Hans Roosenschoon scholarships awarded to two gifted composers

Two scholarships of R25 000 each were recently awarded to two gifted undergraduate and postgraduate music students specialising in composition. The first Hans Roosenschoon Music Foundation Composition Scholarships were awarded to Roché van Tiddens and Lise Morrison this year.

Roché, who is an undergraduate student, passed his third year of BMus (Composition) with six distinctions, of which one was obtained for composition. Lise, who already holds a BComm degree from Stellenbosch University (SU), completed her BMus in 2013 and now specialises in composition at postgraduate level.

Photo: Prof Hans Roosenchoon, far left, with the two students, Lise Morrison (middle) and Roché van Tiddens, far right, who were awarded the composition scholarships named after him. (Anton Jordaan, SSFD)

Photo: Prof Hans Roosenchoon, far left, with the two students, Lise Morrison (middle) and Roché van Tiddens, far right, who were awarded the composition scholarships named after him. (Anton Jordaan, SSFD)

“The works by both these young composers showed distinct innovative thinking,” said Prof Hans Roosenschoon, the founder of the Foundation and a lecturer in the Music Department specialising in composition.

The aim of the scholarship is to encourage musical creativity amongst young people and to recognise promise and cultivate excellence in creative work at both undergraduate and postgraduate level.

“The bursaries were specifically set aside for composition students as we currently do not have any such bursaries for this area of specialisation in the Music Department or at the University. Students had to apply for the scholarship by submitting their CVs, study records as well as one of their own pieces. Our selection criteria are based on the quality of the composed work and how innovative the composer was in composing their work.”

Scholarships are only allocated once-off at undergraduate and at postgraduate level.

“Composition is an area of specialisation that starts in the third year of study and can only be followed by some students who qualify for this direction. There is but a handful of students studying composition at our university,” says Roosenschoon, “however, the establishment of this scholarship will hopefully encourage more students to choose the specialisation area and perhaps even attract students interested in composition to Stellenbosch.”

According to Prof Roosenschoon, composing music requires a very broad theoretical background and the ability to understand different instruments. “You have to understand, composers write music for instruments they may not necessarily play themselves.”

Both Roché and Lise are thrilled to have received the scholarships.

“It has been really exciting and is definitely very inspiring to have received this scholarship,” says Roché.

“It has given me a lot of confidence, and because I have such a confidence boost, I look forward to what I can achieve in this year. Generally when I write music, it is just for me to say if it is good or not, however, to win a scholarship because of something I’ve composed, tells me that I’m doing the right thing and that I’m moving in the right direction.”

Roché’s piece was written for a guitar and he describes it as a “character piece about a few completely arbitrary” utensils chosen from the kitchen cutlery drawer – a silver and a finger fork; a wooden and a silver spoon; and a butter and a steak knife.

“The silver fork represents Western civilisation, while the finger fork represents the bush men and people who eat with their hands. The same goes for the wooden and silver spoon and the knives. I used it to represent the divides in SA, in particular the divides between the rich and poor. I then recorded the sounds that the cutlery made while used as percussion and manipulated the sounds to make it sound completely different. After this experiment, I found that some sounded like birds, and others like a lion’s roar. This turned out to be very effective. Those sounds were then programmed into a MIDI controller, so that it could be triggered by the percussionist performing Ad Libitum.”

For Lise, receiving the scholarship is acknowledgement of the fact that her work as a composer is being recognised.

“I applied for the scholarship as a final-year undergraduate student and had to compete with existing postgraduate students to obtain the scholarship. I was initially hesitant about whether I should apply for the scholarship, especially because I just did not have the same level of experience as the other applicants, but as with all things, there is always someone you have to compete with. It is however good to know that someone thinks that your work is good enough.”

The work that she entered was called a Work of Time and was specifically written for an orchestra. “Most of the piece is a tribute to the masters, such as Stravinsky and Bartók, that I have come to know in pieces written for orchestras. Rather than working with a theme and form, many discrete, non-developing musical elements are arranged to ‘play off each other’,” she explains.

And now that they’re set to continue following their passion, what are their plans for the future?

“I definitely want to carry on composing and enrich my knowledge of the craft of composition,” says Roché.

“In the end, I want to have my music performed and be involved in my music being performed all over the world.”

Lise is very excited about using her scholarship towards a visit to one of the most prestigious music institutions in the world, the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, which has a massive composition centre.