Edgar Divver | Being a Composition Student

Ever wondered what life is like at the RNCM? What’s it really like to study at a Conservatoire? Our new blog series gives an insight into the daily lives of RNCM students. This week, we heard from first year MMus Composition student, Edgar Divver.

Some of the typical questions I have been asked about being a composer, especially from non-musicians, are:

‘What do you do all day?’

‘Do you get to see a lot of people?’

‘Do you, like, play every instrument?’

I think the time has come to clear up some common misconceptions about composers and provide an insight into our apparently mysterious lives! The thing about being a composer is that you’re not bound by rehearsals and practice rooms in the same way that most musicians are.  Most of the time, you’re free to compose wherever and whenever you want.

A Typical Day at College

A typical day for me will go something like this:

  • Wake up around 8am (not too early!)
  • About 9.30am, start the day off by listening to a new piece of contemporary music (it’s always good to have some new inspiration)
  • 10am – Start working on whatever piece I happen to be writing at the time
  • 11.30am – Head into College to have a composition lesson with my tutor
  • 1pm – Catch up with some friends over lunch in the café
  • 2pm – Lecture time! Often an eminent composer will be presenting their work, but sometimes instrumentalists come in to talk about writing for that instrument or students who want us composers to write for them!
  • 4pm – Head up to the composition suite to use a piano or a computer to do some more composing
  • 6pm – Grab a bite to eat at one of the many great cafés around Manchester
  • 7.30pm – Go to a concert! There’s a great range of venues in Manchester so sometimes it’s casual, contemporary classical fusion, sometimes it’s Beethoven 9 at Bridgewater Hall, but there’s always something to see and hear!
  • 9.30pm – Have a drink with some fellow musicians and chat about our music and general lives (it’s not ALL about Stockhausen, honestly…)
  • 11pm – Head home to bed and get ready for another day!

Obviously, not every day is like that – sometimes there is a lot less going on, but the great thing about being a composer is that you’re always as busy as you want to be.  So I can be really getting into my work and look up and five hours have passed, or have inspiration strike at 3am (although remember, its 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration!) – and it’s always fine because the course is so flexible around what suits you, which I love.

Having Your Work Performed

One of the things I love about being here at the RNCM is that there’s always an opportunity to get pieces performed, which is the dream!  We have informal composers’ labs every month where we can get new or in-progress pieces tried and tested, and three times a year, there’s an opportunity to write for orchestra, which is an amazing opportunity.

On top of that, there are festivals, new collaborations and workshops coming up all the time to write for, and everything I write gets played, so I really couldn’t ask for any more.

In the six months or so that I’ve been here, I’ve already had two pieces performed, one an orchestral piece in the amazing RNCM Concert Hall for Brand New Orchestra.

I’ve also got a piece coming up soon in the RNCM Chamber Music Festival, Budafest, in March –  which I’m very excited about, as the festival is based on Hungarian music, which I’ve had a lot of fun exploring!

Summing Up

Overall, being a composer is, quite simply, great. The flexibility and freedom you have, as well as the sense of self-achievement you get when you have a piece performed, is second to none, and when you have friendly, helpful staff and students here at College, it makes everything easy!