Earmark with Colleen Muriel

February 14, 2017

This week we welcome CMC Associate Composer Colleen Muriel. Colleen grew up and studied in Vancouver, but has called the UK home since 2007. From a young age she studied piano and flute, and composition has been a part of her musical experience from that early stage. During her time in Canada she studied with Dr. David Duke, and Mark Armanini. She continues her studies with Dr. Gareth Churchill (University of Cardiff). Colleen has written a wide variety of works, and in this interview she discusses her relationship to music.

Canadian Music Centre: What got you excited about music at a young age?

Colleen Muriel: At the age of six, two things happened which got me hooked on music for life.

I grew up in the West End of Vancouver, B.C. which at that time was mostly houses and a few low rise apartments. From time to time at Christmas various musical groups would perform outside. One Christmas (I am assuming it was Christmas) a Salvation Army Band went around the neighbourhood playing carols. They stopped outside our house. I heard them and I was inspired. I had this angelic vision which was connected to their music. I have never been the same since.

The second thing that happened at the age of six was I started piano lessons. I remember almost immediately figuring out that B and G, and C and E sounded good together. I found this absolutely fascinating. To this day concepts of what harmony is really excite and interest me.

A bit later in life—at the old age of 12—I started playing flute in the school band. I completely fell in love with the instrument. This love affair continues to this day.

CMC: What was the most important music concert/event you attended?

CM: The truth be told concerts never excite me much. I have been to lots of different concerts with different styles and types of music; everything from early music to heavy metal. I prefer to attend rehearsals and listen to recordings. I love the process of the musicians putting the music together. This is what happens in rehearsals: and I love it.

Whenever I can, I ask to sit in on the rehearsals. I'm so pleased to say that many musicians and musical organisations have been open to this; and it has enriched my life greatly.

CMC: What is on your personal playlist?

CM: I don't really have a personal play list; but I do have music I love. I love everything written for the flute. I am intrigued, inspired, challenged by all the wonderful flute music out there; everything from Vivaldi Flute Concertos to Robert Dick and Ian Clark. I love it all.

CMC: How do you define your musical/artistic community?

CM: The truth is I never think about a musical/artistic community: largely because I feel thinking this way separates music from everyday life; and from creation itself. This is probably just my view of this, and I can argue with myself on this point. I see music as a functional, community-based art. I also see music as being part of creation.

I have worked as a freelance musician most of my life and pretty much everything I do has connection with the larger community. For example teaching music, playing for ballet classes, writing music for people who (in my case) normally want a piece of music for this or that event, concerts, recitals, and so on. I see music as integral to everyone's life. Therefore the musical community is really the whole of society and can be heard in the whole of creation: the songs of birds, whales, cats meowing, and beyond. They are all part of the musical community.

I think Lord Byron was correct when he said:

“There's music in the sighing of a reed;
There's music in the gushing of a rill;
There's music in all things, if men had ears;
The earth is but the music of the spheres.”

CMC: Tell me about a project/work of yours that you are particularly proud of.

CM: I prefer to reflect on projects that have “meaning” rather than using the word “proud.” If music is (in my philosophy) communally based, then the word “proud” has no meaning, but “meaning” and “meaningful” become very important.

So I will just say that the two concerts which for me had and continue to have the most meaning are the first two concerts of my compositions which took place in 1997 and 1998 in Vancouver, Canada. The first one was at a Centre at UBC (1997) and the second was at a church which was frequently used as a concert venue (1998).

There are a number of reasons why these two concerts continue to have real significance for me. The first is that all the music performed at these concerts was written by me and it was the first time I had heard any of my music performed: so everything was a premiere.

I was also thrilled and amazed at the support other musicians gave me: especially soprano Heather Pawsey, Derek Darling (violin, viola) and several members of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. In addition many of my friends attended and were very supportive; making the experience a very positive one.

A number of the pieces performed at these concerts (such as Midnight, Peace for Viola, Orchids and The Child of God as well as Peace for Violin) have since been performed in a number of countries by various musicians. So for me these concerts were the beginning of a wonderful musical adventure. I remember them fondly and I must say I miss 'the good old days'.

Check the CMC community page regularly for more composer profiles! To learn more about Colleen you can visit her personal site.