Joshua van de Ven [Age 15, VIC]

Composition: Fanfare for the modern world

My name is Joshua van de Ven. I am 16 years old and come from Melbourne, Victoria. I take lessons in Piano and Viola, and am also a self-taught Clarinettist and Cellist. I play Viola in the Melbourne Youth Chamber String Orchestra, am currently doing AMEB 5th Grade, and have been playing for five years. I’m currently doing AMEB 7th Grade in Piano, and have been playing for nine years. This year, I’ve also been playing Keys 1 in my school’s Musical Production, ‘The Little Mermaid’, which has been an interesting opportunity for me to diversify my musical repertoire and experience different musical styles.

My first real exposure to Classical music was when I was very little, and my grandparents took me to see Mozart’s The Magic Flute. I was enchanted by the music and spectacle of the opera, and decided I wanted to become a musician. I started playing Piano in Grade 1, and then began having Violin lessons when I was in Grade 2. When I was in Grade 5, I decided to switch from Violin to Viola (a choice I have never regretted), and have stuck with it ever since.

I’ve always liked composing. Even when I little I would tinker at the Piano and make little songs. I loved it. It wasn’t until I started High School, however, that I really began to properly explore composition. I wrote my first real piece for Piano, and since then have used resources on the internet and in books to build my compositional skills. Beginning with solo pieces, I’ve built my way up to my first fully orchestral piece, which I have for you today.

Composition Inspiration

We are now living in an age of rapidly accelerating change. Every day, new innovations, challenges, and ideas bring us closer to an exciting and unclear future. My Fanfare for the Modern World hopes to capture this energy – the unrelenting force of progress, the speed of a global world, and of a constantly changing society. In particular, I wanted to achieve this through two ways. Firstly, the use of the Lydian Mode, which, with its augmented fourth, has a very bright and energetic tone; and secondly, through the use of rhythmic superimposition and syncopation.

When I began work on my Fanfare, I had recently discovered the works of John Adams. I had listened to some of his compositions, and was intensely fascinated by his use of so-called ‘rhythmic dissonances’. When I started writing, I knew straight away that I wanted to use slightly non-traditional rhythms, as you heard in the Horn theme at the beginning of the piece.

 At the beginning of the Fanfare, you immediately hear an energetic Clarinet ostinato, which consists of groups of four semiquavers repeated over and over again. After a few bars, the Oboe joins in to this line, but instead of playing a four note motif, it plays a three note one. Thus, a kind of accent shift is employed by having a four on three grouping. You can see this her­­e:

Emphasis is placed on the first note of every group of four, then the fourth, then the third, and then the second. This rhythmic trick is what gives the piece so much drive, and helps to achieve the sense of persistence of progress which I was attempting to convey.

Another work that is meaningful to me

Another work which particularly inspired me with my Fanfare is John Adams’ Short Ride in a Fast Machine’. In this piece you can readily hear the kinds of ‘rhythmic dissonance’ and techniques I was discussing earlier. Adams begins the piece with a very fast clarinet line, similar to the one I used, and then gradually adds in the Brass section, which begin in unison before beginning to play different rhythmic values. Gradually the entire orchestra is brought in, all playing slightly different rhythmic lines. This creates a rhythmic wash, which suggests the mechanisms of a complex machine (hence the name of the piece).