Friday, 22 April 2022

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European Composer Competition - Meet the finalists, today Andy Wareham


Name: Andy Wareham
Date of birth: 16/11/1994
Birthplace(or Residence): Southampton, UK
Music Education: Cardiff University - BMus (hons) // Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama - MMus (hons) Brass Band Conducting.
Started (music) at: Age 6 playing trumpet with the 4th Southampton Boys Brigade Band.
Plays with (orchestras/bands): Cornet player with Woodfalls Band (UK) // Conductor with Ocean Brass Band (UK), Southampton University Brass Band and co-conductor of Southampton Youth Brass Band (Fusion Brass).



Can you tell something about your composition Machiavelli – Ruminations on ‘The Prince’?

As the title of the work suggests, the music is inspired by a historical text called ‘The Prince’ by Niccolò Machiavelli. Machiavelli was a 15th century Florentine philosopher, diplomat, historian and playwright.

History hasn’t been kind to Machiavelli who is a divisive and often misunderstood historical figure. He is often characterised as an immoral, manipulative and power-hungry bureaucrat and his writings have been used, quoted and twisted by various autocrats and dictators throughout history to justify their actions.

At the time Machiavelli lived, Florence was the seat of a renaissance in artistic, humanistic, technological, and scientific thinking. He received a humanist education, a school of philosophy that perceived a universal harmony underlying both classical pagan philosophy (especially that of Plato, Plotinus and their followers) and Christianity. He devoted his life to serving his city and was an avid historian; Machiavelli loved the ancient Roman republic and studied its history to the point of obsession.

Machivelli is best known for ‘The Prince’, a short political treatise on how princes acquire power, conquer new lands, structure their militaries, interact with their citizens and preserve the strength of their states. It was written in dedication to Lorenzo de' Medici; the head of the powerful Medici family who controlled Florence at the time.

Writing ‘The Prince’ was an attempt by Machiavelli to curry favour with the Medici family. The family had been in power in Florence a year prior to the book being written but had lost this power during a coup. Machiavelli was implicated for his alleged involvement in this coup and was banished from Florence to his small Sant’Andrea farm, located just outside the city. This was devastating for Machiavelli, who had dedicated his life to serving Florence and manoeuvring within the city’s political landscape.

In the book, Machiavelli writes very much in the tradition of classical and civic humanism but in certain respects (ones that shocked his contemporaries) he broke decisively with that tradition. The book gives cold and morally detached advice and is candid in its separation of personal and political morality yet uses historical analysis of the Roman Empire and its republic as a model.

Regardless of the view you take on Machiavelli, he was a pragmatist and realist who described not what is right, only what is true.

The music itself is structured in three main acts, preceded by a prologue. Each act reflects on an important context surrounding the writing of the book. The Medici family, Machiavelli’s banishment to his Sant’Andrea farm and the final movement, ‘Virtù Vince Fortuna’ (‘Strength over luck’) which represents the impact Machiavelli’s teachings in ‘The Prince’ still have today.

Do you compose from your ‘head’ or ‘heart’?

I’d like to think a bit of both! When I first started writing I didn’t do so in a logical way and wrote intuitively. As I’ve gained experience with my writing and learnt the composing process I compose in a much more methodical and structured way now.

What (or who) influenced you in composing?

I’ve been very lucky to have a number of fantastic teachers, tutors and mentors who have helped me along the way in my musical life - I wish I could mention them all here!

In recent years, the creative team at Black Dyke Band during my time as Young Composer in Residence with the band were a huge influence and have had a big impact on my writing.

Whilst studying at university I was introduced to the ‘new wave’ of composers writing for the brass band movement who have emerged towards the start of the millennium. Oliver Waespi, Simon Dobson, Gavin Higgins, Lucy Pankhurst and Paul McGhee are composers of music that I really admire and hope to emulate.

How did you start composing? Was it a logical next step after playing/ studying music?

I first started writing music by creating arrangements in secondary school. I put together modern music arrangements for the school ensembles that I played in. I started experimenting with writing some original music and was lucky enough to write some pieces for some local music service and community ensembles.

I started to take composing more seriously alongside my performance studies at Cardiff University and postgraduate degree in conducting at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama.

Do you use a pattern when composing? Hours at a time or whenever you find the time, by day or night, in complete seclusion or not…

I work full time for an intellectual property firm so often I have to find the time to compose when I am able fit it in... it often means some early mornings!

Unfortunately I am not able to wait for inspiration to take hold but I think having to ‘get on with it’ has actually helped my writing. I do try and write when I’m alone so I can focus on what I am doing but normally my cat, Em, always finds a way to get involved!

My process for writing is always the same. I have a little notepad I use to note down things that I am inspired by and new ideas for pieces when I am out and about.

I always start with a plan for the form and structure of the music which for me is the most important aspect to think about when first starting a new work. In a similar way to a novel, the journey the story takes you on and the build and release of tension is much more important than the individual words or chapters themselves. I feel it’s the same idea with music!

After I’ve sketched a graphic score with the plan for the structure I’ll do some pencil sketches on paper of any themes, subjects or harmony I want to include. I often like setting text to music (regardless of whether the music is instrumental or for voice) which is something I’ve done for ‘Machiavelli'. I’ll then try out some transformations of the musical material on the piano.

After this, I normally work by trial and error listening back to the piece either playing the outline on a piano or through playback on the Sibelius software I use.

What do you like the most about composing?

Of course, I love hearing the music performed but I also love learning about new things when researching ideas for pieces.

Do you have your own composing-style? Can you describe it?

I think I am definitely still finding and developing my compositional ‘voice’. A big part of my philosophy when writing music is combining rhythms and emulating sounds used in modern music genres. I think it’s easy to dismiss modern music as being more simple, less complex or less reasoned than art music but often this isn’t the case, especially if you know where to look. I don’t like to think of art music and modern music as two separate entities and I think this has helped to shape the the way I write music.

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