Young Artist Interview: Five Minutes with Composer Amelia Clarkson
Musicians’ Company award winner, Amelia Clarkson, is a composer from Northern Ireland who has just completed her masters in composition at Trinity Laban as a Trinity College London Scholar, receiving a distinction. Her music juxtaposes classical and folk elements with post-tonal harmonies, often exploring contemporary issues. Recent performances of Amelia’s work include the premiere performances of orchestral piece A Beacon of Hope and the premiere of her first ballet, Dear Frances.
When and where did you start composing music?
I began composing relatively late! Primarily a performer, it was not until my bachelor’s degree at Cardiff University that I was introduced to composition. Prior to further education, writing music was never offered to me as a career option. However, six weeks after graduating from Cardiff in 2017, I went straight into a masters at Trinity Laban.
What motivates you to make music? Do you ever write music with the hope of inspiring social change?
The initial allure of composition was the complete freedom to create what I wanted to see and hear. I tend to lean towards dramatically-motivated works, be that a piece with a fully-fledged narrative, or music that use issues in abstract as stimuli only. I have found cross-discipline collaboration with other artists to be hugely motivational in my creative practice, especially when writing in a response to potent issues. My primary focus in the development of all works is honouring especially fragile matters with an honest and unembellished approach.
Is it a tough world for female composers?
Yes and no. Whilst I was the only female composer out of the fifteen composition finalists in the college this year, I don’t feel that I have been disadvantaged by my gender at any point. That being said, the lack of representation of female composers in the music curriculum and across all aspects of the industry must have had some impact on my perception of the female role in music. At Trinity, I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to study under some brilliant female role models, Errollyn Wallen and Deirdre Gribbin who were imperative in my artistic growth.
What works are you most proud of?
Two come to mind. In 2018, I was given the opportunity to write my first orchestral piece A Beacon of Hope, for the Pro Youth Philharmonia orchestra, who premiered it as part of their 2019 tour. However the work that I am most proud of (and still absolutely obsessed with two months after its premiere) is my one act ballet Dear Frances which was created in collaboration with choreographer Ruaidhrí Maguire. The 40-minute ballet for chamber orchestra based on a true story, which I presented in London as my final masters assessment, explores the delicate issues of mental health, abuse and consent in fragile relationships through the life of Frances Shea, the woman who would become the wife of infamous gangster Reggie Kray.
Yes or no, will AI ever replace the role of a composer?
I don’t believe so. Technology has made some areas of composition more time efficient and made both creating and scoring music more accessible for people of all abilities. However artificial intelligence as a ‘composer’ isn’t something I believe to be truly viable, as the mess we make during our individual creative processes are crucial in our development and AI will remove this stage completely. Ultimately, AI will never develop an artistic identity beyond the parameters that a human has set and even if it were to I can’t see a future for audiences beyond the novelty factor!
What’s on your schedule this year?
I am delighted to be working on quite a few projects including a new work for the Central Band of the Royal Air Force, a piece for the New Woods Collective and a set of three songs for tenor Bradley Smith and harpist (and Yeoman) Oliver Wass for the 2020 Presteigne Festival. Meanwhile, I am continuing development on Dear Frances, and am in the conceptual stages of a second ballet with Maguire.
You can find out more about Amelia at ameliaclarkson.com
Interview by @suzywillmott