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Prelude residency for WAAPA-trained composer

Thursday, 16 April 2020

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Perth-based composer and sound artist Rachael Dease is one of four recipients of a 2020 Prelude Composer Residency from the Bundanon Trust.

Prelude is a national network of long-term residencies for Australian composers, housed in historic buildings and providing time and space for the creation of new work.

Rachael has taken up a year-long residency at Gallop House, a two-storey Victorian-style house built in 1877, on the Swan River in the Perth suburb of Dalkeith. Read more here.

On her website, Rachael shares segments from her most recent compositions, Hymns for End Times, her response to the COVID-19 crisis as an artist, composer and mother.

A unique opportunity

The award-winning composer, who graduated with Honours in Composition from WAAPA in 2009, describes how Prelude is one of the few residencies of this length available to artists with young families.

“Especially for creative women who are also mothers, opportunities are limited and travel can be difficult, so on top of the upheaval of motherhood you experience a loss of self and almost always your career will take hit, at least for a time.

“It’s a very unique opportunity to live and work in such a beautiful place, let alone one that is also a large family home.”

Being inspired by history and place

Rachael has an interdisciplinary approach to composition, with her artistic practice encompassing art music, film and theatre scoring, installation, site-specific work and songwriting.

She says her plans for the Prelude residency changed once she and her family moved into Gallop House: “the house and the river seemed to be guiding me in other directions”.

“I think very visually, so I started working on something involving the house as a kind of character,” she explains. “I’ve been recording the river and researching what this land meant for the Whadjuk Noongar people. There’s a certain weight that comes with residing in a colonial building so, as beautiful as it is, I’m constantly thinking about its history and how I should respond to that.

"Unfortunately COVID19 has now thrown a massive spanner in my plans. While a few years ago it was probably a dream come true for me to be isolated and left on my own, I now have a full house.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m still grateful for this opportunity – and what a place to be in quarantine – but it’s meant most of my plans have had to be cancelled, postponed or adapted… I’m currently trying to work all that out now."

Rachael has previously enjoyed residencies at Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, Proximity Festival, Lumen Studios in Italy and the Arctic Circle.

Her awards range from winning the 2010 WAM Song of the Year in both the Pop and Experimental categories to her acclaimed theatre work, including the 2017 Performing Arts WA Award for Best Music for Black Swan State Theatre Company’s production of Let The Right One In.

Her 2013 contemporary song cycle, City of Shadows, won both the inaugural Martin Sims Award at Perth Fringe World and the Melbourne Fringe Music Award, before receiving critical acclaim at New York Fringe Festival.

“Taking City of Shadows to New York and having a season at The Malthouse [in Melbourne] were early highlights that bouyed my faith in the kind of music I write and the type of cross-over performance I was interested in achieving,” she says.

“More recently I had the opportunity to fully score Sunset for the 2019 Perth Festival and the amount of freedom I was given to go with my gut, create anything I like by Maxine Doyle [Associate Director and Choreographer of UK theatre company, Punchdrunk], was really amazing and I was super proud of that show.”

WAAPA’s diversity of practice

Rachael credits her time at WAAPA with encouraging a diversity of practice that allowed her to compose for all types of performance genres, including dance, theatre and installation, before her first professional experience.

“Being taught by Dr Lindsay Vickery [coordinator of WAAPA’s Composition and Music Technology course] was wonderful and inspiring,” she says. “He always encouraged me to think big and gave me the right tools to use if I was ever stuck for inspiration.

“The friendships I made there were incredibly important to me as well.”

To new music graduates, she offers this advice: “Respect your colleagues and be kind. Be the kind of person you would want to work with.”

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