Christopher Marshall

bio from Christopher Marshall's website

Christopher John Marshall

I am a freelance composer based in the city of Auckland in the North Island of New Zealand. I am a fourth generation New Zealander who was born in Paris in 1956 and spent a few of my early years in Australia. Nevertheless I consider myself a Kiwi and identify strongly with this country.

I hold a Masters Degree in Music with Honours (Auckland University, 1988) but am largely self taught as a composer. This has allowed me to develop a consistent personal style. While my music has evolved greatly, especially over the last ten years, this has been a broadening and deepening process rather than any substantial change of direction.

The foundation of my style is a strong belief that music is primarily a means of expressive communication with an audience. Singable, memorable melody coupled with a subtle use of the tonal harmonic system is a valuable resource. However if music is to communicate on more than an ephemeral level, especially after repeated hearings, the melodic and harmonic elements must be integrated into a convincing structure. I believe instrumentation must be part of this structure, not an afterthought.

Among the giants of the past, Bach and Brahms have had the most discernible influence on my music. Contemporary composers with whose work I feel an affinity include John Corigliano, John Tavener, John Adams and Arvo Pŭrt. My study of serial technique has been useful in determining the structure and texture of some of my music, and less frequently in matters of melody and harmony.

I have always been fascinated by the power and intensity of Maori chant. Over the years I have found elements of this music appearing as part of my musical vocabulary, usually on a superficial level as in certain melodic turns of phrase and in a particular choice of instrumental tone colour, but sometimes as a significant influence on the very structure of a piece. Likewise the rhythms and forms of of other Polynesian music continue to make their mark. I spent three of the most inspiring ŭ and difficult ŭ years of my life in Western Samoa, mostly inland at Vaiaŭata in Savaiŭi. It is not surprising therefore that this very strange and beautiful country should have left its mark on my psyche.

Two of the most rewarding experiences of my career were my 16 months (from August 1996) on a Fulbright Scholarship as composer in residence at the Eastman School of Music in New York, and two years (1994-5) as the University of Otagoŭs ŭMozart Fellowŭ in the picturesque South Island city of Dunedin. Both were wonderful opportunities that saw many performances of my music and contributed significantly to my growth as a composer.

One qualification that is especially important to me is my Fellowship in Composition from Trinity College, London, gained in 1986. In the assessment of the College my music ŭexhibits a considerable gift in utilising traditional materials of musical expression in fresh and inventive waysŭ. This is a testimonial I prize. Sometimes the single-minded pursuit of originality severs too many links with the past. Without existing music as a reference point, communication may be lost. By the same token, a composer who restricts himself to the techniques and aesthetics of the past is irrelevant. The challenge, as I see it, is to produce music that is recognisably of our time, yet also timeless.

If you have enjoyed listening to my music or would like more information, please do not hesitate to contact me. As a freelance composer I welcome commissions from conductors, performers and the supporters of fine music in the community.

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