Thirty year old Cyrus Meurant has chosen to live the life of a composer despite the long hours and low pay.
classikON recently featured a work by Cyrus called Interlude (you can listen to this on SoundCloud if you cannot see the embedded player below).
Earlier this year Cyrus attended June in Buffalo, a festival and conference dedicated to composers and attracting talented composers from all over the world. Discussion, a lot of listening and developing new relationships that might lead to new collaborations, Cyrus has returned to Australia eager to finish writing his latest commission Klash to be premiered in December.
Cyrus enjoys writing music on his own but loves the challenges that come with collaboration.
“Writing in a collaboration challenges you to see your music in a different way” – Cyrus
While he balances the competing obligation of writing music and earning a living in one of the worlds most expensive cities Cyrus focuses on his first passion – composition.
What is your earliest memory of classical music?
I started learning violin at age 3 and I have fond memories of listening to my father’s LP collection. When I was about 4 or 5 years old, I couldn’t work the record player though I would always request the Saint-Saëns Dance Macabre – that was my idea of dance music. I just loved the xylophone part.
(you can listen to this on SoundCloud if you cannot see the embedded player below).
Who introduced you to classical music?
I have my parents to thank. They took me to violin and piano lessons for many years (at my request). Then there were many more years of playing in various youth and community orchestras in Sydney and Wollongong. I spent a lot of time in the theatre too. I must say, to their credit, my parents never forced me to practice, though they have always encouraged an appreciation of music and the arts in general.
When did you decide to be a composer?
I remember writing a piece for violin when I was about 5 years old for my then violin teacher. I don’t think it was anything special, though I can remember writing the notes down on the page then playing it back on the violin. By the time I was 15 the idea of being a composer was very attractive to me and I would spend hours on the violin and at the piano. During my second year of undergraduate composition study at The University of Sydney I wrote a String Quartet which was well received and I won the university’s Frank Albert prize for music. I look back on that as an encouraging moment in the grand scheme.
Who is your favourite living composer?
A vast majority of the music I uphold as truly great is by dead guys, though I do find myself gravitating towards composer performers who are at the coalface performing their own work.
Just recently I saw Alvin Lucier perform I’m sitting in a room at the Bang on a Can marathon in New York City which was remarkable.
I admire composers such as Howard Skempton, Frederic Rzewski, Louis Andriessen, Brian Eno, Philip Glass and Michael Nyman. I’ve always enjoyed listening to The Beatles, The Velvet Underground, Roxy Music and jazz music too, especially violinists such as Jean-Luc Ponty and Didier Lockwood.
Who is your favourite ‘no longer with us’ composer?
No question… Johann Sebastian Bach. Though, I have a love for the music of Pérotin, Léonin, de l’Estocart, Gluck, Haydn, Mozart, Schubert and Chopin to name a few.
Who is your greatest musical influence?
I’m not sure I could single out one in particular. Artistic collaboration has played a huge part in my musical development and I had important formative experiences at NIDA, The Australian Ballet, The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra Victoria and numerous projects with the Australian Youth Orchestra.
My years at Sydney Uni were influenced by my composition teacher Anne Boyd, who remains a passionate advocate of music education. I performed baroque and contemporary violin repertoire in concert performance class and I also performed early music with the Renaissance Players on vielle and rebec (the years I spent in this ensemble doubled as tremendous lessons in harmony and counterpoint). I also studied and listened to Aboriginal, Balinese and Japanese music. European tours with the SBS Youth Orchestra as a soloist and concert master were memorable too and that honed my ear for orchestration.
I was privileged to study with Richard Meale a few years before he died. He had an extraordinary mind, a generous nature and an inspiring passion for music, philosophy and art. I was fortunate to study with Martin Bresnick, Brett Dean and Ross Edwards in various contexts too. Matthew Hindson arrived as a lecturer at the Conservatorium during my later years there. It was inspiring to see an Australian composer older than myself who was carving out a truly international career.
I was awarded a Churchill Fellowship in 2006/7 and was able to attend classes at the Paris Conservatoire, Royal Academy of Music, London and The Hague Conservatoire.
Cyrus has two performances left this year
16 November 2012, Solo Works: a solo concert featuring pieces for synthesizer, solo piano and electric violin. Andrew Smith will perform on saxophone.
Newcastle at The Civic Theatre Playhouse
Purchase your ticket via Ticketek
1 December, Klash: this is Cyrus’s second work with Brett Morgan (Artistic Director and choreographer)
The National College of Dance, the main Civic Theatre