Nathan James Dearden. Photo: Ben Tomlin

NYCGB Young Composer Nathan James Dearden reflects on the idea of introductions and on meeting his fellow Young Composers for the first time

INTRODUCTION(S)

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied before they had me, [...], but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.

So begins J.D. Salinger’s iconic novel, 'Catcher in the Rye', arguably one of the finest opening sentences of any American novel.

Introductions can be funny things. They can be earnest, comical, methodical, nervous, freeing, riddled with anxiety to the most joyous of memories that stick with you for a lifetime. They can be frank like we see in the Salinger, but they can also be quiet and cloaked in mystery? Many people say that an introduction can make or break a conversation.

And then what do you say? "Hello", "Hi", "Afternoon (Oh wait, its' the morning)", "I'm Jack (Oh wait, I'm Nathan)". How do I stand? Do I sit? A handshake? A hug? Neither? Then the thought pops into your head, "Am I smiling too much? Too little? Do they think I looked scared, or even scary?" 

Imagine if the beginning of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony - da-da-da-DUM; da-da-da-DUM, one of the most instantly recognisable and electrifying introductions in all of music history - started on penny whistle, maracas and a balloon being released (actually, I would pay to hear/see that). Beethoven, sitting at his chair in his lodgings of Pasqualati House in Vienna, perhaps thinking, "Would it have the same impact? Would it or even I be remembered?"

There are so many 'considerations' for the humble introduction. 

Although, one thing I remember from my time on choral residential courses as a young teenager is that everyone 'is in the same boat'. We all want to make that positive, long-lasting impression. Composer, performer and listener alike want an exciting/moving/impactful introduction to set us off on that musical journey. 

Now, a gaggle of composers (I wonder what the collective noun for composers is?) in one room. In a brightly lit space at the Umbrella Studios in central London. (This is not the beginning to a bad joke). This was the first introduction of the 2020 NYGCB Young Composers group. And how did we introduce ourselves?

With music. 

That shared language and experience. 

We introduced ourselves through our shared experience of music. All four of us. Not only composers but performers, singers, conductors, violinists, flautist, pianists, teachers, lecturers, festival organisers, event curators. What was most interesting was that we did not listen to our own music (that comes in another session, another blog, another time), but that of others. Pawing through the archives of NYCGB online recordings with Ben [Ben Parry; Artistic Director & Principal Conductor, NYCGB] and listening to Benjamin Britten to Kerry Andrew's who we are and introducing ourselves to the wonderful family of NYCGB. And what did we discover from these polished performances/pieces (apart from the fact that the NYCGB is insanely talented and wholeheartedly adept to new things)? We recognised that each of us, as artists, thrive on the idea of practical music-making - getting stuck in, working in the moment, being tactile, throwing sound into space. Working with people to create sound together. We began setting the scene for the year ahead and letting our minds wander to begin to construct what we might do with this powerhouse of ensembles. 

Over the space of a few hours, we hugged, laughed, spoke about personal musical conquests and defeats, shared food, spoke about what got us up in the morning, what music moves us, which people inspire us and, perhaps most interestingly in what was such a short time of being 'introduced', what we could do for one another? What can we do for the NYCGB family and what can the NYCGB family do for us? It became, in no uncertain terms, a type of composer therapy session. Cathartic, freeing, and ultimately exciting. 

Introductions are not so scary after all. 


Programme Digital Partner: NMC Recordings

 

Programme Innovation Grant Sponsors:

Steinberg Media Technologies (Technology Partner) and Stainer & Bell (Publishing Partner)

             

Supported by The Garrick Charitable Trust, RVW Trust, The Michael Tippett Musical Foundation, Lord and Lady Lurgan Trust and PRS Foundation's The Open Fund for Organisations.