Composer Adrian Whitehall tunes out lockdown by tuning into nature

Adrian Whitehall. Photo by Nicholas Canosa.

Adrian Whitehall. Photo by Nicholas Canosa.

Composer Adrian Whitehall received a Create NSW 2019/20 Quick Response Small Project Grant to compose a new work for flute, clarinet, and double bass. Adrian shares the experience of creating his new work in the Illawarra Escarpment and how the lockdown, curious bypasses, and nature influenced his new tunes.

You received a Create NSW 2019/20 Quick Response Small Project Grant to compose a new work for flute, clarinet, and double bass, which you have been working on over these last few months. Can you tell us how it went?

The project went really well. I wanted to compose during lockdown to keep me inspired, to take my mind off all the disappointments that COVID-19 was causing. To me, and to many others, especially some of my colleagues, March 2020 was unrelenting. I wanted to capture this moment in time as a record of history, as I reflected on what was happening, and I wanted to create something positive for others.

You have been recording in the natural midst of the Illawarra Escarpment where you live. Can you tell us about the recording process and why you sought to capture the sounds of the Escarpment?

I love to walk in, see, and hear nature, as do my colleagues who I graduated with Sydney Conservatorium. This is why I chose to write for flute, clarinet, and double bass. This project was also about us collaborating and keeping focus together, and having something to share with others, during this difficult time.

Living on the edge of the Illawarra Escarpment gave me opportunities to observe all the locals choosing nature during lockdown. The numbers of locals increased daily and everyone seemed to be seeking solace. I realised at that point that I wanted to incorporate the natural sounds of the escarpment in amongst my composition to reflect this.

This work will not only reflect your thoughts of living in a regional town during a pandemic but also those living in the local community. What have been your observations so far and what kind of feedback have you received from residents?

Many residents wandered past my room and garden where I was working from. Some paused outside my window listening to me practise. When we recorded live several walkers stumbled upon us. They waited at a distance and listened. One hiker commented on how special his day had become after hearing us record. The greatest though was a family and a small boy who stood still in awe, then he came closer towards the bass, asking questions. After these experiences, I know for sure that this work will be performed again. The feedback so far from the locals and visitors walking through nature when we were finalising the project has been really uplifting.

What have you learnt from creating this work and how do you think creating it has benefited your creative process?

I learnt more about collaboration especially how as musicians we need human connection for a result full of feeling. Also, through many observations during lockdowns that it was music, the arts, and nature, which many people turned to for wellbeing. Knowing this benefited my creative process by allowing me to be in the zone that I love the most and to tune in to the sounds around me.

Watch Adrian perform: “Why” – Adrian Whitehall – Recorded Live.

Applications for Small Project Grants (Quick Response) are open. Apply now.

Image:Adrian Whitehall. Photo by Nicholas Canosa.

Published: 13 August 2020