The kick-start I needed to consider myself a ‘composer’

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The kick-start I needed to consider myself a ‘composer’

Michael-Jon Mizra, musician and composer from Manchester, was one of two young composers commissioned by Brighter Sound last year. Here he blogs about his experience writing to the brief ‘Change Or Be Changed’.

The opportunity given by the ‘Change Or Be Changed’ commission was pretty much the kick-start I needed to consider myself a ‘composer’. This may sound odd but I had only thought about creating work for specific environments like a club or gig venue. I always had ideas in mind to create works that explored specific concepts, but never the right place to present them.

As a process it was very nurturing, with plenty of support from mentors Ben Cottrell and Sara Lowes as and when we needed it, without restriction on what we were allowed to produce. They took both mine and Ben Finney‘s (the other young composer chosen for this commission) initial ideas and allowed us to use them as a sounding board. There was also plenty of opportunity for extra stimulus through research projects at festivals such as MaerzMusik and talks.

In terms of managing myself on a long-term project there was a lot to learn. I had to break my piece down into discreet milestones in order to stay on track for the expected performance that was to take place at Texture as part of BBC Music Day. I decided to work by myself, rather then bring in other performers which is something to consider  – I am working with other performers in my current work and it is a very different experience! There are benefits and drawbacks: for example, in the latter you can find people to work with and have space to bounce ideas and get a larger creative output, but then you also have to manage different people’s schedules and expectations.

It was excellent to have allocated funding for the piece to purchase resources and pay performers. This commission was also an exercise in budgeting and considering necessities against wants and needs. To anyone taking this further I would say start with a broad picture, a concept in approaching the brief, and then whittle down to the specifics. Don’t decide early on that you are doing this one way, and only that way, because things change a lot – especially ideas, and it can be frustrating to try and make something work without room for flexibility. If you have one good idea, you’re bound to have another, and the more space you give for that the better. Obviously you’ll have to stick with something though, so I found keeping mood and concept diaries and notes was good practice for finding common themes I wanted to explore. I also think it’s ok to fail on big ideas, so try them (contrary to Radioheads’ advice).

You can hear excerpts from the outstanding performances from the two young composers at Test Card Live here:

I am currently working on a multi-media opera, which explores the relationship of the consumer to large corporations and the mediation of this relationship through smart technology. It toys with the notion of ‘live-cinema’, in the hope of developing a narrative not situated in any one particular medium (audio / visual / performative), but across all equally.

It is a long-term project which I hope to develop over two years into a broader work which explores gesture and mimesis in electro-acoustic theatre. When I’m not doing this, I’m out playing at venues that have large sound systems and are catering to sporadic, euphoric or intense club music. You can hear my work here:

We’re currently on the hunt for composers aged 16-25 for our next Young Composers Commission: Disruption. Find out more and apply…