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University of Massachusetts-Lowell - December 5, 2012

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Summary

Tonight, William Moylan, Coordinator of the SRT Department at UMass Lowell, stopped by to talk about his life as a composer, and his thoughts on the creative process of composition. Dr. Moylan started by giving a brief autobiographical account of his education in music, and how he began composing. During the time of pursuing his Bachelor's degree from Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University, and his Master's degree from the University of Toronto, Moylan was asked to perform many rigorous compositional exercises. These exercises and his knowledge of music theory, he explained, have never been what create the music in his compositions. Instead, he uses music theory and traditional compositional practices as tools to aide creative ideas as he sees fit. Moylan expressed his avoidance of Western tonality, and some opinions on equal temperament.

Later on in the presentation, we were able to listen to some recordings of William Moylan's pieces. The selections he played for us were from a song cycle that he composed titled For A Sleeping Child - Lullabies and Midnight Musings. The online resource dramonline.org has this to say about the song cycle: "For A Sleeping Child Lullabies and Midnight Musings moves through an evening and night of activities centered around a child's sleeping. The songs' texts are traditional poems (with unknown dates of origin) from Europe, from African immigrants in the Southern United States, and from a Native American nation, and a Nineteenth century text from mainstream America. This diversity allows the cycle to reach across time and culture to observe and celebrate some of the most fundamental of human experiences." From this, we listened to "All The Pretty Little Horses" and "The Mother's Song" which included Inuit text.

The next part of the presentation focused on Dr. Moylan's upcoming sabbatical for the Spring of 2013. Moylan will be researching, playing, and recording Himalayan singing bowls. His interest in these bowls stems from their distinct harmonic content. Each handcrafted bowl has a unique sonic signature that also reacts to the numerous playing styles.

Finally, William Moylan finished with a question and answer session. The topics started in the realm of composition and the creative process, but grew to include the origins of the Sound Recording Technology program at UMass Lowell, and Moylan's life as a recordist as well.

Moylan shared a great deal insight into each topic that he covered, and early on his talk, gave an amazing piece of advice to those who struggle with their creative process. "One thing that composers need to know, is that the eraser is the best part of the pencil."

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AES - Audio Engineering Society