Rosemary Duxbury - Blog

Rosemary Duxbury - CCA Composer of the Month – June 2013

Rosemary Duxbury - CCA Composer of the Month – June 2013

Rosemary Duxbury - CCA Composer of the Month – June 2013

CCA Composer of the Month – June 2013

Your featured Composition(s) of the Month:

Mirrors of light 1 & 2

Instrumental and/or vocal resources used:

Piano solo

First performance details

World premiere of Mirrors of light 1: Fraser Noble Hall, University of Leicester. Friday 22nd June 2012 followed by a performance at the Chapter House, Gloucester Cathedral on Saturday 23rd June 2012. (Both given by pianist Patricia Siffert - see photo top right)

Mirrors of light 2 - World premiere Reitstadl Kulturhaus, Neumarkt, Germany October 2011

Performers on your recording

Patricia Siffert, piano

Of the work(s) you have selected for the Composer of the Month feature, what was the source/inspiration/commission which set this piece or these pieces in motion?

In recent years of writing, I knew I had opened up to a greater exploration of my own consciousness. It´s an ongoing journey and this time it felt I was traveling through space showing me new areas waiting to be explored. Following this, Mirrors of light began to emerge. As is usual with my work, I perceive light informing the structure. I could sense mirrors involved as if light was being projected into space so that I could see something beyond. At the same time, there was the feeling of reflections on an expanse of water, and I realised that bodies of water are also mirrors of light. What was curious however, is that I knew the first piece that came through was called Mirrors of Light 2, which of course told me I had Mirrors of Light 1 still to write, which arrived a year later.

The world premiere of Mirrors of Light 2 was given by Patricia Siffert in 2011 at the Reitstadl Kulturhaus in Neumarkt, Germany , as part of an exciting new artistic collaboration between artists of three nations: Patricia performed alongside projection of Annette Horn´s photographic images and a newly choreographed dance by German ballet dancer Oliver Essigmann. Mirrors of Light 1 received its world premiere at the University of Leicester s Fraser Noble Hall in June 2012 followed by a performance at Gloucester Cathedral.

Mirrors of Light has been recorded on the CD of the same name, with pianist Patricia Siffert showcasing Rosemary s latest piano music. (see photo right). It was recorded at Potton Hall Studio by recording engineer Alan Hames.

The motif of a Seagull features on the CD cover and has been a recurring theme throughout the story of Mirrors of Light. To read more please click here.

What would be a good programme note for this work (or these works) which explains the structure, use of melody and harmony and any technical points related to the performers?

Mirrors of light 1 is a piano sonata with three movements, played continuously. The first movement starts with a motif or repeating mantra that subtly shifts and changes allowing a melody to slowly emerge and build. It is an energetic fast moving start, marking a journey which later passes through calmer moments, evolving into a higher octave section marked misterioso, which for me represents going to a subtler place, going into the octave of the higher heavens . This leads up to the climax of the movement followed by a tranquillo and free flowing end to the first movement. The second movement is more delicate and free, with some more jazz influence, strong melody, and with a more open, broader landscape. The final movement picks up the opening energy in a pianissimo dynamic and travels via a section that has an improvised feel to a grander melodic section marked by its octave chords. The journey continues onwards, building in grandeur and movement. Just before the final page, my favourite moment is when I feel a particular high paused note floats upwards to an invisible realm as if the sound has continued but beyond our hearing. The last page is marked Sound returns from above. The penultimate chord of the piece resolves to F sharp major (for the first time) suggesting arrival, but the final arpeggio figure takes us back to opening key of this movement (F sharp minor), perhaps to show how the journey never really ends but continues on...

Mirrors of light 2 is a single movement work and a companion piece to Mirrors of light 1, Click here to see YouTube video to watch Patricia Siffert perform extracts from the Gloucester Cathedral concert. The following YouTube video follows the recording of the works at Potton Hall.

When did you first start composing and what was your first piece?

From an early age I would sit at the piano improvising for hours, sometimes singing melodies and harmonies over the piano sound. I would become totally absorbed in a journey of sound. I wrote out a formal piano composition around the age of 14 with a newly acquired Rotring pen on manuscript paper, which I then cut and glued into a booklet, and called the piece Opus 1. I obviously believed that this was the start of many more pieces and future publication! Although it was very simple, it did have some of the minimalist ideas that I came to develop later on.

I studied Music and Inter-arts at Bretton Hall College and took the first year of composition and my final composition was a piece based on tintinnabulation (before I d come across the term). The course was actually called Creative Music , which was primarily an exploration of what is music? . It was encouraging me to look more deeply within. This was also developed by the Inter-Arts part of the course where we explored the creative process behind the form. I chose to study the 20th century abstract artists specifically Piet Mondrian, which opened a greater understanding of what is behind the art and what makes an artist create. The abstract artists wrote about their creative process too, which explained a lot to me. Classical composers just seemed to have been born writing music, so it was hard to know how to relate to them but studying the visual artists opened up a desire to see what was within my own consciousness. Then I came across the writings of Carl Jung, who described how the individual can access a pool of creativity within, - this was a huge turning point for me. A light switched on inside. Also I steadily started to work on other creative projects which included film making, installations and theatre and I started to get the whole process of how one becomes an artist. After I left college, I worked in radio, and taught some filmmaking and drama but it wasn t very long before I realised I wanted to apply my creativity to music (my first love) and once I made this switch, composing quickly developed again.

Who was it that first encouraged you to develop your interest in composing and how did they help?

As a violinist and pianist, I was immersed in playing and improvising, but wanted to start recording some ideas. I bought a Fostex 4-track multitrack recorder and played around with layering and recording. I was taking post-graduate violin lessons with Celia Davies MBE who also ran the Peckleton Music Festival. I showed her some of my musical ideas one lesson, and she immediately supported me. She told me to think much bigger, to write for full orchestra, with the promise that if I delivered her an orchestral score, that she would offer me a concert at her festival. How could I refuse such a wonderful invitation? Not only did I have to then write for orchestra, I had to find the players, a conductor, and write enough music for a full concert. I managed this by inviting another composer to share the platform with me and we called the concert The composer speaks... My first orchestral piece was called Inner Journey, a four-movement piece scored for full symphony orchestra. Alongside this, I am extremely grateful for the support and encouragement of my husband Mike Duxbury, the loyalty and expertise of my recording engineer Alan Hames and the wisdom and teachings of Harold Klemp, all of which have been extremely invaluable from the start.

Who do you consider your greatest inspirations in terms of the major composers and which of their works has influenced you the most and why?

From the age of 14 I became interested in Stockhausen s ideas about sound and the spiritual spheres. However when I started writing classically, unlike Stockhausen I felt a strong connection with melody, and had to be true to the sound that was coming through me. I could see my style was aligned to the minimalist school, and discovering the music of Philip Glass, I realised that I was on the right track. Knowing my music was inspired from within , feeling connected to a spiritual source, it was also very reassuring to discover the music of Arvo P rt (Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten and Spiegel im Spiegel were turning points for me) and John Tavener (The Call and The Lamb are favourites). I also feel a definite link to the French school of Debussy, Satie and Ravel.

A huge influence also came from listening to ECM jazz and fusion artists, specifically Keith Jarrett and Jan Garbarek who were expressing joyful melodies in a fresh contemporary form, with exciting rich colours, rhythms and ideas.

Other early influences are probably the songs of Simon & Garfunkel, the rhythms of Jean Michel Jarre, the sound worlds of Stephan Micus and Deuter, Pat Metheny s rich harmonies and melodies, Michael Stearns Baraka soundtrack, Harold Budd & Brian Eno s The Pearl, and the writings of Hazrat Inayat Khan.

How would you describe your style to someone who has never heard your music before?

Melodic, minimalist, romantic, spiritual. Others have described it as sensual, passionate, exquisite.

What do you feel is original in your music?

I think I have an original sound in my music, my own voice . My music comes from within - an inner sound, and someone described it as being autobiographical of the soul. Performers and audiences have told me you can tell it s Duxbury , and I do feel I have my own tonal and minimalist language with which to express my ideas. I m interested in the sound after the sound which is why the piano works well for me (the harmonics and notes that hang in the air after they have been played). I m not saying that s original to me, but it s that effect in my music that particularly defines my sound. Although I feel it s very rooted in a classical tradition and is written for the concert repertoire, it also appeals to listeners looking for music in a spiritual context and it is used in other fields such as film, visual arts, multi-media, dance.

How do you work? What methods of creativity and work ethic do you have? Do you solely use musical technology or do paper and pencil still form a part of your process?

My essentials are piano, pencil and manuscript. I keep a sketchbook of musical ideas, which I keep on my piano, and then it s there for the times when there s a download ! I have to be ready to engage with that inner flow. When the process starts it sometimes feels like an archeological dig , that the structure already exists, I m just bringing through something I ve already been working on inwardly , that s already formed and is an expression of what s within. Therefore a lot of my creative process comes from listening inwardly.

To help this, I start the day with a contemplation (a spiritual exercise). For example I sing the sound of HU which acts as a tuning fork for preparing my day ahead. Sometimes composition ideas and sounds come from dreams, so I make sure I have paper and pen by my bedside too.

Using music technology is also part of my day as I work with Logic Pro, various sound libraries and Sibelius.

What projects are you currently working on?

Currently concentrating on composing with music technology to develop new sounds, ideas and collaborations.

To finish, who or what is your favourite:

Genre of Music?



Without a doubt, the pianist Patricia Siffert who I feel very privileged to know, have as my friend, and have perform and record all my piano music.


I have several very good friends who are excellent singers. Two of my favourites are from America: Annie Towhill and Susan Stern. Their voices totally open the heart. Classically, I feel privileged to have worked with British singers Julie Moffat (soprano) and Chloe Goodchild (alto), both of whom have recorded my songs beautifully.


I m always very inspired by musicians who seem to convey music through their very being even before they ve played a note. Ashkenazy seems to be one of these people, and as soon as he walks on stage, I feel he s already conducting sound . I love the passion and enthusiasm of Benjamin Zander. I m also very grateful to Emmanuel Siffert and my colleague David Fisher who have conducted my orchestral and choral work with extraordinary sensitivity and understanding.

Chamber Ensemble?

The best ensemble I ve played with was with a group from all over the States coming together for a one-off experience. Rodney Jones (guitar professor from the Juilliard), Nancy Shoop-Wu (a violinist from the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra), Emily Wong (concert pianist from New York), Amy Sailer (violinist from LA), Russell Stern (conductor from Chicago) and 3 singers: Annie Towhill, Susan Stern and Carolyn Walsh.. We had so much fun - hope we can do that again one day!

Concert Venue?

From the venues I ve worked in, the Holywell Music Room in Oxford is a personal favourite. The first purpose built concert hall in Europe, it s exquisite in its style, intimacy and history. Other personal highlights include having my music performed at St. Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square, and playing piano at the Minneapolis Convention Centre (see photo).

Piece of Music?

Well I guess that depends on the moment, there s just so much wonderful stuff to choose from!

NOTE FROM THE EDITOR - If you have enjoyed Rosemary s pieces and wish to discover more about her and her music go to her website or click the following pieces for further insights into her music: Prayer & Angel Whisper.