Inspiration at RAM

Today I did something a little different – I took myself off to the Royal Academy of Music for a free seminar/workshop/presentation thingy by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. For those of you who don’t know of Max, he’s the Master of the Queen’s Music, which is the composer-version of Poet Laureate, and a very prolific and fabulously interesting composer.

Well, I have to say, that was certainly 3 hours VERY well spent. The talk had been billed as him talking about creating opera, with specific reference to the new opera he’s just finished writing, so I’d thought it could be useful as preparation for the Richard III opera, but it turned out to not really be about that at all. He did talk about a couple of his operas and some music theatre stuff, but mostly it was about the way he uses drama and theatricality as a structural force in all his music, even the concert music that has no obvious connection with the theatre at all. Really fascinating. I took a ton of notes.

He talked a bit about his very first opera, Taverner, on the life of the 16th-century composer John Taverner (as opposed to the composer John Tavener who’s around today), and specifically about how he wrote it simply because he wanted to. He never expected anyone to ever perform it (although they eventually did), and so he just basically let rip and did the whole thing the way he wanted to do it, with no reference to what anyone else might think. This led to what I think was the most inspiring quote of the morning:

If you’re going to do anything, go for it – for God’s sake, go for it! – you’ll get there… if you’re any good. And if you believe you’re any good, you probably are.

Amazing stuff. Really confidence-building. As anyone who’s followed my journey online over the past few years knows, I’ve had (possibly more than) my fair share of self-doubt, but the one thing I’ve never doubted is that I’m good at what I do. So let’s hope Max is right and that that means I probably am!

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