On the Couch with Elliott Gyger

Arts Review On the Couch Elliott GygerWho is Elliott Gyger?
Composer of the chamber opera Fly Away Peter (based on David Malouf’s novella).

What would you do differently to what you do now?
Make more time for friends and family, possibly by declaring myself a conscientious objector to email.

Who inspires you and why?
The fabulous singers, instrumentalists and conductors who bring my music to life. Working with musicians is by far the best thing about being a composer – and it’s so much more rewarding to write for a real person than an abstract idea of a soprano, piano, etc.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Bar high political office to anyone who seeks it; serving in government should be compulsory, with selection made purely on merit, and for fixed terms with no possibility of re-election. That might change a few things.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
Italy. Landscape, architecture, history, culture, people, food, coffee …

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take then to, and why?
As someone born and bred in Sydney, this is a tough one. Maybe a concert at the Australian National Academy of Music (pretty much every performance there is amazing), followed by a meal somewhere nearby in South Melbourne – one of my favourite parts of the city.

What are you currently reading?
H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald – a beautifully written fusion of memoir, nature writing and literary criticism.

What are you currently listening to?
Over the last couple of years I have spent a great deal of time with the music of Nigel Butterley – one of Australia’s finest composers, whose work is lyrical, fluid, subtly beautiful, and not nearly as well known as it should be.

Happiness is?
Having a purpose in life, with aspirations which are just a little too ambitious (to keep you on your toes).

What does the future hold for you?
Premieres of new works for Zubin Kanga and Arcko (end of October), Halcyon (November), the Australia Piano Quartet (December), and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra (next August); tutoring at National Music Camp in January; perhaps a little bit of down time in there somewhere?

Elliott Gyger is Senior Lecturer in Composition at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music. His recent works include concertos for celesta (Angels and Insects) and tenor saxophone (Smoke and Mirrors) and an hour-long solo work for pianist Michael Kieran Harvey based on Dante’s Inferno.

His orchestral work on air was awarded the Sydney Symphony 80th Anniversary Composition Prize in 2012, and he won the 2013 Paul Lowin Song Cycle Prize with giving voice. He is also active as a conductor and writer on new music; his book, The Music of Nigel Butterley was published by Wildbird Press in May 2015.

Elliot’s composition, Fly Away Peter will be presented at Arts Centre Melbourne as part of the 2015 Melbourne Festival: 21 – 24 October. For more information, visit: www.artscentremelbourne.com.au or www.festival.melbourne for details.

Image: Elliott Gyger