By Stella Joseph-Jarecki (Enquiries: stellamusicwriter.wordpress.com)
This piece was written as part of a paid partnership. Unless otherwise stated, all material published on Fever Pitch Magazine is put together through voluntary contributions from the editor (Stella Joseph-Jarecki) or guest contributors.
There are only two weeks left of 2021. It has been a mammoth effort to get to this point, but the summer of 2022 is looking fresh and bright. Live music has returned to the theatre, the beer garden, and the concert hall. A sense of tired relief can be felt across Melbourne after six consecutive weeks of ‘normal’ life, an emotion sweetened by the approaching Christmas break.
So what kind of playlist will you using to fill the lazy afternoons and long weekends? Whether you’re looking for a meditative instrumental lullaby, an atmospheric piece of chamber music, or even catchy, sun-drenched funk, Sydney-based composer Wesley Stormer has you covered.
I had the chance to pick Wesley’s brain on the musical projects he tackled over the past two years, and the idea of embracing a full spectrum of musical colour.
You can follow Wesley’s compositional work through his Instagram and YouTube channel. His 1970s pop-inspired outfit Sun Affair can be found on Instagram– their debut EP First Sign of Light is out now.
Where does classical music sit in the 21st century? Is it separated from other genres by a gaping divide? In a 2020 interview with Cut Common, Stormer described ‘a certain kind of pressure’ that listeners can grapple with if they are unfamiliar with classical music. But he doesn’t think it has to be that way: “I’d love for people to just click play, watch, listen and see what they feel.”
Stormer elaborated on this idea when I pressed further. “I think there is a ‘baggage’ around genres like classical and jazz which can stop people from engaging with them. Some people might feel they need to have an understanding of the music to appreciate it, which is not necessarily the case. I immediately think of how movies and television expose audiences to all kinds of musical styles and some soundtracks go on to become widely popular.
In my own practice I try to not let what the audience might think restrict what I’m trying to create. Ultimately, I need to be happy with what I’ve composed, however I do want the audience to have a positive experience with my music. I want them to leave feeling something they didn’t before they arrived.”
Stormer’s latest chamber release Peering Out, Peering Through is written for classical guitar and string quartet. It comes with a specially filmed music video which has freshly premiered on YouTube: “Last year while weaving between lockdowns and other obstacles I managed to assemble a group of musicians to record the piece.
Our sound technician Craig Field knew the owner of Rhomboid Studios, a recently built performance/recording space tucked away in Mt Victoria in the Blue Mountains. Although not clearly visible from the road, the building is an impressive structure and externally resembles more of a temple than studio. The session was a really positive experience for everyone.
Peering Out, Peering Through takes the perspectives of two individuals in the same storm having vastly different experiences. One is on a boat having to contend with the chaos and danger of the storm as it rages around them. The other is standing on the shore looking out at the storm and appreciating its beauty from a safe distance.”
The team behind the Peering Out, Peering Through recording:
Conductor – Omid Mohebzadeh
Guitar – James McDonald
Violin 1 – Anna Smith
Violin 2 – Elisabetta Sonego
Viola – Jonathan Karanikas
Cello – Josh Grasso
Audio recording, mixing and mastering – Craig Field
Videographers – Andrew Mell and Benjamin Green
Video Editing – Stephen Noble
The extended lockdowns of 2020 and 2021 wreaked havoc on the Australian arts industry. I felt compelled to ask the inevitable question- how did Stormer protect his creativity and personal motivation during this trying time?
“It has been a really tough couple of years for everyone. Artists experienced a lot of uncertainty which is not a good foundation for creativity.
I found the best method for my own creativity and headspace was to think about the things that were within my immediate control. I took some down time but when I was feeling inspired, I would compose and plan ahead. It was important to exercise and stay in touch with friends during that time. I felt the more I looked after my physical and mental health, the more my creativity would flourish.”
Freelancing as a creative professional can be a diverse and engaging path, but instability comes as part of the package deal. I asked Stormer how he found navigating the shift from university studies to the world of professional work.
“I found that transition to be quite a tricky one, and I’m working out how to navigate it to this day. The thing that initially helped me was the realisation during my Honours year that creating music was truly I wanted to do with my life. A big part of that was thanks to my supervisor Dr Clare Maclean. So having that certainty as I entered the freelancing space helped quite a lot. Along the way I’ve learnt a lot about what works for me and I think the main thing is to diversify. Get involved with a number of different projects; see what works and what didn’t and learn from them going forward.
Since finishing my studies I’ve been out in the wild trying to make my way as a composer seeking out opportunities wherever they may be! My priority has always been to make sure I’m composing and listening to new music. I think this is vital in continuing to develop as a musician. Opportunities will come and go but if I’m not growing as a composer then I feel like I’m treading water.”
This expansive attitude is aptly demonstrated in the breadth of musical projects Stormer has on the go. Funk-pop outfit Sun Affair owes a clear debt to The Beach Boys and the era of Motown Records, bringing meaty melodies together with shimmering instrumental textures.
“I’ve always loved a wide variety of music. When I was a child, I would fall asleep listening to radio station 101.7 which would play music I loved from the 70’s and 80’s. When I was a teenager, I listened to all kinds of music from jazz to classical to pop. Towards the end of high school, I actually began writing R’n’B influenced pop music before I attempted classical composition.
I definitely intend to keep exploring different genres and styles in the future and I think they can overlap in interesting ways. I’m currently working on a musical theatre project and the way that I have approached its composition has felt like a blend of both my classical and pop styles. I have dabbled in film music and definitely want to pursue that in the future as well.
The ideal situation for me would be having a mixed bag of projects all happening at the same time, and still being able to get on stage and perform my pop tunes with Sun Affair from time to time.”