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Why Conducting? / 9 February 2016

portrait of disabled conductor James Rose wearing a head baton

James Rose wears the head baton he has developed for his project learning to become an orchestra conductor

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So why get into a really weird and specialised art form about which few people understand? I have set my sights high in committing to the journey of music conducting, I know, but it feels right. 

Whilst I was preparing my application to the Arts Council, I was asked to write how the conducting was related to my past work, which is in primarily film-making. I wrote about how I used to conduct to music when I was little (when no one was looking!) using my head pointer. Plus, explained how I have this musical drive, which has been kept hidden under a dreamy veil.  

Although I started peeling the veil away four years ago, in truth, I have been practicing a young age without realising it. This shows a personal passion but ignores how my experience in film-making relates to conducting.

Well… after leaving uni in 2008, I ended up in film making – in particular, directing and editing. Both roles are frequently arbitrary as you now tend to become multi-skilled facilitating numerous roles in the evolution of mobile technology.  

I spent a lot of time sat in front of a computer putting video clips into a logical narrative structure, looking at transitions, colour grading as well as sound.  For the most part, this is an autonomous but lonely role.

With conducting, you already have a structure that being the scored composition. This leaves the transitions and the colour (or energy driving the presentation of the piece) which is what a conductor oversees. For this, the conductor needs to convey the right kind of drama and sensitivity to the talented players.  

This is where my experience in theatre and dance comes into play when physicalizing musical intentions using eyes and arm movements.

One major difference between editing together a film and conducting is the evanescent nature of music instead of having a fixed configuration of clips and effects which will remain consistent without further input from oneself.  The other major difference in conducting is the people element and the fact that you work with a team to create something.

This journey has also lead to composing music which has been like learning a language, which is what music is…a language.  The difference between music and any other ‘foreign’ language is that I already understood it. I am just learning and applying the theory behind the meaning and feeling.  

My experience in dance has also played a role here relating to how one composes. It’s all about patterns, setting expectations, and then teasing the listener before rewarding them with a satisfying conclusion… well, sometimes anyway! I have had the support of John Lubbock (Orchestra of St John's Artistic Director) and others from the start to whom I am grateful. I look forward to working with John in May. He was the one of the people went along with my idea of conducting and gave my first lesson.

With any ‘journey’ there have been a few bumps on the way and there will be loads more, I’m sure (aw…look, a rhyme!).  The next few months will be exciting!