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

Rhys Owen [Age 18, NSW]

Composition: Fairground Adventure

Rhys Owen is an 18-year old composer from Sydney.

Starting violin from an early age under Yasuki Nakamura OAM, Rhys showed a passion for creating music as a young child. Before starting school, he often tried to coordinate an ensemble of bemused family members with toy instruments, vocalised simple original tunes and scrawled on sheet music paper what can charitably be labelled as ‘drawings’. In Grade 5 at school, he was introduced to his first notation software Noteflight, inspiring him to record his musical ideas properly, teaching himself to compose through arranging and analysing other pieces habitually throughout subsequent years of schooling. He was also extensively involved in many school orchestras, bands and musical productions, exposing him to a wide range of symphonic, jazz and contemporary influences.

Rhys studied Music 2 and Music Extension for the High School Certificate, coming first in his school for Music Extension and featuring on the HSC Distinguished Achievers list. In 2020 he was accepted into a Bachelor of Music Composition at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and is currently continuing his tertiary studies there.

Composition inspiration

When composing Fairground Adventure, I focused on making it attention-grabbing, aligning with the key stylistic characteristic of fanfares. To do this, I intentionally crafted a dramatic arc with both sudden twists and gradual intensification to climactic peaks, imbuing with it unpredictability even as it satisfies the listener with its overall evolution.

It opens with jarring orchestral hits before suddenly quietening and building quickly to a grand statement of the main theme in a tutti texture. The piece is made coherent through constantly linking to this main theme; the introduction subtly foreshadows it, it’s often echoed in accompanying lines, it’s later fragmented in an ascending sequence whilst building to the two climactic chords, and the final horn solo repeats its first phrase.

Fairground Adventure is designed to evoke the frenetic chaos of a bustling fairground and the joy of exploring its sensations. The chromatic harmonies, the dense texture, the diversity of orchestral colours, the frequent use of the raised 4th of the bright lydian mode and the energetic rhythms contribute to this effect. Notably, the accompaniment has hemiola rhythms inspired by Leonard Berstein’s ‘America’ from West Side Story. Otherwise, the work is rooted in American film music like John Williams, Alan Silvestri and John Powell with a slight Latin American influence from my love of Arturo Marquez’s music.