Leaving Wonderland

It’s a very strange thing to be typing. I knew that I would reach the final stretch at some point, but it’s been a very long time coming, and the amount of work that I have invested in this final year course has been immense.

My composition is now finished, printed and comb-bound. It looks amazing and I’m extremely proud of it. Having spent the last few mornings printing off my other assignments, I’ve been reminded of the journey that I have travelled, and at times found myself cringing at the quality of the music scores I have produced.

The journey is easily forgotten when you are the one travelling it. My partner observed the other day that it’s incredible how far I have come since the very start of my degree. And he’s right. The first year helped me formalise existing knowledge and start me moving towards the unknown. The second year continued nudging me along, steadily building my confidence and skills to get me writing for a small orchestra. And this final year has been all about jumping off the deep end; no formal coursework, no given deadlines. It has been totally up to me the entire direction I took, and this initially threw me into total panic because I didn’t know what to do.

I think I have witnessed in me not only a greater sense of perseverance and patience with my music, but I have learnt to follow an academic path that formalised certain aspects of my composing that to start with, I wasn’t happy about following. I simply wanted to write music. That was it. I didn’t want to have to learn Sibelius; it took way too much time and was far too fiddly. I didn’t want to have to plan my piece; I just wanted to write it.

I think most creative people do struggle to conform. But in my case, it was a question of changing the word in my head from conform to learn. After the first assignment, and the mini-breakdown and total lack of confidence I experienced at Assignment 2, I realised that I wasn’t being denied the opportunity to compose. Far from it; the course wanted to nurture my abilities and get me composing but in a structured way.

I’m glad I stuck at it. I’m glad that I worked through the moments of doubt and moments of utter crises of confidence. I’ve worked extremely hard, harder than I have since enrolling on this degree. Tutors warned me that final year courses were tough. They weren’t wrong. You’re set free to prove to your tutors, and more importantly, to yourself that you’ve reached the point where you can self-direct your learning, your project, your assignment deadlines. You can prove that you can manage the composition of a large, extended piece of music, and evidence the journey, the research, the influences, the highs, the lows.

The Critical Review was based around the topic of programme music, which inadvertently was the type of music I was writing, with elements of the story (my own words not those of Lewis Carroll) interspersed to add an extra dimension to the music score. Studying two very famous pieces by Vivaldi and Beethoven not only helped to broaden my understanding of the genre, but help me appreciate what has been achieved in music before, and what opportunities there are for conveying anything we want in music; there are no limits.

Aside from some final pieces of music that I want to listen to and record on my listening log, I am finished. I am leaving Wonderland with a huge sense of relief and an abundance of confidence in my compositional skills that I feared was forever going to be missing from my life.

Farewell, Alice – it’s been fun.