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Amongst my (largely ignored) advice to students has been, write some songs. Out of the music I've written, it's the songs that seem to receive the most rediscovery. Perhaps songs from the modern era are in short supply - modernism mostly didn't favour the form. It's amazing that this simplest of musical items is often overlooked by composers of "classical contemporary" music. Songs are economical to perform, and we now have a generation of completely un-fearful performers ready and willing to sing them. When you write songs, you get to read and work with your favourite poetry. Followed by the pleasure of collaboration with singers, nearly all of them delightful people. Above all, those future performances are worth waiting for. Each new singer will totally re-inhabit the music - a completely new person, body, voice takes over.

I was thinking all this and more when viewing a Wigmore Hall video of mezzo Rowan Hellier's International Womens' Day recital. (I nowadays include the really high-end video production of these concerts as another benefit of songwriting.) Alongside sparky works by Kate Whitley and Olga Neuwirth, Rowan (and immensely impressive pianist Sholto Kynoch) included my cycle "the Voice of Desire". I realised to my surprise that these songs are almost 20 years old , originally written for the legendary Alice Coote. My impression is that ever since their premiere, they've been alive, sung by a progression of other artists. By contrast, orchestral works and operas may well sit unheard in a drawer, for rather long periods.





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