Mia Li (12R) Wins Young Composer’s Award

Why did you start writing songs and do you think you will continue after school?
I started song-writing and composing for music assignments and in-class tasks. Since then, I have grown to really love writing and will definitely continue after school.

Music doesn’t write itself. How do you approach the creation of a new song?
To be honest, I haven’t done quite enough writing to answer that question! But the songs of which I am most proud have all been in response to some sort of stimulus: a story; my thoughts; or the thoughts of people around me.

It takes a lot of time to develop composing skills, what skills would you say are most influential in your song-writing?
Something that our music teachers stress is that no one sits down and starts writing a good song. I’m still working on it, but when I find myself accepting that it is alright to write without being constantly critical of myself, song-writing and composing becomes a much easier, more genuine, and more fun process. So the skill I think is most important (and that I would like to define my song-writing) is being open-minded and forgiving towards yourself.

Do you use an instrument when you are composing and what role does it play?
I like starting with a melody by humming a tune, or writing down the lyrics first. I used to try starting with the piano or Garageband but then found that it made me think too much and got in the way of writing.

What inspired you to write the song/piece you submitted for the ASME Young Composer’s Competition?
I wrote my song ‘I am confused’ because I was uncertain about what path to follow after graduating from BGGS. At the time, I asked everyone for advice, but in the end, the different opinions left me feeling overwhelmed. I found myself preparing my ANU application with a blank preferences form open on my laptop. Trying to be logical about it, I started writing a pros and cons list for the degrees I was considering and halfway through, I found myself writing lyrics.

Conveniently, Ms Cummings had also organised a task where BGGS alumna and singer-songwriter, Jo Davie (2012), had recorded some instrumental samples as inspiration for us and we were to write a song and submit it for feedback. I opened her guitar sample and wrote the song. After that, I filled in my preferences list, feeling much less confused than I had been before.

Is there an artist that has been highly influential on you as a songwriter?
I listen to a mix of different artists including Nick Cave, Thelma Plum, Carpenters, Kee’Ahn, Elgar, Alicia Keys, Courtney Barnett, Vera Lynn and Gotye. But the most influential artists to me have been the people in my music class—they’re amazing!

What else is important to you about music?
Plato said: ‘Music and rhythm find their way to the secret places of the soul’. I agree.