Insights from our 2023 Composer in Residence Jessica Carlton

Often, when audiences attend a WAYJO concert, they experience the polished, well-rehearsed, and refined versions of the works.

2023 Composer in Residence Jessica Carlton

However, behind each new piece lies a lengthy process of composition. From finding inspiration and crafting the title to recognising musical influences, forming a narrative or ‘story’ behind the work, writing and re-writing the music, collaborating with band members, and so much more—
it’s a comprehensive journey to create just a single new work.

That’s why we wanted to give an insight on what it takes to be a composer writing for a big band, and who better to ask than our 2023 Composers-in-Residence?

We recently had the opportunity to ask Jessica Carlton for her experience of crafting her new work, ‘Yemembra Moora,’ for WAYJO as part of our Composer in Residence program. Jessica moved to Perth in 2018 and has previously been a tutor with our Progressions program.

Can you share a bit about your background as a composer?

I started composing just out of high school in 2010/2011. I was very new to it at that stage and was just experimenting and finding what kind of process worked for me. It was a few more years before I developed confidence as a composer to start performing my own music, but when I did, I fell in love with composing. I love that I can think of melodies and concepts and bring it to an ensemble of musicians who can interpret it and bring it to life with me. In my second year at university, I performed an all-original set of music for my recital and it went well so I decided to record an album of my compositions that year. Since then, I have been composing for many different instrumentations and settings and growing and developing as a composer.

Tell us about your composition and where the inspiration came from.

This composition was my first big band composition so it really stretched me as a composer. I thought of a melody and harmonic progression that I liked and then spent some time listening to different big band records to try to expand my ears and ideas before tackling it as a big band piece. The tune itself is inspired by the idea of introspection. The title, ‘Yemembra Moora,’ is taken from words my daughter says to mean ‘remember’ and ‘mirror’.

Can you share some of your musical influences?

I have many musical influences and at different points in my life, I have been drawn to different musicians’ work. Some that have been really constant in my life have been Jakob Bro, Paul Motian, and Andrea Keller.

What has been your biggest lesson/takeaway as WAYJO’s Composer in Residence?

My biggest takeaway has been that I can do things that I didn’t think I would be able to do. I always thought that big band composition was ‘out of my wheelhouse’, but I was wrong. I really enjoyed the process, and I learned so much through it, and I feel more confident to compose for large instrumentations now.

How have you worked with the Musical Director and orchestra to bring your composition to life?

The Musical Director encouraged me to bring my music to the orchestra even before it was ready. I was grateful that I had this opportunity to do this and not be judged for an unfinished composition. It is rare to be able to do this and be able to workshop a composition live with a large ensemble. It really helped me with the composition process.

Where to from here? What other musical projects are you working on?

I have been writing all new music for my Masters project which is all about transforming visual art and poems into compositions and improvisation. I recently recorded six compositions of this music and will then write my thesis about my findings. I am also pregnant with baby number two, due in July, so I will be preparing for her birth.