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NZSO Todd Young Composer Winner Inspired By Romantic Poet John Keats

Music inspired by the great English Romantic poet John Keats has netted Micah Thompson the prestigious 2021 NZSO Todd Corporation Young Composers Award.

Thompson’s piece Vignette was one of eight works by young composers chosen this year to be performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, led by Music Director Emeritus James Judd, and recorded by RNZ Concert in Wellington this week.

Thompson, who is studying composition and English literature at Victoria University in Wellington, says a letter Keats wrote to his brothers in 1817 was the main inspiration for the piece of music. In the letter the poet coined the concept of ‘negative capability’ – the capacity to experience emotional content despite intellectual confusion or uncertainty.

“The way Keats expresses the most powerful imaginative and creative feats without needing to resolve the intellectual problems that snag along the way, is something I find hugely stimulating,” says Thompson.

“For me, a parallel musical example that I have enjoyed exploring is the way different musical materials, which bring with them different histories and issues of identity, can seamlessly coexist within one expressive language.”

A variety of ensembles and peers, both internationally and nationally, have performed Thompson’s music. He is the 2020-2021 Composer-in-Residence for Australian ensemble Forest Collective. In 2019 the NZSO performed his piece Forgo the Parable, Seek the Light. In 2018 he won first prize in the New Zealand School of Music Composers Competition for his mixed chamber ensemble piece Whakamaru; Mist.

Another young composer, Wellington-based Jack Bewley, won the Orchestra's Choice Award for his work Vignette sought peace. Bewley says his piece “is my attempt to musically represent various states of the ubiquitous communal agitation and anxiety we live with at this present time.”

Now in its 17th year, the NZSO Todd Corporation Young Composers Award is open to composers up to the age of 25.

The other composers from around Aotearoa New Zealand were Abhinath Berry (Prologue from Metamorphoses), Eva Bedggood (Azimuth), Joshua Turner (Autumnal Equinox), Liam Furey (The Silence of Kilsmister Tops), Mallory Stevenson (Moss-asphalt introit) and Thomas Bedggood (Ikaros).


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