Issue 8: Visual and Alternative Communication

Welcome to Issue 8 – this one has taken a slightly different direction, approaching the conductor’s work in ways that are rarely discussed in training. The first interview is with Andrew Gourlay, Music Director of OSCyL. Our conversation explored the challenges of conducting music inspired by a single visual image. Rachmaninov’s enigmatic symphonic poem The Isle of the Dead (inspired by Böcklin’s painting of the same title) is a piece particularly close to Andrew’s heart, and one he has recently recorded with OSCyL.

Following Andrew is Holly Mathieson, Co-Artistic Director of the Nevis Ensemble, and until recently the Assistant Conductor at the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. She suggested the discussion of rhetorical gesture (a topic she explored in depth in her PhD) which subsequently inspired the focus of this issue. Holly’s dance training also gives her an interesting take on this subject, and her observations and experiences are sure to influence the way you approach and consider your own gestural and body language.

The final interview is with conductor and presenter Charles Hazlewood. He is Artistic Director of the Paraorchestra – most well known for its unforgettable appearance at the Closing Ceremony of the 2012 Paralympics in London. Charles founded the ensemble in 2011, and describes it as a ‘pan-disabled’ orchestra. In this set-up, alternative communication is taken into unchartered territories – with not only the conductor reinventing his role, but also with the incorporation of groundbreaking adaptations for disabled musicians. It would be wonderful this interview inspired some readers to set up similar initiatives – it’s high time they were commonplace.

It has been a real pleasure to explore conducting from this perspective. Huge thanks to Andrew, Holly and Charles for sharing their wisdom and insights.

Dr. Hannah Baxter