By Humphrey Carter

PALMA
MAJORCA has inspired some of the world's greatest poets, writers and artists over the centuries but more recently it has moved one of Australia's leading composers.

Barry Conyngham has got to know the island, in particular the idyllic setting of Cala Tuent near Sa Calobra where the Sierra de Tramuntana mountains dip their rugged toes into the deep blue Mediterranean, through his long-time professional relationship with leading London-based orchestra conductor Geoffrey Simon. Simon who, apart from being the former conductor of the Balearic Symphony Orchestra, has owned a property in Cala Tuent since the mid-70*s which Conyngham has visited on a number of occasions.

Now Conyngham - who says that despite having travelled the world and coming from one of the most beautiful and diverse countries on earth - states that few places have inspired him as much as Majorca. Now he wants to set the typical traditional Majorcan day to classical music. “We would start with the glorious sunrise, move through the busy mid-morning to a lazy lunch followed by the siesta and relaxing afternoon swimming in the sea, with the sheeps' bells tinkling on the hill sides, before dinner at sunset and then a fiesta by the light of the moon,” he explained to the Bulletin during his latest visit to Majorca this week. “Sometimes, as a visitor, one appreciates and values the experience of things much more than the residents who have perhaps become accustomed to their surroundings and its immense glory. “I want the music to be evocative and reflect the beauty of life on the island,” he added.
The classical piece, which he has yet to sit down and write but which he has composed in his head, would run for a maximum of around 18 minutes. Conyngham envisages the piece being one which, after a premier conducted by his colleague Geoffery Simon in Majorca, could then go on to be played around the world, like much of the music he has composed to date.

For example, this month a piano concierto of his called Monuments will be performed in the impressive Sydney Opera House and it will be accompanied by giant images of Australia's most symbolic and emblematic monuments such as Ayers Rock and the contrasting Opera House itself.

And Conyngham would like to use a similar “multi-media” format to create a classical music Majorcan experience by accompanying his musical piece for orchestra with images, either photographs or paintings, of the island.

The composer explained that the images will not only add to the musical journey and help the music capture the true essence of Majorcan life, but the multi-media experience will also attract the new younger audience which is becoming increasingly more aware and receptive to classical music. “Like everything, we are always having to consider new markets,” he said. “However, when using music and images one has to be extremely careful to ensure that one does not distract from the other. “We have to create the right balance,” he added on Friday.

Capturing the essence of Majorca in classical music is certainly going to be a challenge Conyngham admits, but he had a good teacher in the form of Australia's leading composer Peter Sculthorpe who achieved great acclaim for his Sun Music compositions which captured the sounds and essences of the Outback. “I am also keen to study the traditional Majorcan music and instruments and to see if, and where, we can incorporate them into the piece,” he said.
He and Geoffrey Simon visited the Majorcan Conservatory of Music on Saturday to meet the directors and to learn more about the indigenous sounds of the island. They have also been excited by the visual images of some of Majorca's annual fiestas such as the recent “fire running”. The idea has already been discussed with Mariano Isasi, the managing director of the Balearic Symphony Orchestra, for which the piece would be initially composed. Conyngham says that the orchestra has welcomed the idea and has been most encouraging. What is more, while principally the piece would be performed in an auditorium, an outside venue, under the Majorcan stars, is not being ruled out.

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