When I arrived in Sheffield as a music student in September of 2013 I had no “specialism” or even any area of the subject I was particularly good at. Performing made me cripplingly nervous, psychology did not really interest me, I was not theoretically apt enough to be a good musicologist, and I had never really tried composing original work. I had always been interested in experimental music, and after a few weeks I soon began to realise that the best way for me to develop this interest was through composition. No longer was I bound by the shackles of Edexcel’s appalling GCSE and A-Level composition briefs; I was, for the ﬁrst time in my musical life, free to create music that interested me the most. Dr George Nicholson’s ﬁrst year composition module provided me with an invaluable set of basic skills that I would go on to develop through the next few years. Writing with pencil and paper rather than Sibelius opened up a wealth of responsibilities, and collaborating with peers in weekly seminars meant hearing your music performed live was a regular occasion! After ﬁrst semester, the hole left by the absence of instrumental composition was ﬁlled by the Introduction to Studio Techniques module. This allowed me to expand on my love of technology by using programmes to manipulate sounds in a way I didn’t realise was possible. It also opened my ears to an exciting style of music I’d never before encountered (acousmatic composition). By the time second year rolled around I was beginning to realise that composition was the thing I was most interested in. Dr Dorothy Ker’s second year composition module allowed me to develop the instrumental skills I had learned in ﬁrst year, while Adam’s electroacoustic composition module gave me the opportunity to hone my skills as an electronic composer. During this year I was selected to take part in the Furnace Park project which involved writing a piece of electronic music using sounds recorded in a semi-abandoned plot of land. The ﬁnal result was exhibited in a gallery and released as a digital album.
During the summer between second and third year I took part in The University’s SURE scheme, which allows undergraduates to undertake a research project alongside a member of academic staff. It was this which allowed me to write the piece which I am proudest of. My Brain is a Folded Device is a piece for piano and electronics which aims to blur the lines between the “real” and the “virtual”. It has since been performed by Dom Hartley (with whom I collaborated to write it) in Shefﬁeld, as well as professional pianist Christopher Guild in London.
In my third year I was afforded two more excellent opportunities. Firstly, I was selected to write a piece for The University’s symphony orchestra. This was an incredible experience; hearing my work performed in Firth Hall by such a large ensemble was something I shall never forget. Secondly, the world-renowned Ligeti String Quartet came to Shefﬁeld to perform as well as workshop some composers’ pieces, one of which was mine. Having seen the ensemble perform a few times before, I was aware at how gifted they are, so the opportunity to have them workshop my piece was very special indeed. Throughout my three years studying in Shefﬁeld I have developed unfathomable amounts as a composer, thanks to the array of opportunities I have had as well as the unparalleled support of the academic composers working in the department. I look forward to developing my compositional voice throughout the next year as I undertake an MA in composition.