Meet Harry, 2019-2020 Layton Emerging Composer Fellow


Harry Sdraulig is the Layton Emerging Composer Fellow for 2019-2020. 

Under the terms of the Fellowship, Harry will compose two works for the Australia Ensemble over 12 months, one for small ensemble and one for large ensemble. He will work with a mentor from the Composition staff of the UNSW School of the Arts and Media, as well as with members of the Australia Ensemble UNSW. There will be opportunity to hear some of Harry’s work later in the year.


My name is Harry Sdraulig and I am the 2019-2020 Layton Emerging Composer Fellow with the Australia Ensemble UNSW.

A lot of composers find being asked about their compositional style to be quite a fraught and difficult question to answer. From my perspective, probably the best answer I can give is that I would consider myself a contemporary classical composer. And what I mean by that is simply that I like to work with musicians who are classically trained and to, in some sense, leverage their existing understanding of music, their existing sense of melodic expression, understanding of harmony, texture and so on. So I often find myself actually working more with classically trained musicians more than new music ensembles. And that’s just simply because I do like to write in a style that uses the qualities of those musicians but also tries to bring it into a 21st century idiom of my own.

The first work that I have been tasked with writing for the Layton Fellowship is an additional movement to a piece that I wrote for Ensemble Q based in Queensland, back in 2018. It’s a work for flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano entitled ‘Speak’.

The current version exists with two movements and I’ve been tasked with writing a third movement to this composition and unfortunately the first scheduled workshop had to be postponed due to the pandemic but I am hopeful that that will be rescheduled to later in the year.

I don’t think that there is a single musician or composer in the world that hasn’t been really significantly impacted by the coronavirus crisis. This has certainly thrown a spanner in the works to a lot of arts organisations, especially some really big and important arts organisation in Australia. And it’s been really sobering to see just how badly affected some of our most cherished organisations have been throughout this pandemic.

As a composer, obviously, we have had to deal with cancelled concerts and performances that we were looking forward to and in a lot of cases premieres that have now been postponed in the best case scenario which means that at least they’ll happen at some point in the future. In other cases concerts have just had to be cancelled. And there is hope that maybe those works will be programmed but there is no guarantee that that will happen.

Layton Emerging Composer Fellowship is really just a fantastic, dream opportunity for any young composer and there are a few reasons for that. The first reason is, obviously, the fact that you get to work with one of Australia’s really most fantastic chamber music ensembles in the Australia Ensemble UNSW with some truly incredible musicians. The other aspect that I really like is that it actually provides in it’s structure and opportunity for your works to be workshopped and to get really good, close feedback with the musicians and also get feedback from compositional peers as well. I’m tremendously grateful, obviously, for the financial component of the Layton Emerging Composer Fellowship as well because it definitely allows you as a composer to put aside the time to really make a good fist of the project and really get the absolute most out of the compositional opportunity.