Bachtrack is asking the same six questions to many composers this month as part of its focus on contemporary music. Here’s what Carl Vine had to say.

1. What influences are important to you and your music? Do you choose them, or do they choose you?

I write music to convey notions of community, sharing, and commonality. My own musical experience has been shaped by thousands of moments of delight and surprise, and I love revisiting such moments in my own work: the supreme simplicity and architectural integrity of a Bach fugue, Beethoven’s ability to change direction without warning but with absolute inevitability, and Stravinsky’s knack of realigning known objects in entirely unlikely ways to sound perfectly natural. Nothing is forbidden and anything is possible. I think these are my own choices.

2. What (if anything) do you want listeners to take away from your music?

Music has an uncanny way of bypassing our conscious mental processes and touching hidden thoughts, memories and emotions without intervention. I would be happy if my music transports the listener to any places in their own minds they haven’t been before, or to pleasant places that they have – a psychotropic, as it were, experienced with full attention and complete consciousness.

3. Is there a composition of yours which you are most satisfied with? What makes it successful?

I’m not satisfied with everything I’ve ever written, but there are quite a number that give me much pleasure. These ones, on reflection, turn out to be more straightforward than most, like my Third String Quartet, and the solo cantata The Tree of Man – each inventive in their own way, yet also containing much simplicity, while somehow reaching expressive peaks that weren’t obvious while I was in the midst of writing them.

4. How important is new technology to you as a composer?

I’ve composed written scores direct to computer since 1989, and have worked at some stage with almost every electronic musical process that was available up to the end of the 20th century. These are no more than tools, however, and since I gave up working in purely electronic forms, they carry no greater significance than a sharp pencil or a clean sheet of manuscript paper.

5. What music do you enjoy listening to?

I’ve found something to enjoy in at least some examples of music in just about every genre I can think of, including Rock, Pop, Jazz and Country (even if examples in the last one are rare). The common element must be some honest and unique combination of invention and structure that reveals an intelligent and caring creator, or creative team, that shares my vision of the vital importance of sharing musical experiences with others.

6. How is composing changing, and where do you want new music to go in the future?

I tend to go with Ecclesiastes 1:9 on this one (“there is no new thing under the sun”), even though we will all continue to have different ways of saying much the same thing to each other. The notion of artforms progressing unidirectionally and indefinitely strikes me as naïve and unproductive. Evolution alone should have taught us that everything progresses radially, and directionality only becomes significant in hindsight.

Carl Vine first came to prominence in Australia as a composer of music for dance, with 25 dance scores to his credit. His catalogue includes seven symphonies, seven concerti, music for film, television and theatre, electronic music and numerous chamber works. His piano music is played frequently around the world. Although primarily a composer of modern “classical” music he has undertaken tasks as diverse as arranging the Australian National Anthem and writing music for the Olympic Games (1996 Atlanta Olympics, Sydney 2000 presentation).

Born in Perth, he studied piano with Stephen Dornan and composition with John Exton at the University of Western Australia. Moving to Sydney in 1975, he worked as a freelance pianist and composer with a wide range of ensembles, theatre and dance companies over the following decades. His writing for piano, however, remains an important and increasingly popular part of his output; he has written two piano concerti, three piano sonatas and a host of smaller collections including Five Bagatelles (1994) and The Anne Landa Preludes (2006).

Amongst his most acclaimed scores are Mythologia (2000), Piano Sonata (1990) and Poppy (1978) for the Sydney Dance Company, and Choral Symphony (no. 6, 1996) for the West Australian Symphony Orchestra. His first six symphonies are available on the ABC Classics double-CD set Carl Vine: The Complete Symphonies performed by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Much of his chamber music is available on three discs from Tall Poppies Records (TP013, TP120 and TP190), and a CD of his complete string quartet music was recently released on ABC Classics with critics praising his quartets as “assured, tuneful and immaculately crafted”.

Since 2000 Carl has been the Artistic Director of Musica Viva Australia, the world’s largest entrepreneur of chamber music. Since 2006 he has also been the Artistic Director of the Huntington Estate Music Festival, Australia’s most prestigious annual chamber music event. His recent compositions include Fantasia (2013), a piano quintet for the Melbourne Festival, Piano Concerto no. 2 (2012) for the Sydney Symphony and London Philharmonic Orchestras, The Tree of Man (2012), a secular cantata for soprano and strings (premiered by Danielle de Niese and the Australian Chamber Orchestra) and Ring Out, Wild Bells (2012), a carol for the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King’s College Cambridge.

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