Interview with Harry Sdraulig who speaks about his Layton Fellowship experience and the premiere of his revised and extended work, 'Speak'

Harry Sdraulig

Music Performance UNSW sat down with Australian composer, Harry Sdraulig who spoke about his upcoming premiere of his revised and extended work 'Speak', with Australia Ensemble UNSW on 27 August, 2022. 

Please introduce yourself to our subscribers and tell us what you have been up to since the Layton Fellowship?
I’ve been writing music for almost as long as I can remember. During my school years I’d often spend my free time composing while most of the other kids were doing cooler things, though I did enjoy sport and still play soccer multiple times a week. I grew up in Melbourne, but I moved to Sydney six years ago and have been welcomed with open arms up here. I love writing for orchestra and have worked with many of Australia’s symphony orchestras including the Sydney, Melbourne, Queensland, Tasmania, and Canberra Symphony Orchestras – each on multiple occasions. I also love writing chamber music, which was one of the reasons I was so drawn to working with the Australia Ensemble. I’ve also written music for Yo-Yo Ma and Kathryn Stott, the Goldner, Orava, and Australian String Quartets, and many other brilliant players. It’s particularly gratifying that, in recent years, I’ve got to the point where performances of my music are happening all the time. 
Tell us about your work ‘Speak’ and how it came about? Perhaps you can provide us a short listening guide for our audience i.e., any particular moments to listen out for.
Around 7 or 8 years ago, when my commissions were few and far between, I wrote some free pieces for friends who were musicians at the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM). It’s such an energetic place and many of the students are at a quasi-professional level by the time they start there. Playing Australian music is actively encouraged by the teachers, so I convinced a few students to include my music in their annual recitals. Paul Dean, the Artistic Director of ANAM at the time and a fine composer in his own right, came across my music and was very warm about it. He said he’d like to commission me at some point, but nothing came about until a few years later after his move back to Queensland. He had a new ensemble of top professionals up there, Ensemble Q, and he invited me to be their composer mentee for 2018. That’s how the piece I wrote for them, Speak, was born!
The original version for Ensemble Q was in two movements. Paul Stanhope, one of my mentors for the Layton Fellowship, encouraged me to revise Speak and add a third movement. This movement, which I sandwiched between the original two to form a new second movement, was workshopped by the Australia Ensemble last year and is called Recollection. The first movement, entitled Dialogue, is very lively and conversational whilst the third and final movement, Inner Speak, is more introverted and engages with the language of internal thoughts and feelings. In summary, each movement of Speak reflects a different aspect of written, spoken, or imagined communication.
Can you tell us about the Layton Fellowship experience and why Fellowships like these are so important?
Initiatives like the Layton Fellowship are incredibly important for the future of Australian art music. Although the Layton Fellowship provides crucial financial support for young composers, it is made all the more valuable by its association with one of Australia’s best and most enduring chamber music ensembles. There is no substitute for the experience and intelligence that these players bring, and last year’s workshop with the Australia Ensemble was incredibly helpful and enlightening. I’m so thrilled that they’ve included Speak in their 2022 season!

Sdraulig's revised and extended work, 'Speak' will be premiered on Australia Ensemble UNSW: The Roaring Twenties. 

Book your tickets HERE!