Open College of the Arts


For the past two years I have been studying a course in advanced music composition at the Open College of the Arts. I want to strongly recommend the OCA to anyone who wants to study music (or the other arts) in a creative way.

For my course I composed an extended piece of music, a fantasy for the orchestra based on three Somerset folk songs. The thing that the OCA gives, which is invaluable, is feedback about the work from a practising composer. In my case my tutor was the composer Patric Standford. His critique was always exactly to the point, proving (if it were needed) that a few well chosen words from someone who really knows what they are doing are worth far more than any amount of ill-informed opinion.

You can hear the piece here:

Folk Song Fantasia

I attended an OCA music composition workshop in Barnsely on 12th November. It was fascinating to finally meet the other music students. We were a very mixed bunch, but I think all very creative and serious composers – I was very impressed by the quality of the compositions, all were good, and a couple were really beautiful.

Flautist Carla Rees gave us a very interesting tour of the modern techniques of flute writing. Some of them I don’t really see the point of I have to say, but I do really like the concept of a quarter tone flute, and may well try tackling a composition for it in the future. I do love the sound of quarter tones, they are commonly used in folk music around the world, also in blues, as ‘blue notes’. I was very interested in Irish music for many years, and I think quarter tones are sometimes used there, often by older more traditional players, perhaps unconsciously. So quarter tones are not necessarily alien.

Travelling up to Barnsley and back was exhausting, but worth the effort. I hope that the OCA will do something similar in future, and I will be able to attend.





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