Newscast Media NEW YORK —Every once in a while we feature an inspirational story to soften the blow of the intense news cycle and daily grind. Today I will be featuring composer, Alies Sluiter, a friend of Newscast Media, as I explore the aesthetics (concepts of beauty) of her music. Alies Sluiter’s musical acumen seeks expression through the violin, and it is evident that she is no composer of small acclaim. I’ve conducted a series of interviews with her, since last Winter, and we recently caught up with each other this Spring for yet another installment.
Alies Sluiter is a composer and violinist from Australia, who first played the violin at three years of age, and has been steadfast ever since.
“I remember the first time I made up something on the violin, as opposed to something that was written. I felt really exhilarated. I never seriously thought about doing anything other than being a musician and composer… I can’t remember any one thing, but as a kid, I always loved to sit at the piano and make stuff up. I could do that for hours,” she said.
Her work is very diverse, ranging from composing music for television networks like CNN, BBC and FOXTEL. She has also composed numerous pieces for film including documentaries, and theater dance productions. Alies undertakes the various platforms she composes for differently.
“Television is fast!” she said, “You just have to get on with it and meet the deadline no matter what. Film is the same but generally you have more lead up time, particularly if you’ve worked with the director before. I always appreciate being brought in on the project while it is still at the script stage. Theater and dance are
fantastic mediums to compose for because you tend to have a lot more time to test things out and often (depending on the project) it is designed to be performed live, not recorded,” she added.
In addition, she has traveled extensively and performed across Europe, Canada, the U.S., North Africa, Asia, and most recently, the United Arab Emirates.
“One of the fantastic things about being a musician is that you get to travel widely and meet a lot of different people. I performed in the Abu Dhabi Arts Festival with Belgian choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and the Shaolin Monks of China. I hadn’t been to the United Arab Emirates before so I was excited to visit.
“We performed at the Emirates Palace which was quite an experience—in the reception area of the hotel they have a machine that actually sells bars of gold! The city is relatively new and what they have built in such a short amount of time is quite impressive. Culturally there are a variety of influences, mainly Iranian, Pakistani and Indian so the food, in particular, is fabulous,” she said.
Alies released her first album, The Picture Box Orchestra, that explores quite a few different styles, drawing on western and eastern classical techniques as well as jazz, reggae and hip-hop.
“I recently played with my group The Picture Box Orchestra at the WOMADelaide festival in Australia which was a fantastic experience—it was great to play at the same festival as many of the musicians I admire, ” Alies said.
The album features a range of singers, poets, musicians and also an actor who all perform in different languages and styles. Angelo Smimmo from Naples sings in Latin on the opening track with Gnarnayarrahe Inmurry Waitairie—an Indigenous Australian storyteller from Mt. Tom Price in Western Australia; Faheem Mazhar (Pakistan) sings in Urdu and Punjabi and also contributed some text as well as translating some of Alies’s from English into Urdu; Jacqueline Gawler (Australia) sings in English and Portuguese and Juliette Van Peteghem (Belgium) delivers her texts in French. Alies also integrated the poetry of Granaz Moussavi and Michael Kingsbury into three of the tracks as well as writing her own. Nick Farnell (featured on The Machine) is an Australian actor.
Among the abilities she possesses, Alies also composes and performs solo musical pieces like in the video below:
An improvised violin piece performed by Alies Sluiter — Video editing by Joseph Earnest
Her inspiration comes from, John Corigliano, Nitin Sawhney who she’s been very fortunate to have worked with—Kreisler, Ravel, Bach, Bruch, Elgar and Vaughn Williams as well as Sondheim and John Brion.
Just as nothing needs to be added to gold to make it appear beautiful, a composition by Alies can stand on its own and still sound beautiful and authentic. Of the many excellences which I perceive to emanate from her creativity, none is more apparent than her ability to improvise or play by ear.
Humans derive pleasure from harmonious melodies, since they summon and attract the soul to themselves through reason and hearing. Music should not only appeal to the mind and ears, it should also resonate with the heart.
It is therefore fitting to say that in my observation, Alies considers it an accomplishment, when the listener feels pure, salutary and perpetual delight, while listening to the music she composes or plays.
Having listened to the music of Alies Sluiter as a journalist, rather than a music critic, I can in truth affirm, that the performing arts are supremely fortunate to secure the allegiance of a composer, who through her gifts and talents is constantly challenging herself to ascend to more worthy tasks.
In addition to her sublime musical abilities, nature has endowed Alies with courteous behavior, grace and modesty, to complement her diligence and devotion to her chosen profession.
Moreover, the painstaking study and practice she undertook during her childhood, was enough to offset any musical deficiencies she may have had as a youth, for she effortlessly continues to vanquish the violin as an adult at her live performances, and in the studio.
Alies holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music Performance from Melbourne University; a Postgraduate Diploma in Composition from Victoria College of Arts, Melbourne University; and a Master of Arts in Film Scoring from the Australia Film Television and Radio School.
When Alies first embarked on her career as a composer, just like anyone first starting out, she faced challenges of her own. “When you are first starting out you have the usual trials and tribulations of an Artist’s life—lack of financial security and self doubt, as to whether what you are producing is any good. I guess this is just a rite of passage,” Alies said.
Before she heads back to start work on another album, a film score and music theater piece, Alies basks in the good fortune she has had of working with people from various cultures.
“I enjoy bringing people together from diverse backgrounds who in normal circumstances probably wouldn’t have the opportunity to work with, or meet each other. Music is great like that—it doesn’t matter if you don’t speak the same language, you can always find a common thread musically and I think the Picture Box Orchestra album reflects that,” she said.
On the Web: http://www.aliessluiter.com