One advantage of being older is having more time and space in my life to be creative. My first career was a civil servant in the Scottish Government. As a busy full time working Mum of two children, there was not too much time for other things. However, I did start to learn to play violin in my 40s and enjoyed the opportunity to d something outside of work and to play with others. While working, I had always wondered if I should have been a musician. I played piano as a child, loved music and often wondered if I should have gone in that direction. So when I retired a little early I decided to go and study music. I auditioned for Edinburgh College playing traditional fiddle and got in! I then just kept going one year at a time - through HNC, HND and eventually a Degree in Music. By this time I was a first study composer. This was such a joy. I would not have believed it, if you had told me twenty years ago that I would be playing violin and composing art music! In the last year of my degree, I began to experiment with electro-acoustic music. It gave me the opportunity to be more independent and be able to compose music that didn’t need lots of players, which can be difficult. It also gave me the springboard to go onto Edinburgh University and study Digital Composition and Performance at Masters level. This involved learning a wide range of programming techniques for producing real time and non-real time music. This included coding using specialist algorithmic software. It was hugely challenging but also very rewarding. And here I am, having graduated that at the end of 2017! What a fantastic journey this has been. What a change at this time in my life! It has been truly an amazing experience to be able to create classical art music and acousmatic works.
I find the creative process fascinating. Beginning a composition can be rather like standing in a room and being faced with a maze of many, many paths and doors. Which one to open? I am always excited to see the direction my compositions take. Sometimes they almost take on a life of their own. When finished, it is an exhilarating feeling. I KNOW I composed this work, but at the same time, I find it so interesting and surprising that I have found I can do this quite late in life. At the moment I am concentrating on getting my music played and to build a track record. as a composer My compositions featured in the Sound Thought Festival in November last year, as well as Lights Out Listening in Glasgow, and the Edinburgh Fringe in 2017. Since finishing my Masters, I have also been enjoying getting back to playing violin more as well. I am also turning back to composing some new compositions. I find I often take inspiration from poetry and/or the environment. The emerging field of ecology and music is an exciting area in which to work. For example one of my recent composition took inspiration from the landscape of the island of Rum, the site of an ancient volcano and explored the field of volcano acoustics.
Lately, I have been reading the wonderful poetry of Nan Shepherd who spent much of her life writing about her walks in the Cairngorms. I was lucky enough to be selected for an
artists residency in the Cairngorms recently where I spent several days field recording the sounds of the area. I plan to work on a composition and develop these ideas. Another area I am involved with is sound walks where audio is triggered through GPS. I have also thinking more about how to bring my music to people in interesting and accessible ways. I’ve become interested in mixed media and my next adventure is to learn projection mapping. This would enable me to develop some interesting and sympathetic visuals to accompany performance of music. I am absolutely delighted to have won one of the Luminate Bursaries which will allow me to go to a summer school at the Guildhall of Music and Drama in London to study this. Projection mapping means visuals can be mapped to a particular shape. and/or screens. It adds another dimension to a performance, particularly if that performance is of computer music. I am also a non Executive Director of the Scots Music Group in Edinburgh. This is a charity which provides adult education classes in traditional music. It a wonderful way into music and means adults can learn music by ear, and in keeping with the aural tradition. Reading music can be offsetting for a lot of people. It can be addictive. Its a wonderful organisation which changes lives. It certainly changed mine. Little did I know when I took up traditional fiddle night classes fifteen years or so ago that I would become a musician and composer, at the cutting edge of algorithmic composition. It is never to late to follow your passion. Luminate’s activities are a fantastic way for older people to develop their creativity, at a point in life when we have the energy, wisdom and time to be our best.