“These are forms that don’t normally go together – I wonder if there are ways that I can explore how they’re different and how they’re similar and find those connections.”
The composition was funded by the ensemble’s Noisy Women Commission for women and non-binary Australian composers. Worth $4000, the commission includes mentorship and development workshops and culminates with a public performance.
“Ensemble Offspring really are leading the way in terms of championing music by under-represented composers in Australia,” says Wolf. “They’ve really demonstrated their commitment to diversity in Australian music.”
Wolf copied the structure of a Bachelor season for the 10-minute work. She started by watching past seasons and reading recaps before writing potential scenes. Then she played with the scripts, rewriting them as Shakespearean sonnets or in the style of Plato. Only then did she start to think about the music.
“I had way too much fun writing the piece,” she says. “The process was figuring out which parts I could translate into music and have them be really clear, and which parts needed text, then paring back the text and building up the music so that they would complement each other.”
Expect the musical equivalent to the sweeping panoramas of the mansion; the characters we recognise, including sweethearts, villains and underdogs; the dramatic cocktail party fights; and the declarations of love of the final rose ceremony.
“I chose scenes that seemed like the most iconic or cliche parts of a typical season and the things that we might be most familiar with if we’ve seen the show,” says Wolf.
The “instrumental voice” of the Bachelor is the bass clarinet, as played by Jason Noble. “[It’s] something low and resonant, that cuts through.”
The decision to make a song about The Bachelor dove-tailed with a change in Wolf’s creative practice. Previously, the young composer had been known for work about serious subjects, including violence against women. When she arrived at Yale in August 2019, she was determined to prove that she was good enough to be there, but struggled with writers’ block.
“I was suffering a lot from imposter syndrome,” she says. “I was tying myself in knots trying to write music.”
She found inspiration in a class on radio history, where, for an assignment, she produced her own radio program, a satirical health and wellness show called Ambient Dreams for Sleep-Deprived Teens. When she showed it to her composition teacher, he encouraged her to draw more upon humour and playfulness in her music.
“It was a bit like a light bulb went off,” she says. “Up until then, I had thought of myself as being a bit more of a serious composer.”
Wolf is passionate about bringing new audiences into the rarefied world of classical music. Writing a song about The Bachelor is one way to do that.
“What we [composers] do is very niche and a little bit weird,” she says. “To the average person, if they think ‘composer’, they tend to think of a lot of dead white guys like Mozart and Beethoven. It can be hard to mentally bridge the gap between those composers and composers who are living today.
“[This composition is] a way of bringing my very niche, weird practice more into the here and now.”
Still Life with Avalanche is at Opera House Utzon Room on August 26.
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