Percussion and recorder is a pretty exciting combination! Can you tell me about how you met and what inspired this album of Australian works for the duo?
We met each other when recording Tristan Coelho's "As the Dust Settles" for Alicia's solo CD "Addicted to Bass" in 2011 and formed Duo Blockstix not long after that. We both have a shared love of new music and particularly like being involved in compositional collaborations so the choice to focus on new Australian compositions for our debut album was an easy decision.
Recording an album comes with a lot of planning attached, with a lot happening before you even get into the studio! Can you tell us about what you had to do in the months leading up to your recording sessions?
We had been planning our debut album for just over 2 years, primarily to give the composers time to write their works and for us to workshops ideas and pieces with all the composers. In the months leading up to the recording, we spent time fine-tuning each composition before conducting final workshops with each composer to iron out any niggling issues. The 3 weeks before our recording (or performance) date are always the most intense as we spend time focusing on our ensembles skills and building our performance stamina (each recording day was over 8 hours so we needed to be prepared to perform for a long time without losing focus).
This particular album features works from an amazing lineup of Australian composers. How did you choose the composers you were going work with and how much interaction did you have with each during the writing process?
With the exception of Daniel Rojas, we had previously worked with each of the composers as individual artists (not as Duo Blockstix) so we were familiar with their compositional style. The amount of interaction we had with each composer largely depended on their writing style/process; some composers had very specific ideas about the piece they wanted to write and only require one or two workshops, while others needed a number of workshops to develop their piece.
What has the rehearsal process looked like for the two of you? When you get into the rehearsal room do you generally have a structured plan or do things happen organically?
We would have to say our rehearsals happen quite organically and we certainly don't have a strict timetable when rehearsing. When we are preparing a program for performance, most of the work is done in our individual practise time, so our rehearsal time is spent focusing on ensemble skills such as matching our articulations, balance, and melodic/phrase direction.
Do you have any advice for young musicians hoping to get into the studio themselves to make a recording?
Making a recording is a very satisfying experience and is a bucket-list project for many performers. If you are planning on heading into the studio, be prepared for the mental and physical stamina required, which is very different to a live performance. Know how long you wish to spend on each piece (it is very easy for time to slip away from you in the studio) and have an idea of how you want the overall recording to sound. This last point may sound obvious but a microphone hears thing differently to our ears, so you should have a clear idea of how you want your recording to sound to give your sound engineer the best chance of capturing the recording you want.
Alicia Crossley and Joshua Hill's debut album is out now! Want to win a copy? Fill out your details below to go in the running.