Tim Newhouse

Composer, Musician and Arranger

December 2015

So much has been happening - it's been an incredible year capped off with a breathtaking last month, and an enjoyable holiday so far.

Big news: I found out earlier this month my application for the Jack Bendat travel scholarship was successful! This grant is funding a tour to Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane in June 2016, where I'm going to put on concerts of my compositions for big band with Sydney Jazz Orchestra, Enthusiastic Musicians Orchestra and the Melbourne Composers Big Band, as well as having a bunch of lessons from my Melbourne-based mentors. Huge thanks to WAYJO once again - this is a bit of a dream come true. The hard work starts now! I'll be playing bari and bass clarinet with WAYJO once again in 2016, and it's set to be a big year - starting with a workshop conducted by Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Centre Orchestra, who are headlining the Perth International Arts Festival. Woah!

I've graduated from WAAPA following a successful recital, so the plan is to return next year to do my Honours degree, focusing on the large ensemble music of Carine Bonnefoy and a 40-minute saxophone concerto for Masters graduate and WAAPA tutor Erin Royer and my recital orchestra, exploring the blurred lines between jazz improvisation and virtuosic melodic development. It's all so exciting!

In the meantime, I'm working on a choral piece with electronics, a solo alto flute work with the same electronic patch and basically planning for the year ahead while relaxing. Good times!

November 2015

Two nights ago, a year's worth of work and planning was presented in the form of my graduation recital - with projected scoring, live electronic processing, a big band, Facebook, actors, and an 18-piece ensemble (chamber orchestra and jazz rhythm section). It went fantastically well, and I was fortunate enough to have a very appreciative audience, a superb technical and sound team, and a group of extraordinary young musicians. I don't plan for this to be the last concert with this ensemble - that's how much fun I had this year!

Preceding this, WAYJO worked very hard to present Danny Susnjar's suite Musica Criolla. Danny got the best out of the band and we concentrated hard - the result was a very fun set of music that is still buzzing in my head to this day. Such a great band; I always treasure playing with these people and learning a great deal from the remarkable opportunities the organisation manages to provide us.

I also wrote music for a couple of theatre shows at The Actors Hub - one such show is premiering tonight. I focused on developing very simple musical material through electronic layering and effects processing, and I'm very happy with how this is influencing me creatively.

The plan now, apart from having my wisdom teeth removed, is to workshop some new pieces, develop my electronic setup, keep doing gigs and begin talks for a number of 2016 projects including musicals, software design and... more very exciting things. To anyone who's read this blog - thank you for continuing to indulge this part of my life! 

October 2015

In just over a month, I'll be a university graduate (assuming I pass everything) - that's a scary thought. Lots still to be done before then, however - no complacency from me.

I had a fantastic workshop last week with the WAAPA Big Band, rehearsing raine square for my recital. This is a sonic and visual representation (or exaggeration) of 'peak hour' in the Perth CBD; At every point, I control both the ensemble's sound and a group of field recordings taken from the source to create a kind of live, fluid installation piece that can last for an indeterminate amount of time. The idea is to really challenge the notion of what a 'big band' can do and the scoring processes they are exposed to, and I'm very glad the band have latched on to this idea in a very supportive way; they're coming up with fantastic sonic ideas as a group! The other quite 'experimental' work in the program is called don't be afraid of white space, which explores live processing with a large ensemble and time ratios in natural human conversation, which is achieved through spectogram analysis of recorded conversations. Sometimes these recordings are done without the knowledge of the person I'm talking to; it's all part the 'study' into different social situations and contexts. This year has been all about pushing myself into new compositional territory, and it's definitely been worth the challenge!

WAYJO have started rehearsing Daniel Susnjar's new suite, Musica Crollica, which is inspired by Danny's PhD research into Afro-Cuban music. I always find it fascinating playing music written by a drummer, as their conception of harmony evolves into something very different and they have a monumental hold on rhythmic concepts. That's transferred into the band learning about quite complex 12/8 rhythms, which are a lot of fun to read! Danny's very much from the jazz world and directs us as such; he's fantastic to work with, and communicates very clearly. Looking forward to getting stuck into the music before the concert next month - just a few days before my recital...

In amidst this craziness I've also been working on a couple of theatre shows for The Actors Hub, writing up some ditties, improvisations and tunes for melodica and piano (sometimes at the same time) and trying out my new live processing rig by both constructing electronic manipulations of my own sound and sounds that the cast make. These opportunities are always really awesome and often inspire more large-scale pieces based off these ideas, so it continues to be an important collaboration.

September 2015

My recital's in two months - and I feel like things are on track. The first rehearsal with the full orchestra was amazing; my skills as an ensemble director have markedly improved from three years ago and my musicians provide both fantastic hangs and mature playing. The changes I've made to left to my own devices reflect the wisdom imparted from several of my teachers and mentors, and the whole show's just going to be oodles of fun. November 25th, 6pm at WAAPA - save the date!

Performing-wise, I've been going from doing improvisations with the WA Laptop Orchestra to playing piano in jazz recitals to the usual saxophone goodness with WAYJO and gigs around town. We've also been taking Not Me, an Actors Hub show devised last year, to schools and the Dramafest program. The piece explores exaggerated Australian adolescent archetypes and the social consequences associated with social media, and I'm working with fender rhodes and sporadic loop-generated keyboard material. I'll be soundscaping a new show, Stories from Suburban Roads, with these talented young actors next month and exploring my new arsenal of electronic processing and feedback in a rustic setting.

Some pieces to be working on post-uni (probably when I'm recovering from having wisdom teeth out): choral arrangements as well as my smiles just linger, a new work for SATB quartet and electronics. I'll also finally start droplets and sprinkles for saxophone choir and dabble into orchestral singer-songwriter arrangements. Existing pieces to be workshopped include my commission for the World Saxophone Congress and also sunset skies with the South Side Symphony Orchestra.

August 2015

This feels like the busiest time of my life; but it's all great. Lots of really cool stuff is happening and there's plenty to be excited about for the future.

WAYJO are in the middle of a very intensive period preparing for two big concerts with Ed Partyka, a composer and bass trombonist who teaches at Graz University in Austria. I like Ed's compositional sound worlds and he's a hilarious man who always has very good stuff to say and says it with a graceful confidence. I took part in a composition workshop with him as well and hung on his every word, from his experiences travelling to all parts of the world to his knowledge of the big band genealogy. Rehearsals with him require immense concentration and a big sound but it all contributes to what is looking like a very diverse education in the modern big band scene, which inspires my own large ensemble work.

Along with frantically putting the final touches on my recital works for chamber orchestra, jazz rhythm section and electronics, I'm presenting my half-hour suite Thought Catalogs at the State Library next month and preparing to workshop some solo contemporary classical pieces including two new works with electronics. I'm working with a Logic reverb plugin that fragments the different frequencies of the instrumental tone and creates this 'haze' of texture through the soloist playing a few unrelated phrases in quick succession, which is fun to experiment with on my alto flute and clarinets. WAYJO will also be workshopping my new big band composition daily pages - a foray into textural rhythmic manipulation and melodic-driven harmony.

Other goss? Very, very excited to be doing a gig in October with the Mace Francis Orchestra on bari, playing Carla Bley's music. Mace's band has released numerous records and won Bell awards and APRA awards and all kinds of things, and I never dreamed I'd get to play with such an incredible group.

On a completely different note, it's now time for me to record a midnight show on Sonshine FM. Dulcet tones guaranteed...

July 2015

Holidays are once again a timely blessing; I'm getting a substantial amount of work done while feeling refreshed and relaxed. Permanent holidays need to be a thing, am I right?

This means I've had time to think more about November's graduation recital, which is a very unique project in a number of ways. My usual strategy is to write for established ensembles and instrumentations to get the best results while coping with logistics (with the notable exception of the Newhouse Collective, which unexpectedly became a 'brand' in itself), but doing a recital means I can get a group of people together more easily and work on my skills as a director and laptop artist. As such, I'm excited about the orchestra I'm forming, which retains the flexibility and 'punch' of a jazz orchestra without quite the power. This lends itself to the organic enhancement of the more orchestral colours: flutes, clarinets, bassoon, strings, horn, mezzo soprano, and the electronics. Using a mixture of jazz, classical and experimental instrumentalists also means I can utilise a rather interesting mix of textures and ideas within the one concert. I'm so, so excited to finish the music and get started - we're having extensive group coffee outings after each rehearsal.

Between teaching, doing the Penhros musical and playing flutes in a free improv concert with guitarist Jameson Feakes, I'm continuing to mould myself into the instrumentalist I want to be. A highlight was being asked to jump up as a guest with trad jazz group Beans Buma's Boys of Rhythm at the Ellington the other night - these guys are fantastic friends and very talented entertainers. Things coming up include some shows with the legendary Ed Partyka, who always gets the best out of WAYJO, and a free improv showcase by the Newhouse Collective at the State Library after we play Thought Catalogs at Chamber Jam.

Currently listening to Natalie Imbruglia. No apologies. She's awesome.

June 2015

I can't believe I only have one semester left in my undergraduate degree. These three years have been all kinds of rewarding.

I've never had so much music to write at any one time. I'm finishing up Ad-Lib (Jesse and Thea)'s commission, had the good sense to find shelter, which explores improvisatory capabilities of tibetan singing bowls, the saxophone tubing and has interesting structural elements. This will be played in France and Wales next month - the collaboration's been absolutely fantastic. Other works in the works include dysthymia: a flexible, graphically realised score that can be performed by a great deal of solo performers, whether acoustic or electronic. Both Jarrad Linke (clarinet in A) and Josten Myburgh (laptop) will play this at separate concerts. I've started Daily Pages for WAYJO, which combines tango rhythms with attempts to imitate the 'messy' textures from one of my favourite conceptual albums in Music for Heart and Breath, by Richard Reed Parry. These are achieved by each member of the orchestra's pulse being determined by their individual heart and breath rates, and since I'm not keen to acquire such equipment, I want to achieve these textures in more improvisatory ways. I'm also taking part in a workshop program run by the South Side Symphony Orchestra at the end of the year, where Sunset Skies will be played - that's just for fun so I can get to know orchestral concepts a bit better. String writing in a jazz context is also being explored in Liquid Glass, which I'm playing piano in and recording with a professional string quartet tomorrow.

WAYJO's performance at the Perth International Jazz Festival, despite having to contend with the flu, was fantastic. James Mustafa wrote an incredible three-movement suite for us; I've learnt a great deal from him over the last week both through playing that work and getting feedback from him on the work I've been doing. His music and attitude are both very inspiring. Along with works by some past and present band members, we played Ron Stone Park, which I have to say is one of my most complete compositions. The feedback I've gotten from James and others has reflected that feeling - it's very satisfying. The Newhouse Collective also played at the PIJF, where Thought Catalogs was finally premiered. I'm also very proud of how this turned out, and the guys made a great fist of it given the very limited rehearsal time.

So much keeps happening! I really hope I can squeeze in some holidays these holidays.

May 2015

I have to have written over half of the material for my graduation recital by this time next month. It's scary but incredibly exciting too. On the horizon is an installation-type work for the WAAPA Big Band, with the aim of re-contextualising the role of this ensemble in the contemporary artistic world. I'm also rearranging Left To My Own Devices, which WAYJO commissioned me to make last year, for my recital ensemble which I have tentatively named the 'Tim Newhouse Art Orchestra'. I hope to collaborate with some awesome musicians and artists with this group beyond my uni degree, so watch this space...

Playing-wise - things are great because people still want me to play in things! I'm doing cool stuff with classical guitarist Jameson Feakes, where we totally abandon the conventional flute/guitar duo and explore really interesting free improv concepts. Tomorrow night I'm playing soprano in Ben Christensen's new work at PICA, which also features pieces by some of the best young contemporary classical composers in WA. Ben has a fascinating way of constructing structure and harmony that lends itself to a very distinctive sound, and I always enjoy working with him. ABC's recording the gig, too! WAYJO are also rehearsing hard; not only to premiere my piece Ron Stone Park (which is sounding fantastic, good work team) but also mature compositions by Kate Pass and Alana MacPherson, a lovely extended work by Amelia Jutilane-Maynard and a suite about bird migration by Melbourne composer and recent Bell award-winner James Mustafa (who I'm going to constantly bombard with questions while he's over here - sucked in!). I get to partake in lots of stuff that just doesn't happen in a big band: micro-timbral free improv, an improvised alto flute jazz solo, bass clarinet honking... it's a unique gig in the jazz landscape and the fact that it happens in Perth is down to Mace Francis and the WAYJO team. They're superstars.

I've had wonderful and encouraging chats with various mentors of mine about crazy things like grant applications and interstate touring - and thus I find myself in a great space musically because there's heaps of possibilities on the horizon. If only I didn't have to get my wisdom teeth out in a couple of months the holidays would be set up perfectly... but it just gives me more time to daydream, right?

April 2015

I'm in a really good space both personally and musically. Namely, I'm achieving a good balance in terms of juggling different musical things and also making sure I'm not burned out by sustaining interests and activities that sometimes take over my studies.

Lessons with Stuart (and Johannes while he's in town) are fantastic. We're fine-tuning the make-up of my recital orchestra, making sure individual timbres aren't being lost and discussing conceptual applications of the big band and the live processing. At this stage, along with the occasional appearance it looks like I'm going with a setup of a woodwind quartet (with soprano saxophone instead of oboe), string trio, french horn, mezzo soprano, rhythm section (including guitar) and percussion, handled by two players. I'll play piano - having no conductor will be a challenge but will be pulled off because the drummer informs timekeeping, and I like being a harmonic and rhythmic 'supervisor' of the music.

Along with the much-anticipated (by me, anyway) premiere of by far my longest musical work at the Perth International Jazz Festival, Ron Stone Park is also being premiered at the same festival by WAYJO. I was already excited to play James and Amelia's music but now also really thrilled another jazz orchestra piece of mine gets to be performed. I'm currently fine-tuning it for rehearsal next week - so pumped to workshop it further and tidy it up.

Free improv's going well - my friend Josten Myburgh is intensively spearheading somewhat of a boom in the Perth free improv culture. This has many applications - informing my own musical structures, getting some miles into my newly-acquired alto flute/found objects/saxophone setup (specifically mouthpiece-less playing) and learning how to think outside the box when contributing to and influencing group improvisation settings. I had a play with Josten a few days ago as well as taking part in workshops he puts on; if you ever see me do one of these gigs I almost look like I'm possessed, such is the difference in the way I creatively approach the performance. Such is the intensity I often have to space out the time I put into this but it's a craft worth getting into - particularly for jazz players. As I've said, my approach to jazz improvisation has pretty much turned on its head as a result.

Other things I'm working on: the UK film score, the World Saxophone Congress commission (with tibetan singing bowls and cool structure things, yay), entering competitions, reorchestration of existing music... too much. It's all great though. Loving this year.

March 2015

This year’s been fantastic so far; as such there’s some great things on the horizon. The intensive, new classes are really growing and challenging my practice and I’m finding my private lessons with Stuart James to be particularly helpful as I’ve never had an individual composition teacher before now.

Late last year I took part in some free improvisation workshops with groups like Splitrec, who completely screw with the entire conception of what improvisation is. This has sparked some sort of a change of mindset with how I improvise, especially with regards to the process of ignoring traditional density structures. One of my classes is also geared towards free improv and has provided opportunities to workshop concepts with some really creative electronic artists in the class. I also recently did a late set on saxophone at the Ellington with Masters pianist David Dower, a good friend of mine with a remarkably similar outlook on music. While I’m not focusing on being a jazz musician as such, I’m happy with how I’m sounding of late. All this plus WAYJO, teaching and freelancer stuff means my (lack of) chops are getting a serious workout.

I’m also delighted to announce that my first ever extended suite composition, Thought Catalogs, will be premiered with the Newhouse Collective at the 2015 Perth International Jazz Festival. Like much of my music, this work has both intellectual and emotional context; I’m working with jagged meters, soundscapes and interesting notational concepts while attempting to make a connection with my personal experiences and the research I’ve been doing into social psychology. The other acts at the Laneway Lounge during this weekend are groups led by Peter Evans and Gemma Farrell; so I’m with fine company! Once again, this sort of opportunity is hugely humbling and unexpected.

It’s nice to have lots of projects to work towards. It’s also nice to eat and sleep, which is the project for right now.