Composer Portrait

Our next concert will feature the music of Margery Smith and Corrina Bonshek. The program will include a world premiere and two Australian premiere performances. We spoke to Corrina recently about her work and inspiration for the pieces we are to perform.

Corrina Bonshek. Photo: Lamp Photography

Sirius: Sirius will be performing the Australian premiere of Up in the Clouds. Tell us about how this piece was conceived and first performed.

Corrina: There’s quite a long backstory about this piece as it’s actually based in a work I wrote called Desert Time for solo Pipa or Chinese Lute! In 2015, I was a composer-in-residence at the Experimental Thai Music Laboratory at Burapha University of the Arts in Thailand where I met an amazing Pipa performer called Jasmine Chen. After seeing her perform, I asked if I could write a piece for her, even though I had never written for that instrument. Up in the Clouds reworks many of the musical ideas and sound colours of that piece, but on western instruments. I was inspired to do this after seeing how Dr Koji Nakano, director of Experimental Thai Music Laboratory, has done this with many of his works and has sought ways to bring sound colours and gestures traditional instruments into western contemporary music. The opportunity came for me to do this, when from my friend Rachel Walker (a fellow composer who writes for western and Chinese instruments) invited me to write for All of the Above, a sextet based in Cincinatti USA with [Schoenberg’s] Pierrot Lunaireinstrumentation; flute, clarinet, violin, cello, percussion, and piano. 

S: You have written Lotus Flower Blossoming for Sirius with the voice of soprano Taryn Srhoj in mind. How did you come to be inspired to write for Taryn and Sirius?

C: I heard Taryn perform at a 2016 Sirius Chamber Ensemble concert themed around birdsong and was impressed by the way she embodied the emotions of the song, particularly one that told of sadness postwar and release via nature. I thought, wouldn’t it be amazing to write some powerful music for Taryn. Strangely life & art has taken us on a different direction, and instead I have written a really joyous work for Taryn and Sirius about spiritual awakening.

S: How does your compositional process usually begin? 

C: It begins with a seed / musical idea and a context to grow it. I ideally write with particular performers and a length of time in mind. Then I weave ideas out of the seed to fit the performers and the timeframe. I like to work closely with the performers or know their musical habits and tastes well. This means I can do fun things to invite them further into the work via graphic notation or improvisation. I quite like mixing up scoring styles and lately have been moving between standard notation and graphic, plus electroacoustic layers/processing.

S: What other projects are you currently working on?

C: Right now, I am getting ready for a residency at HOTA Home of the Arts Gold Coast with Jasmine Chen, Michael Askill, Anna Whitaker and Daniel Belton of Good Company Arts as part of inaugural HOTA Creative Development program, a partnership between HOTA and the City of Gold Coast. Our team is making a 40-minute performance inspired by connection of humans to the stars and recent digital mapping of our galaxy, which is one of a vast supercluster of galaxies. I am enjoying the compositional challenge of suggesting the vastness of time and space with two instrumentalists and a lot of electroacoustic processing, spatialisation and effects. 

S: What is the most unusual place your music has been performed?

C: One of my favourite ‘unusual’ places was the opening of Sydney Labyrinth at Centennial Park Sydney. I wrote music for string quartet and birdsong that you can stream while you are walking the labyrinth. The opening was really special as I got to see elders from 11 different faith traditions blessing the labyrinth path whilst walking and listening to my music. It was quite an experience! 

Concert details: Annandale Creative Arts Centre
81 Johnston St, Annandale on Sunday 20 October, 2.00 pm. Tickets via

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