Listen to Phillip’s original composition submitted with his entry.

Phillip Cullen [Age 20, NSW]

Composition: Anticipation

I’m a 20-year-old Sydney-based composer currently in my 3rd year of composition studies at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Throughout primary and high school, I learned to play the trumpet, piano, bass clarinet and cello, and was active in my school’s various bands, orchestras and chamber ensembles. These days, I find myself more focussed on composition and arrangement, although I continue to play cello on occasion, and have also recently begun to study conducting as part of my degree.

My composition style is heavily influenced by Romantic and early 20th– Century repertoire – some of my favourite composers are Sibelius, Fauré, Rachmaninoff, Atterberg, and Shostakovich, although I enjoy listening to a very wide range of genres and artists, from Bach to Stravinsky and Ella Fitzgerald to Lana Del Rey (resulting in a very confused Spotify algorithm). I also frequently draw inspiration from literature and other arts, politics, and nature when writing music. This year, in addition to this opportunity with Artology Fanfare Competition, I will be working with Trinity Grammar’s Junior School as a composing fellow and Somnus Quintet as composer-in-residence.

Between my studies and my job, I love hiking, reading, and a good flat white, and hope to start doing some overseas travel once it is safe to do so.

Composition inspiration

For me, there is something just so thrilling about going out to see a live orchestra in concert. Even if I’m about to watch a performance of something that isn’t exactly up my alley, there is a certain excitement and anticipation associated with heading inside the venue, finding your seat and hearing the sound of the orchestra tuning and warming up. This almost nervous, restless energy and excitement was the main inspiration for my piece, Anticipation.

Given that this anticipation begins with hearing the venue’s cue bells warning audiences that the concert is about to start, and also that the brief for this competition was to write a piece for the intended use of cueing audiences to take their seats, my starting point when working on this piece was to draw from the sound of the Sydney Opera House’s cue bells (A to F#). The viola performs this as an ostinato in the background throughout most of the piece. I also begin by harmonising the frantic woodwind runs with open 5ths in the strings to suggest the sound of an orchestra tuning. This then grows into a more traditional ‘fanfare’ sound as the brass take the lead for a forte ending to announce that the beginning of the concert is imminent!