Interview: Shelley Marwood

Shelley Marwood is one of three U of C composition graduate students having their work featured at the festival. She talked to the Gauntlet about her piece and the university’s music program.

Gauntlet: Tell me a little about your piece, “Merge.”

Shelley Marwood: It was commissioned by New Works Calgary for this concert for the Rubbing Stone ensemble. Because of the nature the Rubbing Stone ensemble is named after, I had the idea in my head to think of landscapes and the diverse landscapes of Alberta, how sometimes an abrupt change merges into another. That’s where the name came from as well.

G: What does new music means to you and what kind of creations come out of this genre?

SM: It’s new music as a new 20th century classical music. So not like pop music, but in the more classical realm. There are lots of different styles in 20th century music, some of which are a lot more accessible than others– which doesn’t make it any more valid, but the general public might not pick up on that right away. With a new music festival, it’s really great to have a bit of everything and something from all the different kinds [of new music]. It’s not really understood very well by a lot of people and [people] need to be exposed to it [multiple] times, just like visual art. With music, it’s very much based in time, so it’s a lot harder to grasp.

G: It does seem like there is a huge echelon of music in this genre.

SM: There are the different branches of 20th century music– it’s sometimes very experimental and very atonal– but there is music by people like Philip Glass which is more accessible and [he] writes a lot of film music. I think it’s good if people just get out there and keep trying it out.

G: How has the U of C graduate composition program helped you and what do you think you’ll take away from it?

SM: It’s been a wonderful experience for me here. I’ve had a lot of great opportunities with festivals like this one and with the orchestra readings with the CPO and the orchestra concerts. I found the faculty and the department really supportive of emerging composers. Ensembles like the Lands End ensemble works really closely with the university to promote new music. This is great because I’ve had nearly every piece I’ve written performed, which is rare for emerging composers.