Courtney Cousins [Age 20, NSW]

Composition: Showtime!

Listen to Courtney’s composition performed by the Queensland Youth Chamber Orchestra, 30 September 2020, The Old Museum, Bowen Hills, Brisbane.

Listen to Courtney’s original composition submitted with her entry.

Courtney’s first “serious” composition assignment was when she was fourteen, and had to compose a serialist piece in the style of Stockhausen. At the time, she was a self-possessed music snob and had a slightly concerning obsession with Bach (which hasn’t quite slipped yet), and so found this modern art music “all a bit weird”. Now it’s not quite the same story – she loves messing around with new sounds whatever the medium, whether it be instrumental, vocal or electroacoustic. She loves conceptual music, aesthetics, and the idea of music as a form of story-telling.

Courtney participated in the annual Limelight Australian Composition Seminars 2016-18, which workshopped a variety of her chamber works, and is most proud of her choral piece “Orpheus et Eurydice”, for unaccompanied SATB. This was workshopped, performed and recorded in a joint effort by various members of the Song Company, Sydney Chamber Choir, and the Santa Sabina College Chamber Choir in 2018. It was nominated for the annual Encore Showcase in 2019 as an exemplar work for HSC Music Extension. Courtney has written a new work “Agnus Dei” for the new choir “Ad Lib” based at Sydney Con, which will be performed whenever the lockdown ends, (hopefully) this year!

Courtney is now in her 2nd year studying her BMus in Composition at the Sydney Conservatorium. She is preparing for her AMus exam in flute with Lamorna Nightingale, and is a Vocal Scholar at the St Stephen’s Uniting Church in the heart of Sydney.

Showtime! Inspiration

Showtime! Was the culmination of a very simple vision; a musical theme would be introduced, deconstructed, and recapitulated in a dramatic, flourish and a final crescendo to fff. And all within 30seconds of course.

I decided to start very simply in constructing this theme; an energetic ostinato by the strings, set in 7/8. I chose a G major ode, with frequent allusions to the lydian dominant mode to begin the harmony, again inviting energy and excitement by use of frequent sharp C#s and natural Fs. The brass would help to emphasise and richen the string section harmonically, with the trumpets occasionally bursting out in louder, attention-grabbing melodic fragments. The woodwinds main role would serve as a melodic and flourishing counterpart to this ostinato.

Aesthetically, I was imagining “sparkle” in the timbres; the woodwind, especially the flute, I knew would be very important in achieving this. The other crucial instrument was the imminently “sparkly” glockenspiel! I decided to write the glockenspiel, along with the woodwinds, as a counterpart to the ostinato. The “deconstruction” of the theme, in the 30sec time limit, I decided was simply harmonic. I used applied vii chords, wanting to establish was much tension as possible, before the recapitulation back into G major. I gave the woodwind, violins and glockenspiel harrowing parts, with long, continuous semiquavers, adding rhythmic density and excitement before the huge crescendo at the end, and a final wink by the glockenspiel.