Tuesday 18th June

Q&A with composer Salina Fisher

Photo credit: Hagen Hopkins

Opening this weekend's Lamb & Hayward Masterworks concert, Organic, is New Zealand composer Salina Fisher's Rainphase. Originally from Christchurch, Salina became the youngest winner of the SOUNZ Contemporary Award in 2016. Currently based in New York, she has been recently appointed the 2019 Composer-in-Residence of Victoria University of Wellington's New Zealand School of Music - Te Kōkī. 

We recently had a chat with her about Rainphase and returning to the Christchurch Town Hall. 


You're originally from Christchurch. How does it feel having the CSO perform your work in the restored Town Hall? Have you been inside the Town Hall yet?

The Christchurch Town Hall holds a very special place in my heart – it’s where I first discovered orchestral music, both as a listener and as a performer. My many treasured memories in the Town Hall include numerous CSO and NZSO concerts, as well as hearing the NZSO National Youth Orchestra for the first time, for whom I later wrote  Rainphase. I’ve been looking forward to entering back into that space for a long time now. I can’t tell you how extraordinarily special it feels to come home and have my music performed there by my hometown orchestra.


How did you start getting into composition?

I had an unusually early introduction to composing. I began playing piano and violin at a young age and have always loved being creative with sound. Luckily I had some great teachers here who nurtured that creativity, and I was able to write down my first piece aged seven. I was also very fortunate to have a few mind-blowing opportunities at the time to perform these early pieces, including with the CSO aged nine. That gave me a glimpse into what might be possible as a composer, and I’ve been inspired to keep writing ever since.


Where do you find your inspiration?

Beginning a new piece feels completely different each time for me. I try to keep my mind as open as I can to all kinds of inspiration, and always challenge myself to take new risks while being true to my creative voice.


Who are the composers you most admire?

Recently, and for different reasons, I’m particularly interested in composers Ashley Fure, Anna Thorvaldsdottir, Du Yun, Reena Esmail, Tonia Ko, and Liza Lim.


What advice would you give to young composers just starting out?

Go to as many performances as you can, explore many different kinds of music, and really listen. Keep an open mind, be curious, and don't be afraid to keep asking questions. Make friends with performers! Trust your instincts, and write music you believe in.


With Rainphase, why did you pick Wellington rain as the subject matter? How did the idea come about?

Having moved to Wellington after growing up in Christchurch, I was endlessly fascinated by the dramatic differences in the weather and landscape. The wind and rain there can be overwhelming and beautiful, and the landscape allows you to see it move and evolve from a distance. I was also really taken by the beauty and stillness of the ‘after-rain’ reflection of coloured lights on sloped streets. While I was soaking up these surroundings during my years studying in Wellington, I also spent a lot of time playing in orchestras, often imagining different sonic possibilities and combinations across the ensemble. So, when the opportunity arose to write a new work for the NYO to be premiered in Wellington, I felt like I’d been mentally preparing to write Rainphase for a while!


Tickets for Organic are available from Eventfinda.co.nz