Programme: Music - BMus (Hons)

Year: 2002

Brooklyn-based composer Anna Clyne has reached great heights since graduating with a BMus (Hons) in 2002.

Renowned for her compositions, Anna was nominated for a 2015 Grammy Award and her piece 'Masquerade', which premiered at the BBC Proms in 2013, was reworked and recorded as the BBC Proms theme tune in 2017.

Anna explains why the Music in the Community programme continues to play a part in her life, and shares memories of her time at Alison House.

Tell us about your time here

I was drawn to studying music at Edinburgh as it offered a well-rounded program – we had a chance to study and explore a wide range of subjects in the first two years, and then to specialise for our final two years. I was also drawn to the Music in the Community programme, which was an opportunity to have some first-hand experience of working within the community – working with children with learning disabilities, some education programs in local schools, and visiting Bosnia-Herzegovina for a music education program at the Pavarotti Centre in Mostar. This was a wonderful opportunity, and similar work has continued to be an important part of my musical life.

I also had an opportunity to study abroad for the third year of my degree – at Queen’s University in Canada. It was here that I had my first composition lessons, and an introduction to electroacoustic music composition that I continued to study for my final year. There were only about eighteen or so students in each year, which allowed us to get to know one another very well. A highlight was ‘Wagner Week’ – our year went out to the countryside to stay in a manor for a long weekend, and around a fire, with free-flowing wine, we listened to the complete Ring Cycle.

I also made some life-long friends both from the Faculty of Music and from Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) where I collaborated with some artists for new projects. My mentor in Edinburgh was the Georgian composer Marina Adamia, who really opened my ears in new ways and ignited my path as a composer.

Tell us about your experiences since leaving

After graduating in 2002, I moved to New York where I later studied composition at the Manhattan School of Music for a Masters degree under the mentorship of composer Julia Wolfe. I’ve been based in the US since that time, spending four of those years in Chicago where I was Composer-in-Residence for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Collaborating with artists from other fields is a major part of my work, from filmmakers and visual artists, to choreographers and sound artists.

Anna’s work 'Masquerade', which premiered at the BBC Proms in 2013, was reworked and recorded as the BBC Proms theme tune in 2017.

"Whatever it is that you are passionate about - go for it. Find like-minded and innovative collaborators and colleagues, and find an environment that is most conducive toward, and inspiring for, your work."

Anna Clyne, 2002 BMus (Hons) alumna

Some highlights in my career include composing a short orchestral work - Masquerade - to open the 2013 Last Night of the Proms at Royal Albert Hall with the BBC Symphony Orchestra led by conductor Marin Alsop. It was the first time in the history of the Proms that a woman led the orchestra for the Last Night, so I am honoured to have been a part of this. Another highlight and honour was being nominated for a 2015 Grammy Award for my double violin concerto, Prince of Clouds. Perhaps the most unusual piece I’ve composed to date is a piece for 100 cellos – Threads & Traces – which premiered at the Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles as part of the Piatigorksy International Cello Festival.

I also recently completed a new work – Beltane – that the BBC Scottish Symphony will premiere in Glasgow in December 2017. The work is inspired by the Beltane Fire Society’s dramatic re-imagining of this ancient traditional Celtic lunar festival, which marks the death of Winter and the birth of Summer, and which takes place on Edinburgh’s Calton Hill on the eve of May 1 each year. I attended this stunning event several times during my time at the University of Edinburgh, so it’s been a pleasure to return to my Edinburgh roots for this work.

Alumni wisdom

For new students in the arts: being in Edinburgh is an opportunity to meet and collaborate with a wide array of artists. For current students: there are some wonderful opportunities to study abroad, which can be both inspiring and refreshing. For recent graduates: whatever it is that you are passionate about - go for it. Find like-minded and innovative collaborators and colleagues, and find an environment that is most conducive toward, and inspiring for, your work.


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