Finn Clarke is an emerging Tasmanian composer. Writing within the contemporary classical idiom, his music fuses expressive romanticism with modern experimental techniques. Currently studying composition at the UTAS Conservatorium of Music, Finn is the recipient of the 2019 Conservatorium of Music Scholarship, the 2018 Don Kay Tasmania University Scholarship in Music and the 2017 Susan Williams Prize for TCE Music. Finn is immersed in Hobart’s thriving arts scene. He composes for local ensembles including the Tasmanian Youth Orchestra and Hobart Wind Symphony, and scores film and documentary soundtracks.
Aquascension was inspired by a lecture at the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS), which discussed the biodiversity and patterns of population present in different marine environments. I intended to compose a piece that would sonically reflect this theme rather than responding on a purely emotional plane. Written for clarinet and percussion, Aquascension is an experimental soundscape that explores texture and timbre to depict a journey through these ecosystems of the ocean. I composed in response to lecturer’s discussion of the pelagic (open ocean), benthic (seafloor), temperate (transitional zone) and tropical (warm, shallow waters). I decided to structure the piece around these as four sub-sections within an overarching rounded-binary form. This illustrates a gradually ascending journey from deep waters, before eventually breaking the surface where only a memory of the depths remains. I characterised each environment with contrasting textures, timbres and motivic fragments, representing them both literally and symbolically. Certain gestures are a literal representation of a passing school of fish, while the timbre of the bowed cymbal symbolises shafts of light filtering down. The use of a free, gestural language rather than melody and harmony resulted in a very organic compositional process. I brainstormed a large amount of material from which I selected ideas that I developed intuitively throughout the piece. This can be seen in the free flow of the material within the structural bounds of the environments I imposed. In addition to bowed cymbal, I explored other extended techniques in the piece such as clarinet multiphonics. I intended this to extend the timbral palette of the work and encourage the audience to experience the piece as a ‘soundscape’ in addition a more traditional form of musical expression.
Aquascension was an interesting exercise in composing on a conceptual rather than emotional level. This was an exciting revelation, enriching my conception of music’s function and allowing me to find enjoyment in avant guard music. Furthermore, it has inspired me to explore the combination of conceptual and emotional musical experiences in new works, and to bridge the gap between the mainstream and art music worlds.
Aquascension was premiered at IMAS in 2017, which brought the science and art disciplines together in an exciting public outcome.