I am David John Roche and I will be Artist in Residence with Wales Arts Review this November. It’s also my birthday on the 30th (27 years young) and I’m about to start working on a secret but super exciting project – so it’s going to be a good month for me.
I am a composer and I write in lots of different styles for lots of different reasons. As a classical musician I’ve had pieces performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Orion Orchestra, London Graduate Orchestra, Cambridge Graduate Orchestra, Britten Sinfonia, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Grand Band, The Assembly Project, and many others – all of which I am extremely grateful for. I have undertaken residencies with Endelienta, Sound and Music, and – with the publishing of this article – Wales Arts Review. In my music I am often concerned with engaging with themes relating to abandonment, alienation, and violence specifically relating to South Wales. I grew up in Tredegar (read more about this here). Although these themes might seem pretty negative my music is quite often bright and celebratory, often in protest to the ideas I am looking at rather than as a reflection of them. The poverty of South Wales strongly influences most of my work and is something that I touch on in a lot of compositions, classical or otherwise. Here’s a snippet of a piece I wrote for the BBC NOW:
I have also written extensively for films, video games, public shows, and corporate events. The British Library, Centre of the Cell, and the University of Cambridge Communications Department have all commissioned me on multiple occasions to provide music for different means. I’ve written music about teeth, pioneering medical devices, strawberry picking robots, balloons, and loads of other unusual, fun stuff! Here’s a video containing some music I wrote as part of a residency in Cornwall:
I also write a lot of rock and pop music and play in what is easily the greatest – although suspiciously undiscovered – rock band of all time, System Scare. We’ve been playing together for roughly 10 years, we all met in school and we’re still going at it hard! I perform a lot of jazz too and have held featured soloist spots at Brecon Jazz Festival and the Great Northern Jazz Festival. In 2011 I conducted my first opera – I like to turn my hand to lots of things! Here’s a classic System Scare track:
Aside from composing I make my living by editing a lot of sheet music, writing about music theory, running a guitar and ukulele orchestra in a local community college, teaching about 35 private students a week, and working in a bookshop. I just submitted my PhD in Music Composition at the University of Cambridge – I was this first person to read for this degree – and am deeply enjoying preparing for some crazy and exciting upcoming compositional projects (which I hope to be able to discuss in more detail before the end of this residency).
I am going to focus on the creative processes behind some of my compositions, compositions that I am particularly proud of. I’m currently preparing sketch materials and rough recordings to illustrate the process of composition from the first idea to the finished (is it ever finished?) product. Some of what I discuss will be quite technical and some of it won’t, hopefully there will be something here for everyone! I’m also going to explore how my creative output relates to the work of other people.
The first piece I will look at – this will be my next article – is Ten Acre Riots! for solo piano. I wrote this as part of Psappha’s Composing for Piano Scheme in 2016, it has been shortlisted and commended in several international competitions and it a work that I think highlights some of the topics I am interested in. In Ten Acre Riots! I explore some narratives relating to prejudice and violence, there are a lot of fun and interesting technical components, and it’s an exciting and virtuosic piece. I’ve included a recording of Benjamin Powell performing this work below:
Following on from this I’d like to write an article about some of the work I’ve undertaken with Paul Roland and also, separately, with the University of Cambridge. This article will explore the role of my creativity and expertise in the context of other people’s projects. This article will touch on my work relating to Paul Roland’s upcoming orchestral work and also the premiere performance of Liszt’s unfinished opera Sardanapolo – both of which I have been involved with in some way.
I have also written a clarinet quartet especially for the Bute Clarinet Quartet as part of residency and, over the next few weeks, I am hoping to record it so I can include it in my penultimate article. The composition is called Clean Industry, it’s a lot of fun, and it deals with another aesthetic component of my work – ecology. Here’s another fun piece of music I wrote, hopefully this will tide you over:
Finally, I will present an article on my composition My Mind Directs My World for Orchestra. This was composed as part of Sound and Music’s Portfolio Scheme and performed by the London Graduate Orchestra, conducted by Claire Lampon, earlier this year. This is a jubilant, exciting piece and it contains lots of really exciting musical ideas that I look forward to writing about.
If you’d like to know more about me then take a look at my website.
First photo: Tim Hillel
Second photo: Nadine Ballantyne