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Fulbright for Dance Composer

Tuesday, 08 January 2019

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Azariah Felton, who completed Honours in Music Composition last year, has been awarded a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship foreign exchange scholarship program of the United States of America, aimed at increasing binational research collaboration, cultural understanding, and the exchange of ideas. Since its establishment in 1946, it has grown to become the largest educational exchange scholarship program in the world, operating in over 160 countries.

Azariah became aware of the Fulbright program through his WAAPA lecturer, Rebecca Erin Smith. Smith, a fellow WAAPA graduate, is an award-winning composer who specialises in collaborative media and concert works. She was the recipient of a Fulbright scholarship in 2012, which allowed her to earn her Masters of Music at the Manhattan School of Music in New York.

Azariah will commence his Masters in Music at the start the northern hemisphere’s academic year next September.

The 21-year-old composer has shortlisted his university preferences to New York University, California Institute of the Arts (known as CalArts), University of Southern California and Indiana University Bloomington.

These universities all offer outstanding programs in both music composition and dance – a combination that will allow Azariah to continue composing music for dance and researching the interaction between the two disciplines.

“When I started at WAAPA, I had no idea what contemporary dance was,” Azariah laughs. “I knew there was a dance course here and I figured it was just ballet and they’d just be dancing to Mozart.”

However in his first year of study, Azariah was invited to participate in the dance department’s Unleash season. In this annual project, 3rd Year Dance students choreograph original dance pieces in collaboration with Composition students who create original music.

“I was paired up with a dancer and I absolutely loved working with her,” says Azariah. “I was writing a different style of music to what I normally did and I just fell in love with it. So I started doing more and more.”

Since then, Azariah has undertaken 26 dance collaborations.

“I enjoy being involved right from the start of the process. I like to attend as many rehearsals as possible so I can see the work coming together and then I can incorporate what the dancers are exploring into the music.”

“I think composition and dance has a really strong relationship,” says Azariah. “This is facilitated at WAAPA by having all the performing arts disciplines under the one roof.”

Azariah's initial interest at university in film scoring waned after he discovered the joys of working with dancers on new works.

“The typical process with film scoring is that I start working once filming is finished. I just find that so much less rewarding because it feels less like a collaboration and more like a contracted job.”

Azariah’s research will continue his work writing music for dance using texture as a primary means of expression, rather than the more traditional musical components of harmony, melody and rhythm.

“I use electronics a lot and with laptops now you’ve got a lot more control over timbre and texture than you ever have with instruments,” he explains. “A violin sounds like a violin, you can do things to make it sound different but it’s a violin however with a laptop you can do literally anything.

“So the music might still contain rhythm if the dancers need it to keep in time or harmony if there needs to be a strong emotional sense but the main thing that’s supporting the dance and helping to communicate it to an audience is the sound.”

“I like working with dancers to help me bring my music to life.”

More info on Azariah can be found on the Fulbright website.

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