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Jessica Duchen
Sunday 1st November 2009
Dilettante's Digital Composer-in-Residence Countdown...

Our friends at the terrifyingly innovative and organised Dilettante Music are getting ready for their big night at Wilton's on Thursday at which they'll announce the winner of their competition for a digital composer-in-residence. Still time to vote for your favourite (follow that link).

The standard issue with music on the internet concerns downloads, paying for them or not, file-sharing etc, but the whole online medium is still at a stage where it will evolve as the most creative people in its world choose it to. The great thing about this competition is that it harnesses the Internet's capabilities to offer real opportunity for gifted young composers, and is globally accessible.

I sent a few questions about the contest to one of its judges, composer Nico Muhly.

JD: What makes Dilettante's competition different from other competitions?

NM: I love the online element, first of all.  I remember being a teenager applying and competing in these desperate, grim mail-based competitions.  This is so much easier!

JD: What has made the strongest impression on you, looking through all the entries?

NM: I loved actually seeing how good people are now at notating their ideas.  Even the strangest things were notated as simply and convincingly as the most straightforward ideas.

JD: How did you pick the shortlist? What qualities stood out for you in each of the top three?

NM: For me, it was a question of how well the composer set out to achieve their goals.  I sort of discarded the mission statements; composers are the worst at describing their own music!  Instead, I like to think of the beginning of a piece as a sort of mission statement or first foot out the door: from there, how well does it make its journey?  does it stop off for an inappropriate detour?  Does it get where it's going?

JD: The results are very international. What was the spread of entries from different countries like? Do you think that the Internet is making music even more international than before?

NM: Yes, without a question. I love hearing from people in Mexico, Thailand, Japan.  The idea that I can listen to a 16 year old composer's music from Singapore in my hotel room in London is obscenely exciting to me.

JD: What do you hope that the Dilettante digital composer-in-residence scheme will do for its winner?
 
NM: I hope that winning Dilletante will allow the online music community to discover a new voice.  It's less about the winner than about other people!
 

 

 
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About Jessica Duchen

Jessica Duchen is a music journalist and the author of four novels, two biographies and several stage works. She writes regularly for The Independent and BBC Music Magazine. Her latest novel, Songs of Triumphant Love, is published by Hodder.

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