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AuthorKatherine Rawlings

It would take too long to list the many varying distractions that have kept me from my compositional work. The years I lived in Hong Kong (particularly the year my daughter was attending school) lent itself to a high level of productivity. Since moving back to Australia things have temporarily become far more complicated. 

In order to keep composition from disappearing from my life completely, I've found it necessary to fit it into the cracks of everything else. I rarely have the luxury of large blocks of time for focused work. Instead, I've been able to snatch a little time here and there between my lessons teaching violin and piano. It has been a little surprising to me how much can be achieved through regular baby steps, and while progress is slow, it's hearting to know that things are still moving in the right direction.  

 

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AuthorKatherine Rawlings

19th -21st Jan 2016

It has been over six months since I have looked at and worked on the Koener Collaboration. Back when the project began, I was creating a regular, sometimes daily account of its progress and development. Given the large amount of time that has past, I considered stopping this regular account of the process to focus on some other area of interest. When I thought more about whether or not to continue with an account of the process, I realised that this huge gap was as important an account as anything else in documenting an authentic artistic process. Continual unbroken focused work is not always possible. In this case my compositional work needed to be put on hold to move country from Hong Kong back to Australia (my home country). My office space was packed away into boxes and spent weeks on a boat before arriving at its new destination in Melbourne. But this wasn't the only thing keeping me from my work. As soon as I arrived back in Australia, all my spare time was completely taken over by an enormous two year project that I was responsible for called Anthea's Garden. This involved a crowdfunding campaign, the publication of an illustrated children's book (in collaboration with author Ailsa Wild and illustrator Simon Howe), and a concert season of the work at La Mama Theatre in Carlton with Collision Theory.

 

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AuthorKatherine Rawlings

This is an old post from March 2015 that was in draft format. I just uploaded it (a year later) as it's relevant to what I'm working on now. 

I've had some time away from working on this piece of music. Instinctively I felt that the middle section doesn't sit right with the rest of the music. Today I did some major edits. The transition section between section A and B has become section B itself. I've removed half the content.

I've been somewhat distracted from working on this piano trio as I have been working instead on a violin duo for a competition (must remain anonymous) and will be available for download following the conclusion of the competition.While I've cut the second half of this piano trio (as it didn't feel like it worked with the rest of the music.) I used this second half for the ending for the violin duo.

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AuthorKatherine Rawlings

An article I wrote about the "Anthea's Garden" book project has been featured in the Australian Music Centre's online magazine "Resonate". Click here  if you're interested in having a read. We've reached 80% of the minimum goal required for our www.pozible.com/antheasgarden campaign. Thanks everyone who helped us make it this far!!

Illustration by Simon Howe words by Ailsa Wild

Illustration by Simon Howe words by Ailsa Wild


Insight: Anthea's Garden : Feature Article : Australian Music Centre

Insight: Anthea's Garden by Katherine Rawlings, Resonate Magazine, 23 Sep 2015. Katherine Rawlings writes about her long-term project in this latest...

AUSTRALIANMUSICCENTRE.COM.AU


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AuthorKatherine Rawlings

3rd of July 2015 - Blue Twilight Day 3

I played around with a new motive today. It quite unintentionally makes use of the whole tone scale (B, C#, D#, F, G, A, B). Again this is likely influenced by my childhood love of Debussy. I also like the way this scale sounds dreamy and like water. Similar to that of Green Afternoon, the concepts I have drawn from the Koener painting relate to water. 

Figure 22.1: Day 3 motive experimentations. 


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AuthorKatherine Rawlings

2nd July 2015 - Blue Twilight Day 2

I've spent a lot of time observing and thinking about Koener's "Blue" image. The one thing that strikes me is that it seems important that most of the contents is contained within a circle.  The thing I find most challenging in this early stage of the process is committing any notes to paper. I can improvise on the piano for hours contemplating the image in front of me, but the writing process can't begin in earnest unless I commit those first few notes to paper. The following Figure 20.1 shows an example of my first thoughts about how the circle in the image could be represented using a contrary motion motive.   

Figure 20.1: example of first thoughts and concepts, contrary motion representing the circle.

© Katherine Rawlings 2015

© Katherine Rawlings 2015

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AuthorKatherine Rawlings

30th June 2015 (Blue Twilight - Day 1)

I spent a portion of the day writing up program notes and performance directions for Green Afternoon, which I realised that in my excitement at having finished the music, I had forgotten to do. I have decided at this stage not to arrange Green Afternoon for a competition as I was originally considering, as I think this may be too much of a distraction. I feel it is more productive to keep the momentum going by starting on a new piece of music for this collection of paintings. This means that I may be uploading Green Afternoon and making the sheet music available for download in the next few days.  

Blue Twilight - Day 1

I began thinking about which Koener image I would like to compose for next. I have chosen the image "Blue" from her Cantatas for a divine garden. I began in a similar way to the previous piece Green Afternoon - by doing a rough watercolour drawing based on elements from Koener's "Blue" and then brainstorming different concepts that came to mind.

Figure 20.1: watercolour artistic play on Koener's "Blue" from her Cantatas for a divine garden.

Colour play by Katherine based on different elements from Roseline Koener's "Blue" Cantatas for a divine garden.

Colour play by Katherine based on different elements from Roseline Koener's "Blue" Cantatas for a divine garden.

 

Brainstorm on concepts drawn from Koener's "Blue" image.

Blue, pink, purple, green, yellow, orange, red, black, light, dark, shiny, spots, lines, circles, shapes, paper, dots, texture, layered, bouquet of flowers, fish in a pond, moonlight shining on the surface of water, petals, leaves and flowers floating on the surface of the water. New title: Blue Twilight   

Based on the order I outlined in Koener Collaboration Day 2, "Blue" will be the fourth piece in the collection. It would benefit the overall collection if it moved at a steady, moderately fast tempo. The first and last piece I envisage being slow and the third may be either slow or fast to contrast with the second and fourth pieces in the collection, as shown below.

Divine Garden order of works and tempo

1 - Yellow Sunrise (slow)

2 - Green Afternoon (steady movement)

3 - Pink Sunset (slow or fast)

4 - Blue Twilight (moderately fast)

5 - Yellow Sunrise II (slow)

 

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AuthorKatherine Rawlings

17th, 18th and 19th of June 2015

Adding details

I finished the final music Green Afternoon for solo piano on the 19th of June. I had originally intended the piece to last for roughly five minutes (see Day 2) but it actually runs for around eight and a half minutes. The last three days I've been fixing and adding details. This is the time in my compositional process that I am most likely to give myself an overuse injury (RSI) from all the fine motor score editing and mouse clicking (though I use a track pad these days which seems more comfortable and less prone to causing injury). To put things simply, adding details/expression is turning what originally looks like this:

Figure 17.1 music without details

......into this:

Figure 17.2 music with details added 

It takes almost as long for me to get the details completed as it does for me to get the notes down. In the two above examples, the notes are exactly the same but the way they are played, the emotion they convey and the way they will sound is vastly different. In addition to the details that are shown in Figure 17.2, in a number of bars including bar 68 you will notice accidentals (sharps, flats, naturals) in brackets (called cautionary accidentals). These aren't necessary but are advisable to add in instances where the performer may be uncertain about the intended notes and to avoid ambiguity. I have included them in bar 68 because this motive occurs in other parts of the music using G#, F# and E natural as shown in bar 63, and I wanted to make sure the performer understood that this change in accidentals was intended as a variation and not simply a misprint in the music.  

Slurring

In these final days completing the music, I changed a lot of the slurring (legato: indications that the notes should connect smoothly to one another) in the water ripples motive. The slurring I had added originally to the notes on day 14 and 15 (see Figure 17.3) felt like it accented each beat of the bar too much and therefore felt a little robotic, so I changed this slurring (see Figure 17.4) to make the pulse feel less predictable and more expressive.  

Figure 17.3: example of original slurring used for water ripples motive 

© Katherine Rawlings 2015

Figure 17.4: example of changed slurring for water ripples motive 

© Katherine Rawlings 2015

The ending

I added an ending to the piece. In Green Afternoon the piece ends in a similar way to how it began, but in reverse. Instead of having the rain drops motive lead into the water ripples motive, the piece concludes (the coda) by touching on fragments of the water ripples motive first and finishes with a variation on the beginning of the rain drops motive. I have used this technique of beginning and ending in a similar way a couple of times before in my music. I like the way it acts like a frame for the music within, like sunrise and sunset - the beginning of light and the end of light with the earth's rotation, or like the beginning of a dream and the end of a dream. It often feels satisfying to end the music the way it began. Perhaps because it feels familiar and therefore reassuring. 

Proofing and dedication

The rest of the process for completing the music involved printing, proofreading, fixing minor details and repeating this process as many times as it took to get to the finished product. Finally I added a dedication "For my daughter Genevieve who loves to dance". When I was on my way to the front door of my little flat in Hong Kong a few days prior to making this dedication, I could hear the playful children section of Green Afternoon in the hallway. When I opened the door, I saw Genevieve dancing along with my music that I had previously recorded (very badly) into my electric piano. She seemed to really like it, and so it felt appropriate to dedicate the piece to her.  

Where to from here

Upon completing this solo piano piece, I had originally intended to publish it through the Australian Music Centre and on my website making it available for download. Unfortunately I have put this intention on hold as an opportunity has become available to submit an arrangement of this work for a competition. Published works are ineligible and so you and I will have to wait (I'm super impatient, so this is hard to do) for a while longer to see and hear the final music and recording of Green Afternoon for solo piano. If you have been following these posts from Day 1, thank you for staying with me through the process. There is much more to be done. I am still to compose music for four more of Roseline Koener's paintings.

 

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AuthorKatherine Rawlings

16th of June 2015

As this piece is one of what will be a collection of works, I have decided to name it Green Afternoon. The works for the other Koener paintings will be similarly named by colour and time of day (eg. Yellow Sunrise etc.) to indicate their place in the collection of works. The overall structure of Green Afternoon is referred to in music as Ternary Form. This means that the music occurs in three sections and the first section is repeated after the second section ends. I have often used this traditional musical structure for my own compositions. When a passage of music is repeated it becomes more familiar and I find this feels highly satisfying. Here is what Daniel Levetin (psychologist of music and emotion) says about repetition in music: 

"Every neuroimaging study that my laboratory has done has shown amygdala activation to music, but not to random collections of sounds or musical tones. Repetition, when done skilfully by a master composer, is emotionally satisfying to our brains, and makes the listening experience as pleasurable as it is.”  [1] 

While in Green Afternoon the third section (A2) of the music is largely a repeat of first section (A1), I made a few minor changes to the accidentals (sharps/flats) that were used and shortened the raindrops motive to add an element of surprise. This was done to provide further variation (greater interest) and to reduce any monotony that may be felt by making A2 an exact copy of A1.

The second section or middle section I originally named the playful animals motive. I have since changed this to playful children. This could be interpreted as the children of animals or children of humans. It refers to children generally and their instinctively happy, explorative and playful nature that I feel is reflected in the mood of the music. This second section of the piece seemed disproportionately smaller than the first and third, so I worked on extending the middle by repeating a number of this section's motives in variation. 

 

[1] Levetin, Daniel J. This is your brain on music: the science of a human obsession. New York: Dutton, 2006. 163

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AuthorKatherine Rawlings

12th and 15th of June 2015

Edited the score by adding articulation (legato/staccato/pause), dynamics (loud/soft) and sustain pedal.  

Adding articulation. © Katherine Rawlings 2015 

Adding articulation. © Katherine Rawlings 2015 

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AuthorKatherine Rawlings

8th of June 2015 

Today I read a few pages from Dropping Ashes on the Buddha the teachings of Zen Master Seung Sahn and I felt an intense extended moment of clarity, where everything made complete sense and I perceived everything in a new peaceful, tender and loving light. I do not remember ever having felt so present. I'm relatively new to Buddhist philosophy and in particular I felt profoundly influenced by the following passage: 

"all things in the universe...have different names and forms, but they are all made from the same substance. The universe is organized into pairs of opposites...But all these opposites are mutual, because they are made from the same substance...Names and forms are made by your thinking. If you are not thinking and have no attachment to name and form, then all substance is one."

How I feel within myself often affects my musical process and product. Having reached a moment of peace and calm before sitting down to write, I began to play the opening rain drops motive and discovered that I wanted to stay with it for a while longer. The change in the music came too soon and I felt that the simplicity of this motive was "enough" and could be developed further. This made me think about the fear of simplicity as a concept and how our society praises and affirms business and constant engagement in productivity. On the other hand, rest and taking time to pause or slowing down is often viewed as lazy and wasting time. I've been thinking a lot lately how similar the human brain is to a computer hard drive. Computer hard drives need to de-frag occasionally and computers need to sleep and be rebooted or they don't function as well. If you put too much on the hard drive, it can't work properly. This is also true of human brains. The mind is much more fragile than we often allow for. So today I sat down to play my rain drops motive and I expanded this section giving it and myself more room to breath, and more time to be simple and peaceful. I also began adding extra expression to the music by using dynamics, articulations (accents, rolls) and pedal. 

Figure 13.1: expanded rain drops motive 

© Katherine Rawlings 2015

© Katherine Rawlings 2015

    

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AuthorKatherine Rawlings

2nd and 3rd of June 2015

I worked on developing and expanding the middle section (playful animals) of the piece using repetition and variation through octave displacement (moving single notes up or down 8 steps). As there are so many constantly changing accidentals (sharps and flats) I removed the key signature and included accidentals bar by bar where needed. Staccato articulation (short and detached notes) plays a large role in conveying the fun and playful mood and character of the music in this middle section. The following figure 11.1 shows an example of the development of this playful animals section.

Figure 11.1: example of playful animals motive development

  

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AuthorKatherine Rawlings

1st June 2015

I've started working on the middle section which I see as representing playful animals enjoying the beginning of spring. The melting of snow and the running rivers with colourful flowers and new green growth provide much to be happy and thankful for. Here is the playful animals motive that I began constructing today (figure 10.1). Rather than referring strictly to the rhythm sketch for this section that I had made on the previous working day (see day 8 and 9), I used the mood that the rhythm sketch conveyed to come up with something quite different but similarly fast, energetic and staccato.

Figure 10.1: the initial stages of the creation of the playful animals motive.    

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AuthorKatherine Rawlings

28 - 29th May 2015

Having created the two bar motive Breeze (see Day 7) I noticed that the metre grouping was incorrect so I adjusted the time signature from 9/8 time into 9/16 to convey the desired pulse. I then spent a large chunk of time doubling the length of all the notes for the first half of the music I'd written, as well as the time signatures, so that all the notes were twice as long but would also be played twice as fast and therefore sound the same as the previous notation. I did this to see if it would provide a clearer and more visually simple notation for the performer. This actually worked well for the Breeze sections of the piece but less well for the rest of the music, so I decided to return to my original metric representation (fortunately I had the forethought to only try these large changes in a separate document). I have removed the violin line from the score, as the music currently works well as a solo piano piece. I intend to experiment with arranging the music for different instruments at a later date, but at this stage it made sense to simplify things by laying the ground work using just one instrument (piano). 

I have grown to really love the Breeze motive and so I decided to use it again after the second statement of the River + Rain motive, but in variation. For this particular variation the most obvious changes were achieved by swapping the harmonic language from how it occurred previously. For instance in Breeze 1 the first two bars (as shown below figure 8.1 bar 14 - 15) use F#,C#,G# and D# and the second two bars (16 - 17) use F# (unchanged) C natural, G natural and D natural (except for in the last beat of the bar). In Breeze 2 this harmonic language swaps so that the first two bars (figure 8.2 bars 26 - 27) use C natural. D and G are not present in the motive (except for the lead in last beat of the bar) but D and G natural are implied by the use of C natural. Then the second half of the motive (bar 28 - 29) use the F#, C#, G# the opposite to what occurs in figure 8.1.   

Figure 8.1: harmonic language of Breeze 1 second half  

© Katherine Rawlings 2015

© Katherine Rawlings 2015

Figure 8.2: Breeze 2 second half harmonic language swapped from Breeze 1

First two bars C natural, second 2 bars C sharp. Opposite harmony to Example 1. 

First two bars C natural, second 2 bars C sharp. Opposite harmony to Example 1. 

So far the music runs for approximately two minutes and it is my feeling that at this point I should introduce a new feeling or mood. Perhaps something a little more staccato or abstract or not so rhythmically predictable. This would serve as a middle section. Figure 8.3 shows a photograph of a rhythm sketch that I could use for the middle section. 

Figure 8.3: photograph of rhythm sketch. 

© Katherine Rawlings 2015

© Katherine Rawlings 2015

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AuthorKatherine Rawlings

27th May 2015

There is a two bar motive in bar 9-10 of the music that I wanted to experiment with developing further. To my ears it feels too robotic and not harmonically or rhythmically interesting enough. Today I worked solely on developing this two bar motive from what is shown in figure 7.1 in 12/8 time, into what is shown in figure 7.2 (in 9/8 time). In order to easily identify this new motive, I have labeled it: Breeze 1.    

Figure 7.1: day 6 motive used for development into Breeze 1 motive

Day 6 motive bar 9-10

Day 6 motive bar 9-10

Figure 7.2: motive Breeze 1

Development of Example 1 motive. 

Development of Example 1 motive. 

In the above figure 7.2, bar 11 sounds a little Debussy-esque. This is most obviously identifiable by the use of the whole tone scale in the second half of the bar (C, D, E, F#, G#, A#). References to this Impressionist sound crop up in my music occasionally. This is no surprise as in High School I would proclaim Debussy to be my favourite composer for the piano. I was a huge fan of Impressionist music and deeply admired Debussy's ability to create music that was so visually evocative and emotionally moving. Clearly "his sound" has left a mark on me. Certainly I identify with the premise for impressionist music, that is creating music based on the expression of emotions influenced by a subject. This reminds me of a quote I read recently on Brain Pickings made by "French Renaissance polymath and proto-blogger Michel de Montaigne":

“I have gathered a posy of other men’s flowers, and nothing but the thread that binds them is mine own.”   I love the poetry of this quote. It so eloquently describes the evolution of human innovation and creativity. I think that we are all collectors of other peoples ideas, and influenced in all that we do by what we know, learn and experience. 

Having developed the motive Breeze (figure 7.2), I then repeated it in variation (I was told in my student years by Melbourne composer Brenton Broadstock, if you like something, repeat it). From there I moved back into the motive Water Ripples + Rain Drops (see Day 6) as I had done in the previous drafts however this time I altered the harmonic language slightly (using A# instead of A natural in the right hand, and F# instead of E in the left hand) as another instance of variation. This conveys a more gradual and natural sounding transition between the two motives and helps to connect them. Its variation also avoids the monotony that may be felt by exact repetition. Figure 7.3 below shows the motive Breeze 2 (the variation on Breeze 1) followed by motive Water Ripples + Rain Drops 2 also in variation as mentioned above. 

Figure 7.3: Breeze 2 followed by Water Ripples + Rain Drops 2

Figure 7.3: Breeze 2 (bar 12 - 13) followed by Water Ripples + Rain Drops 2 (bar 14 -17). 

Figure 7.3: Breeze 2 (bar 12 - 13) followed by Water Ripples + Rain Drops 2 (bar 14 -17). 

    

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AuthorKatherine Rawlings

25th May 2015

I have decided to settle on composing for piano and violin which I can then arrange later for another instrumentation if the music lends itself to this. 

In my minds eye, the different motifs I have been working with represent different auditory and visual concepts. The "Green" image I am writing for (see Day 1) has for me come to represent spring when the snow is melting, and there are only patches of white left. The opening motive, a play on C#, E and with the occasional B, represents single water droplets dripping after the rain has stopped. For this Rain Drops motive there is both a regular pulse using single pitches to represent different water droplets and their unique path and sound based on what they land on, but there are also occasional irregularities in rhythm (by using rests) which convey other natural hinderances that may get in the way of the droplets path such as wind blowing or an animal or plant swaying and blocking its way. Today I played around with developing this Rain Drops motive further as shown in the following example (figure 6.1). 

Figure 6.1: Rain Drops motive   

© Katherine Rawlings 2015

© Katherine Rawlings 2015

In the above figure 6.1 in bar 5, G natural is used instead of G# to thwart expectation and create momentary tension or surprise. Often beauty and intrigue can be more greatly realised when combined with unexpected moments of conflict or tension. They make the beauty seem more intense, so when the motive returns to the well established and familiar G# in the following bar, this resolution is all the more satisfying (and avoids cliché). Writer Anne Lamott describes beautifully the nuance of this concept in the following quote:

"This is our goal as writers, I think; to help others have this sense of - please forgive me- wonder, of seeing things anew, things that can catch us off guard, that break in on our small, bordered worlds" [1]    


In its original form, the Water Ripples motive looked like this (figure 6.2):

Figure 6.2: Water Ripples motive draft 1

© Katherine Rawlings 2015

© Katherine Rawlings 2015

Water Ripples was then developed by replacing the occasional notes with rests at varying points in the motive. This not only serves to reduce the monotony caused by exact repetition, it also represents the many obstacles that get in the way of the waters path such rocks and plant life. In particular the highlighted segments (below) remind me of the rhythm of water slapping against a boat or pier. This developed draft of Water Ripples is shown in figure 6.3 in the top line of the piano part, played in tandem with the Rain Drops motive in the bottom line.

Figure 6.3: Water Ripples motive development (top line of piano) and Rain Drops motive (bottom line) 

© Katherine Rawlings 2015

© Katherine Rawlings 2015

[1] Anne Lamott, "Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life", (New York, Anchor Books, 1993), P. 100

  

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AuthorKatherine Rawlings

23rd May 2015

I'm still undecided on instrumentation and so I experimented with two different instrumental arrangements: marimba duo (one marimba two players); violin and piano. Though I like the idea of using marimba, my concern is that the high notes I have used wont resonate enough to do justice to the musical motives I have used. A way around this which I will consider is to transpose the material down an octave, but I like the brightness of the high pitches. It conveys to me a feeling of innocence and beauty. An example of the two arrangements are shown in the following examples: figure 5.1 and 5.2.

Figure 5.1: arrangement for marimba duo 

© Katherine Rawlings 2015

© Katherine Rawlings 2015

Figure 5.2: arrangement for violin and piano 

© Katherine Rawlings 2015

© Katherine Rawlings 2015

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AuthorKatherine Rawlings