I never dropped a set in music theory. I was always talented at it from day one. Indeed in 1992 I got a distinction at grade 1 music theory and never looked back. That was with my independent violin teacher Katherine Horlock. Grade 5 was a pass with Alison Daniels, a Cambridge Graduate, who always called my “Hugh the pew, Take a pew” and all that. I got it and then I couldn’t play the piano until I was at least 25 so my ability to write compositions increased with the technology but also with my ability to play and remember what I’d played and write it out. I now improvise and the write it out using the keypad on Sibelius rather than keyboard input as if I were writing a book.
In the period between 2011 and 2013 I completed all of the upper theory grades with AB, that is grades 6,7, and 8 on my own with no help and passed them all. I had 1 attempt at grade 6 and got 67/100, 2 attempts at grade seven and passed with 73% and 3 attempts at grade 8 and passed with 73%. I also passed all my theory with HfM Cologne Standort Wuppertal. Form studies, functional theory of the 19th century, describing fiendishly hard chords in an oral exam in the German language, and chorales at A level, degree level and at grade 7, bit of Renaissance counterpoint, and musicology as well. I got a 2.0 in counterpoint which was quite good. I’m also familiar with he rules of 20th century music via self study and A level and degree level history of music. I know the very basics of acoustics and cognitive and systematic musicology and tuning systems etc, Pythagorian Comma and so on. I can describe the whole history of tonality and atonality in English and in German using technical knowledge and vocabulary in either language. Many of my professors in German also studied in America so I am familiar of the importance of dialogue between composers and musical rhetoric.
Again when I lost my girlfriend I had massive musical inspiration. I was having my Genieschlag. I just hit the keyboard at first and improvised, tracking it on a notebook PC via the mic using Audacity.
From then on I started to improvise songs and I tried learning a Beethoven sonata Nr.79 on the piano. I decided to try and write a sonata. It took me six months to write piano sonata number 1, but that was a real composition. I wrote it out with pen and paper and then bought what was then Sibelius 7 for the PC and now I subscribe to Sibelius ultimate. There are now 16 piano sonatas, and 5 violin sonatas, a cello suite, a string quartet, 2 concertos, two settings for the canticles, 2 carols, 2 orchestral pieces, over 20 songs, and around 15 shorter pieces around 15 improvisations 15 realizations. There is a lot to my compositions and I am keeping going with them on a constant basis. Last year I remembered the very first piece I wrote in my life on the Ffestiniog railway in 1985 played the tune on the piano and wrote out harmonized it and finished it off. A tune that had laid dormant in me that my father had liked as it imitated the rollocking of the train departing from Blaenau.
I am very flexible and have had two commissions in my life one for the Colchester Baptists and one for Boxted Brass for a Brass Quintet Sonata Nr.1. I am flexible in writing for almost anything.