Composer, arranger and piano teacher Elissa Milne recently blogged that it takes two generations to grow a musician: “the first generation learns how to learn, and then the second generation has parents who know what it [really] takes.” My parents were research scientists, both of whom held a deep love of music, though their respective upbringings prevented the development of their abilities beyond being keen listeners and occasional dabblers. By the time I was 14, I had picked up the cello and my piano teacher had introduced me to the likes of Chopin and Debussy. At university I combined my dedication to the piano with my continuing obsession with literary responses to modernity, leading to a thesis on Thomas Pynchon's Vineland. As I developed my own writing practice I began to produce music and arts journalism, completing a Creative Writing Masters in 2011 before turning my attention seriously to songwriting and performance, which, when I'm not teaching piano to children, is now my focus.
I'm fascinated by artistic process and the sociology of creativity, the endlessly inventive ways in which people across vastly different mediums and styles approach the production of creative work and how that work responds to the social structures in which it’s produced. As my own creative practice has mutated from prose to song, I've remained committed to producing arts journalism as I've found that the deep contemplation of a subject that the process of writing demands tends to provoke all kinds of unpredictable ideas and resonances that can then inform or posit solutions to problems in my own practice. I see both activities as being complementary parts of my response to the world in which we live and the art being made within it. In the meantime, my spare energy is currently spent finalising the details for an EP, at the end, as well as organising tours both as a solo artist and on cello with baroque folk duo Telegraph Tower.
Amplified by the power of three
Oliver Downes: interview with Chris Abrahams, The Necks
RealTime issue #119 Feb-March 2014 p44
Let’s get ethical
Oliver Downes: Matthew Bates’ Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure
RealTime issue #107 Feb-March 2012 p23
In the throes of birth or metamorphosis
Oliver Downes: Oren Ambarchi, Aurora Festival of Living Music
Online E-dition June 26: Aurora 2012
Real life on the edge
Oliver Downes: Ivan Sen’s Feature Drama, Toomelah
RealTime issue #104 Aug-Sept 2011 p35
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