'The discovery process is ongoing and is part of the mission of contemporary composers.' An interview with Harm Roché van Tiddens

‘The discovery process is ongoing and is part of the mission of contemporary composers.’ An interview with Harm Roché van Tiddens


Composer Harm Roché van Tiddens is a recent winner at the Young Composers Meeting in the Netherlands, a major international music competition that brings together 16 composers under the age of 30 from all over the world.

He also has three works featured in this year’s No Frontiers and is teaching students as part of the Young Composer’s Project. As he has such a large stake in the festival, we thought we’d catch up with him to see what makes his very busy brain tick…

What exactly do you do? 

I am studying a postgraduate diploma in Composition at Birmingham Conservatoire. I am also a music teacher. I teach composition to students that are part of the Young Composer’s Project run by Kirsty Devaney, Chris Cresswell and Jeremy Clay. I also teach guitar to students at Shades Music in Moseley.

Please tell us a little about your project for No Frontiers and what is involved to make it happen.

I will have a few compositions performed in different concerts throughout the festival. A work for Wind Quintet performed by LUMOS on the 25th of March; A work for live electronics and clarinet on the 27th of March; and work for the Thallein Ensemble performed on the 31st of March alongside pieces by Martijn Padding, Joe Cutler and Amoret Abis. The performers will be working hard on rehearsing these pieces during the upcoming weeks.

My three composition students from the Young Composer’s Project will have their pieces performed on the 26th of March by the LEAP Orchestra. We will be holding two more workshops for the Young Composer’s Project in order to make sure the students pieces are ready for performance.

This year’s festival’s theme is ‘breaking down barriers with music’ – How do you think music helps to break down barriers?

Music is an inherent part of human life and must have been discovered before language was formalised. The discovery process is ongoing and is part of the mission of contemporary composers. Before coming to study at the Birmingham Conservatoire in September 2016, I was involved in a music community project called Jamestown Sounds where we gave music lessons to children living in poverty. The music lessons enabled them to see themselves as worthy of accomplishing something and they started doing very well academically. I believe that providing music lessons to all will make a difference to society as it will help to break down the barriers between the haves and have nots.

Roché teaching as part of the Jamestown Sounds Project

Who do you admire artistically and in what ways do you think their work has broken barriers?

Ncebakazi Mnukwana is a specialist in Music Education and Ethnomusicology. I admire her for connecting the traditional music of South Africa with contemporary composition and poetry. Working with the traditional music of South Africa is a sensitive issue due to the remnants of Apartheid and she has made it possible for contemporary artists to explore the medium while remaining true to the expression within the African tradition.

As a composer in 2017, do you feel a responsibility or particular impetus to represent or interpret current social or political issues?

Yes. Not directly, but by writing music that expresses issues I feel strong about results in expressing cultural issues.

An alien has landed in Birmingham, they are hungry and also in need of examples of contemporary culture report back to their people. Where do you take them to eat and how do you entertain them?

I would take them to the Post-Paradise concert series happening once a month at Centrala in Digbeth. While we are there we might as well see if there are any other events happening at Centrala, Vivid Projects right next door, or go check out the exhibition at Eastside Projects down the road. We can then go for beer at the Old Crown where there are two ghosts said to roam the very old pub.

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