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Reflecting on the global Symposium event

Antonio Daprile is a third year student who is currently studying BMus (Hons) Composition at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. Antonio recently attended the online Symposium event where he was able to see musical performances produced through creative collaborations by three universities across the world. He explains to us how the two Symposium event days went, what he enjoyed the most and how it proved to be a great introduction to traditional Korean music and culture!

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How did you find the event went?

I thought the event was extremely well organised, and that it was a very enjoyable experience, even with the situation we are in at the moment. I actually believe the fact that it happened whilst we are stuck in a pandemic made the whole event even more poignant. It was great to see and hear how art can still flourish in such hostile times.

What did the two event days consist of?

The event consisted of two days of performances and seminars produced by members of the composition departments of three music universities across the world: the Seoul National University, the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, and the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. The programme featured a wide array of students of every level, going from undergraduate to PhD, as well as teachers from all three universities. There was also a great deal of cross-cultural collaboration.

The first day kickstarted with one of our own, third year undergraduate composer Tristan Kersten with his piece for solo piano Punctuated Equilibrium. Following, Shinuh Lee, a teacher at Seoul National University (and also visiting tutor at the RBC) took over, presenting a new interdisciplinary project album for the new music community, which nicely introduced pieces from two of her students: Atmospheres by Chulhun Jung (postgraduate composer), conducted by Gyu-Seo Lee (postgraduate conductor), and Simmering by Jaein Hwang (undergraduate composer), performed by Sol Kim (postgraduate Gayageum player).

After a 10-minute break, the event resumed with RBC student Tanna Chamberlain (postgraduate in Experimental Performance) with her cross-media piece A Puzzle: Escape from Abstract Concepts. Dr Seán Clancy and Dr Andy Ingamells proceeded by presenting their theory for Composition as a Devised Process. The day concluded with Curtis' student Elizabeth Younan and her work Gossamer Wings.

The second day began with pieces by two RBC students. The first up was undergraduate composer Kinna Whitehead with her piece Amaya, scored for two harps. It was followed by Goldenhair, a cross-media piece that mixes music, 3D animation, literature and pop culture by third year undergraduate composer Kunling Liu. Next was PhD composer Blasio Kavuma, presenting Call:Response, a theory on collectivising musical outcomes through interaction and improvisation. Dr Paul Norman and Dr Michael Wolters followed with another presentation titled stars out lights out, before giving space to a 10-minute break.

The event resumed with Jong Hwa Park of the piano faculty at SNU introducing three collaborative pieces for the project titled The Orient Express: This is me by Dr Michael Wolters, Just passing time by Dr Joe Cutler, and Three postcards by PhD RBC composer Nicholas Olsen. The symposium came to an end with a piece by Curtis' teacher David Ludwig titled Three helixes.

What was it like to connect with composers from across the world?

It was honestly an incredible (although tiring) experience, which was quite unexpected in such bleak times.

Which performance/or artist impressed you the most?

I will have to go with the performance of Joe Cutler's piece Just passing time. I am always amazed by his attention to details and colourful palette of sounds. I look up to him very much. It was not just the piece being great though, the production for the whole The Orient Express project by the staff and students at SNU was at the highest level. It was truly impressive.

What is your take away from the event?

To begin with, I found it to be a great introduction to Korean traditional music culture. I am now just waiting to have a chance to write music for such a diverse sound-world in the future. But the biggest takeaway from this experience is the proof of how resilient we musicians, performers and artists are even during such adverse times for creativity.

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