Melbourne-based composer and pun enthusiast Samantha Wolf is quickly gaining recognition as one of Australia’s most distinctive young voices. A graduate of the Queensland and Melbourne Conservatoriums, her music has been described as ‘haunting’ (XS Entertainment) and ‘enigmatic’ (Blue Curtains). Her diverse practice encompasses instrumental, choral, orchestral, interdisciplinary, electroacoustic and fixed media works.
Samantha’s music is deeply reflective of its time and place, and draws inspiration from various sources, particularly scientific and physical phenomena, and environmental and social issues. Her music inhabits the space between the classical, contemporary, acoustic and electroacoustic worlds, while being grounded in the notated tradition. She relishes working with weird and wonderful instruments, such as the Uilleann Pipes (Splinter), and common instruments used in unusual ways, such as bowed Electric Guitar (at the mercy of the elements). Recent interests include fixed media (The More I Think About It, The Bigger It Gets) and found sounds, used extensively in Want Not, commissioned for Rubiks Collective’s inaugural Pythia Prize.
Samantha has worked with many of Australia’s leading new music ensembles, including the Melbourne and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestras, The Song Company, the Horsley Williams Duo, Rubiks Collective, and Kupka’s Piano, with whom she is an Associate Artist. Her music has been performed around Australia and internationally, including at the Darmstadt Summer Courses for New Music (Germany), soundSCAPE Festival (Italy), Impuls Academy (Austria), Norfolk Chamber Music Festival (USA), and local staples Tilde New Music Festival and the 2high Festival. Her music has been broadcast on ABC Classic FM, 3MBS, PBS and 4MBS, and featured by Making Waves, Partial Durations, Collective Soundwaves, and ABC’s New Waves podcast. An avid writer, Samantha’s articles have been published by Resonate, CutCommon and Rehearsal Magazine. Samantha is represented by the Australian Music Centre.
Composer website: https://www.samanthawolfmusic.com/
Fireflies, for Solo Saxophone.
Featured in Playlist 11: Saxophone Waves 30/11/15
Shiver, for orchestra.
Featured in Playlist 2: Other-Worldly Waves 28/02/15
The Binds That Tie Us, for small keyboard instruments and tape.
‘The Binds That Tie Us’ was a collaborative work between Alex Raineri, Gemma Dawkins and myself, commissioned for Kupka’s Piano for ‘The Human Detained’. The work aims to explore the human detained by the trivial, self-inflicted, or the intangible. Our starting point was the metaphor of walking on eggshells – this had interesting physical, sonic and narrative possibilities, which formed the basis of the first section of the piece. This proved to be a useful catalyst, as we soon began considering related but broader concepts, including inner conflict, solitude, introversion, agoraphobia, rationalising the irrational, and fighting one’s own instincts. These ideas lead to the second and third sections of the work, which explore escaping constraints, resigning oneself to them, and eventually destroying them altogether. This work does not attempt to convey all these concepts within a narrative framework; rather, it uses them as a springboard for an abstract exploration of the tension and complexity of the human self-detained.
Featured in Moving Waves – June 2016
The More I Think About it the Bigger it Gets, for audio and chamber ensemble.
This piece is my first foray into the world of sound art. This piece takes after the soundwalks of Hildegard Westerkamp, but adds a psychological and socio-cultural element by juxtaposing statements from a variety of sources (e.g news reports, interviews, panel discussions) against environmental sounds. The result is a soundwalk of both the environment and of the mind; specifically, the internal and external sounds a woman hears when she is walking home alone at night. In doing so, this piece seeks to expose the inherent flaws in the mainstream discussion around women’s freedom of movement.
This version was adapted for live performance with an amplified chamber ensemble.
Featured in Spoken Waves September 2016
Want Not, for Piccolo, Percussion, Piano/Toy Piano & Cello with found objects.
Commissioned by Rubiks for the 2017 Pythia Prize.
Influenced by environmentalism, minimalism, extreme frugality, and the aesthetics of damage, ‘Want Not’ explores the sonic potential of discarded objects, breathing new life into everyday items that would otherwise become landfill. In the scherzo-like opening, a frying pan, mint packets and leftover construction tiles intermingle with percussive Piano sounds. Aeolian tones on the Piccolo complement the mercurial sounds of the Cello prepared with bulldog clips. Music boxes that had been left to gather dust are showcased alongside a Toy Piano and quarter-tone Kalimba. For the final section, empty bottles supplant the Piccolo, augmenting the ethereal sounds of bowed kitchen bowls and piano strings prepared with single-use plastic forks. Overall, the piece is a journey through an eclectic sound world, whimsical and tender at times, solemn and even sinister at others.
While obviously critical of modern throwaway culture, ‘Want Not’ also presents a way to grant would-be litter a new life – as a musical instrument. In doing so, the piece invites the listener to consider the creative possibilities of the objects around them, even if the object appears to have outlived its intended purpose.
Featured in Waves of Consciousness (February 2019)
Samantha Wolf was interviewed for the Making Conversation: Australian Composers’ Podcast, Episode 25, 23/10/16.