My Rehearsal Room: Nikki Edgar

My Rehearsal Room: Nikki Edgar

Violist Clare Gorton chats with composer Nikki Edgar about graphic scores, improvisation and owning your creativity. 

Nikki Edgar
Melbourne, Australia

My Rehearsal Room: Nikki Edgar

Violist Clare Gorton chats with composer Nikki Edgar about graphic scores, improvisation and owning your creativity. 

Clare Gorton: Your creative life is so busy at the moment with composition work and cello performance, both solo and with ensembles like Ensemble Density and Forest Collective. How do you balance these two facets of your creative life?

Nikki Edgar: Well, to be honest, I don’t know that I do it very well! I can only really focus on one thing at a time but I think I’ve found that I work most effectively when I have a number of things on the go and spend my creative time moving between the different tasks. Some weeks I focus most on preparing for performances but find I need to take a few days off to write a piece, or vice versa.

CG: Do you think one task takes up more time than the other?

NE: At the moment creating scores and lesson plans is definitely taking the most time, but actually that has been fantastic, because I have lots more performances coming up and I think I’ll be ready to throw myself into that whole heartedly.

CG: The scores you are creating are graphic, and they’re these beautiful interactive pieces of artwork. What does this medium mean to you?

NE: I’ve never really written traditionally notated music because I don’t really think in harmony, so it’s never made sense to me to do anything but graphic scores. I think putting more parameters on the scores I write would end up making the ideas to strict, and it is important for me that the performers I work with feel like they are free to explore. My scores are childlike in that way, I suppose.

CG: They’re not simplistic, they are just as complicated as they need to be.

NE: Absolutely! My scores are very engaging because they’re really bright and obvious but the more substantial goal is to make something that everyone can have an opinion on. I don’t need everything to specifically enjoy the works, but I do like making things that people can talk about.

CG: So the goal is more about making people feel things and those things might not necessarily be positive?

NE: Yeah! I’m interested in making music that doesn’t restrict the audience and allows them to explore their own thoughts, allowing the work to be the vessel. That’s the kind of music I find engaging. Hearing people’s opinions of my music helps develop my own interpretations and allows me to be inclusive and interactive with the people who are listening.

CG: Can you tell me about the improvisatory side of your work and your writing, and how that fits into the scores you’re writing?

NE: I like the idea of creating a situation that becomes a skeleton from which I (or another perform) can build upon, creating possibilities from that initial idea. I also try and take into account that you shouldn’t necessarily have to be a musician or a performing artist to be able to interpret the work; you just have to be creative and use my scores as a base platform to build whatever you feel works. Being visual has always helped me musically because it’s a way of understanding complex ideas in a more accessible way, I think.  

CG: Finally, I’m interested in how you think about creative ideas that sit outside of your performative skills and how you developed them?

NE: For me, realising that tertiary institutions only cater to specific types of people was a real turning point. It’s easy when you’re in it to rely on people like your instrumental teacher to tell you exactly what you need to do, but it’s important to spend some time thinking about who you are creatively, and by extension, learn to value your own unique creativity. You can meet a lot of great people through the university system, but that’s not the be all and end all. Getting out into the world and seeing gigs and working hard to have your music heard? That’s the best long term plan.

Hear Nikki's work as part of In Close Proximity: Valencia at LongPlay on March 16th at 7:30pm.