Vinicius Motta is a Brazilian-born composer and performer currently in his first year at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. Initially a pianist and guitarist, he realised his passions for composition through joining the Young Composers Project in 2017. His ambitions were undeterred by a degenerative visual condition; since completing YCP, he has composed for an eclectic variety of ensembles including Orchestra of the Swan and the Uncommon Quartet, and attended music summer programmes with Sound and Music and Handel & Hendrix (in partnership with RNIB). We asked him a couple of questions about his compositional journey, his process of applying to conservatoires, and how his first year at RBC has been despite being in a pandemic.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on 3 different pieces: A piece for Symphony Orchestra, a piece for solo (unaccompanied) Violoncello and a piece for synthesizers, electric guitar and drums.
How did you get into composing?
Prior to taking part in YCP, I had little composition experience as I used to see myself as a performer rather than a composer. However, YCP helped me to find my passion for composition which only grew more and more as time passed. Being able to create something is a unique experience, there is no better feeling than being able to write down what goes through musically in your mind.
Can you talk a bit about putting together a portfolio for your audition?
Creating a portfolio is not an easy task! It must be cautiously prepared, containing your most distinct works. Remember that how you present your work also reflects on others impression of you. I spent days editing pieces, changing fonts, adjusting layouts, creating a cover and back cover, making sure that everything was clearly presented and notated.
In regards of the content of it, I aimed to show contrasting pieces for different instrumentations, ranging from a contemporary solo Baroque Violin Piece, Jazz and small-medium chamber ensemble pieces created with the aim to use in a RPG video game soundtrack.
Why did you decide to study at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire?
Since I started living in the UK (2017), I was always based in Birmingham and I knew I would benefit from studying in an institution based in the same region. In addition, once I moved, I knew that I wanted to study Music. Then, I took part of YCP, not only did I find my passion for composition, but I also had a wonderful experience within the facilities, especially in the LAB. What really attracted me was the individualized approach that staff at the Conservatoire employs, such as the regular 1 to 1 sessions in your principal study. Furthermore, I was aware that if I went to RBC, I would have many opportunities to work with live musicians and ensembles.
What has it been like studying at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire in this year?
It has been a strange experience, as I was on campus for a very short period of time. Although we are not facing a normal year, there has been various opportunities for composers to write for different instrumentations, ranging from soloists to quartets and quintets, and I am definitely making the most of these opportunities!
Social interaction proves to be a bit challenging as interacting online is a very different experience from interacting in person. I keep regular online touch with my peers (composers and performers), occasionally asking a performer’s opinion on a passage I have written.
Do you have a favourite class/module at the Conservatoire?
I enjoy Applied Composition and Orchestration as I find myself constantly using what I learn from those lessons in my work. However, I would say that Composition Studies is my favorite as I have never experienced something like those sessions before! Each sessions always bring something fun, new and exciting, such as Fluxus, in which we performed unusual written instructions, and the use of non-sound related elements in a composition.
What are your experiences composing during COVID-19? How have you managed to stay creative and inspired?
Composing during COVID-19 has been an interesting experience. I had to learn new skills such as preparing click tracks, so that I could have a piece for a small ensemble recorded.
I enjoy writing for large ensembles and due to the current world scenario, performing such works are very unlikely. It is a bit frustrating, however I always try to find the opportunity to extract the maximum of what I can work with, and COVID-19 is no different. I am using this time to explore new sonorities and techniques (such as understanding how synthesizers work), so that I can keep inspired and composing.
Did YCP help prepare you for your studies at RBC?
Absolutely! In YCP, I became more confident when presenting my work to others and talking about it. It was also during YCP when I had my first 1 to 1 sessions exclusively focused on composing.
What was your favourite moment from YCP?
My favorite moments during YCP were the 1 to 1 sessions that I had with my tutor (at that time, Dan Cippico). With his advice and guidance, I became more confident in presenting my work as well as composing. If I had not made most of my time during my 1 to 1s with him, it is very unlikely that I would be where I am now.
Can you provide a tip for young composers?
Recently I have met many composers who do not share/ like sharing their work with others. From my point of view, that is not something beneficial.
So, my advice is: Do share your music with others! It may look challenging and you may feel shy or embarrassed about it, however if you do not share your work with others, ‘everyone loses’ in the process. You ‘lose’ as you miss an opportunity to receive feedback (positive and less positive) which may allow you to further develop yourself as a composer. Everyone else ‘loses’ as the work you created could have inspired and influenced the others around you.
The thoughts that I share in regards of presenting work are very similar to principles of Quantum Physics. I employ the following line of thought: if there is no one else to listen to your work apart from you, does your work really ‘exist’? Once you, as an observer, is gone, all essence of the work you have produced also goes with you; although you may have documented it in some form, no one other than you can better communicate a performance/thoughts of your piece. Therefore, you can state that your true creations have never existed if no one else is aware of them.
As a musician, we are always being influenced and influencing others. Thus, use the opportunity of taking part in YCP to inspire and be inspired by others. Ultimately, use this opportunity to develop yourself as a musician as well as shaping your musical identity!