Alison Isadora

Meet Alison Isadora, Doctor of Musical Arts student in Composition

Alison Isadora

What is your DMA focused on?
I am interested in examining the artistic relationship between the composer and the performer, specifically in relation to Western art music. In particular I want to examine issues of authorship/ownership and creative participation and will be composing works that deal with co-creation and collaboration through techniques such as indeterminacy, alternative notation and rehearsal sessions.

Why did you choose this?
My involvement over the years in a wide variety of performance and compositional practices has stimulated me to question the choices we make regarding the relationship between composer and performer. I am curious to examine the ethical and artistic consequences of these choices.

What is your musical background?
I grew up playing classical music but from my late teens became involved in a broad range of music making – post-punk bands, gamelan, free improvisation, baroque music, new music as well as subbing in the NZSO – a very wide scale of genres that did not always seem compatible! Those experiences left me with a great appreciation for the wealth of diversity within the musical landscape.

What are you most looking forward to as part of your study?
To spend 3 years focusing on one topic and to discover/invent the path that it takes me on.

What was the best thing you saw last year?
I would be hard put to choose one concert as it was a very rich year musically. A couple of highlights – hearing Francisco del Pino's Rondeau - Double for two trombones in a gigantic sea cave in the Faroe Islands was astonishing, especially with a natural reverberation of over one minute! I was lucky enough to attend the ISCM World New Music Days in Vancouver in November and heard a plethora of great concerts (although attending more than 20 concerts in 6 days with jet lag is not to be recommended!). Stand-out concerts were from the Driftwoood Percussion group with a piece for 10 hi-hats from Niel Lyhne Løkkegaard, the Bozzini Quartet concert and the Ensemble Contemporain de Montreal who performed a wonderful work from Iñaki Estrada Torio titled Astiro. Closer to my home-base in Amsterdam, I heard a great concert from the fabulous violinist Joseph Puglia which included Berio's Sequenza VIII for violin.

Tell us about your creative process - do you have a regular routine for composing, or...?
Although there are some constants within my creative process, different circumstances seem to stimulate their own specific practice.

The connection with the performer(s) is one such parameter. If I know the perfomers well, this influences how and what I write. I may try to include them somehow in the germinal stage of the process, or compose something that stimulates them specifically or works to their strengths as a performer.

Mostly I like to have a sense of the relationship between the form and the material before beginning to write, but sometimes the material seems to have a life of its own and another form emerges.

When I am at the stage of writing notes I find it helpful to make sure I compose every day and think about the piece before sleeping to encourage the subconscious to work for me!

What inspires you?
Any situation in which abstract patterns occur triggers my imagination. This can include flocks of birds, tukutuku patterns, abstract artists such as Jan Schoonhoven or patterns that emerge from plane vapor trails. Musically, works where I sense that the form and content are in dialogue excite, as do new timbral combinations and attention to performance aspects.