Shop: Clare Johnston

Clare Johnston completed a Bachelor of Music from the University of Melbourne in 2013, where she was awarded the Esther Rofe Award for Composition. In 2015, she won the David Henkels Award for Composition and had her Gypsy Trio performed at the 3MBS Performer of the Year Awards.

The same year, Clare was selected to participate as a composer in the Walden School Creative Musicians Retreat in New Hampshire, USA. She studied with composer Martin Bresnick and had one of her compositions performed by the Wet Ink Ensemble from New York City. Clare was also selected to participate in the Atlantic Music Festival in Maine, USA where she studied with leading American and had her works performed and recorded by the Contemporary Ensemble at the festival and the AMF Orchestra.

Clare was chosen as one of four composers at the AYO National Music Camp 2015 where her music was conducted by James Judd and performed by leading international musicians. Her works have also been performed by Syzygy Ensemble, The Icon Trio and performers at the Melbourne Conservatorium.

In 2016 Clare was accepted into the National Women Composers’ Development Program. Read her interview with CutCommon lead writer Samuel Cottell.

Leaving. Clare Johnston, 2012. Score for solo classical guitar. From the composer: “Leaving is an exploration of form and texture. The first section has a driving feel due to its agitated rhythms, whereas the second section is more flowing, lyrical and reflective. Further contrast is provided in the third section, as it is bright, lilting and more rhythmically complex. The second and first sections then return respectively with alterations to their original material. A broad range of the guitar is used and often two parts or voices can be heard simultaneously in the texture. This piece is inspired by the different emotions people experience when someone they care about is leaving their life”.


Mirror Reflections: I. The Tree. Clare Johnston, 2015. Score for flute, violin, and piano. From the composer: “This piece was inspired by the image of a tree reflected on different surfaces. Whether it be water or glass, the image of the tree is somewhat blurred like an impressionist painting. Its shape changes whichever way you look at it, especially if there are ripples in the water”.


Gypsy Trio. Clare Johnston, 2015. Score for piano. From the composer: “Gypsy Trio is a fiery piece that uses gypsy scales and syncopated rhythms. The work alters between steady chordal rhythms and seemingly improvised virtuosic passages in the violin and cello. The two-note motif and recurring ‘Gypsy’ theme give the piece coherence”.


Mountains. Clare Johnston, 2015. Score for chamber orchestra. Instrumentation: flute, oboe, clarinet in Bb, bassoon, French horn in F, trumpet in C, trombone, tuba, percussion 1: bass drum and glockenspiel, percussion 2: suspended cymbal and vibraphone, harp, piano, 2 violins, voila, cello, contrabass. From the composer: “Mountains has two movements entitled The Ridge and The Valley. The Ridge of a mountain is grand and imposing and often water flows from it into a valley, creating space for a river between mountains. The musical motifs throughout the work reflect the turbulence and tranquillity of nature so evident in the appearance of mountains. While the work is not literally programmatic, I experimented with different melodies, rhythms and harmonies that could convey images of mountains and valleys in sound”.


The Jive. Clare Johnston, 2013. Score for saxophone quartet. From the composer: “The Jive is a lively piece in three sections. It employs minimalist techniques such as canon, adding rhythmic cells, cross-fading, resulting patterns and mensuration canon. Some of these techniques are used more freely than in strict minimalism. I experimented with different canonic textures and the resulting patterns created when shifting motives between the different saxophones. Motives in rhythmic unison as well as cross-rhythms are explored in the last part of the piece. Dynamic swells and funky rhythms make The Jive somewhat unpredictable”.


Stars. Clare Johnston, 2012. Score for cornet and piano. From the composer: “This work was written for my dear friend and fellow composer, Harry Sdraulig. I was captivated by the image of stars as they conjure up many different meanings. A star’s brightness can inspire us; stars are changeable and yet constant; they are sources of unattainable light that we can wish upon. I experimented with different melodic shapes and harmonic colours that could depict this image”.


Stars. Clare Johnston, 2012. Recording.
Behind Blue Eyes. Clare Johnston. Score for solo vibraphone. Written for Claire Edwardes. 



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