I have had the privilege of teaching musical composition in Western Sydney for over a decade and consider that an open conversation with students, with creative sounds and ideas all around, creates an environment of mutual trust and artistic stimulation where learning takes place in both directions. My creative discussions with students and witnessing of sound demonstrations have made me aware of the rich braided river of multifarious multicultural traditions within Western Sydney. These have opened up new ways of thinking for me about the Asian-Pacific area and changed the way I compose and enriched my life. I hope also, that I am able to impart some of what many generous teachers and mentors have shared with me back into unleashing and encouraging creative minds to realise their creative potential in musical composition and artistic thought.
I think probably the key thing to be aware of in creating music is that moment of creativity that sparks off a composition – a type of eureka moment. It is a good idea to develop sensitivity to those moments and record them (either via a diary or aural record via tape recorder). This imaginative spark, a bit like ‘falling in love’, becomes the essence that drives the engagement with technique and compositional vision. In order for this spark to develop there needs to be ‘input for output’. A wide range of ideas can feed this inner spark, such as the accepted knowledge canons as well as a personalised history of favourite sources (Dylan might sit alongside Beethoven, driven by the rhythmic engagement of Asian percussion music). Cross-disciplinary sources are a valuable way of opening the sonic imagination up to new possibilities; in ancient Chinese scholarship the sources behind the visual, sonic and written are seen as the same – so utilise these connections. The exact collected range of sources related to your inner imagination (your musical DNA) is unique to you as a composer; they are related to your imagination, so they will form a type of resonant frequency with it to explode that imagination into life. This inner sensitivity that resonates with aspects of the external becomes a personal voice thread through your sound world; be aware of exactly what this voice’s materials and feelings are for current and future development. Structure this development with regular times for composing, alternating between the intuitive and intellectual reflection for the birthing of the music. This development of musical ideas should be a reflective process whereby your thoughts are in a type of dialogue with the music—reflecting on its strengths and looking for ways to realise that inner impulse.
A Creative Environment
I believe that the best way to teach is not always through literally what you say but rather through trying to create an environment that stimulates creativity through artistic practice and reflective discussion about the process and composition. It is important in creative teaching to have a free flowing environment of ideas from composers, musicians, artists, thespians, and filmmakers—doers who enact sound and art as a part of an innate identity—to stimulate student creativity.
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