• Teaching composition

    On route to a one-off composition lesson I thought I’d try and clarify my approach to composition teaching. Why bother? Does it matter that I have a conscious strategy for helping young composers develop? Is there really any right and wrong in “modern” compositional approaches? Are we facilitating the development of unique compositional voices, or […]

  • What’s the worst that can happen?

    I love reading The Onion. It’s ‘news’ never ceases to amuse me however callous and inappropriate it can be at times. A recent item from their site on “Stepping Out Of Comfort Zones” is particularly relevant after my week away with over one hundred pupils at an outdoors activity centre in the Vale of Edale, […]

  • Is complex … art?

    I read a rather provocative blog entry by Phillip Cooke, composer, last week that was critical of Whitacre’s “success” as a choral composer. He proceeded to analyse – reductively – the harmonic content of Lux aurumque to propose that such ‘simplicity’ did not deserve the public recognition it received. Why do we criticise those artists […]


    It was brilliant that Jo McNally was able to accept my invitation to give a session on choral conducting at the start of this week. It was refreshing to have some reminders of the training the ABCD conducting course had given me several years ago, and to rejuvenate my practice as a director. I particularly […]

  • Is it the notes or the performance?

    I’m frantically writing on my iPhone between Brent Cross and Hampstead – as my train descends underground – as I have spent over three hours today listening to the same Fauré nocturne and I’ve been wondering what is making me rather obsessed with the piece. Is it the subtle harmonic movement, the piano writing that […]

  • Composing Pedagogy

    Composition features so much in music teaching. We seem to want to respond to everything musical by creating new music. I think it was Berio that said the best critique of a work was to write another so perhaps a learning through doing approach makes sense. What interests me is that all music teachers are […]

  • Burning platforms

    Marc Jaffery’s article in the recently returned to print – and rebranded – Music Education UK is timely. It is a worth a read at http://jsavage.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/musiceducationuk-issue-1-the-view-from-walesv2.pdf. Marc’s holistic view of the state of play regarding music education in the UK is welcome as this lack of cohesion through an over diversity of professional bodies has […]

  • Fire the canon

    I recall being at a conference-style event exploring the transition from school music study to university level study. It was a fascinating day seeing grass-roots classroom music educators conversing with academics. The gap was indeed wider than expected. One point that stuck in my mind was how quickly school-based curriculums has changed in comparison to […]

  • Hanging baskets

    I was genuinely thrilled to discover the rather mediocre hanging basket I had purchased – from a supermarket – some weeks ago had bloomed into something attractive. Well, nearly. It’s that exciting realisation of progress that I like. One can often miss it when focus is on an activity so regularly, such as practice. My […]

  • Linking songs

    Now I have a show to write – which indeed I must as the auditions are soon – I’m wondering how much the musical material across the show should connect. Opera comes to mind – Puccini particularly – where characters have distinguishable musical ideas. But then maybe this doesn’t matter so much in musical theatre […]