken in the form of listening to artists who have composed pieces in similar fashions. This has involved re-visiting some old influences, and also taking on new ones.  I am also currently searching out the instrumentation, and piecing together the skeleton of the original concept I proposed – to explore music piracy’s imprint on culture of piracy, and the challenges represented to artists.

I'll be using 'traumatized' cd's as part of the performance. They will have specific sound files burnt onto them, that have either been data-bent (a form of re-arranging the information so that the content glitches) or the CD itself will be damaged (through scratches and 'blockages') as to skip sporadically. This will then be played against live performers, one playing the guitar and the other playing the sampler. All content will be re-sampled live and played back in performance. This should all play into the context of ownership/piracy and also provide a performance that can be reinterpreted many times over.