Eliza Davis

Art form: Music – Composition

Title: Ain’t Jealous

What was the inspiration behind your piece?

My biggest goal since discovering my love of jazz, was to write a big band chart. Combine that with a love for drama and musical theatre, and you get this piece. The song takes on a couple meanings in terms of its lyrics, one of a jealous ex-girlfriend, and one of the jazz genre feeling unloved due to the popularity of modern pop music. For ‘Ain’t Jealous’, the nearly-satirical overdramatic style of the lyrics took inspiration from the styles of Rachel Bloom, Adam Schlesinger, and Tim Minchin, after I realised I couldn’t take myself seriously as a seventeen-year-old writing about all these life experiences I had yet to have. The musical style of the song was originally inspired by Lerner & Lane’s ‘Every Night at Seven’ that was adapted into a fast-paced swing tune for the musical ‘On a Clear Day You Can See Forever’ starring Harry Connick Jr. The style later evolved to emulate an uptempo Basie chart like ‘The Kid From Redbank’, while also including a descent into utter chaos reminiscent of Ed Partyka’s ‘Get Happy’ and Bob Brookmeyer’s ‘Hello and Goodbye’.

What were the main challenges you faced in composing this piece and how did you go about overcoming these?

When I began writing the lyrics for my big band piece, I struggled to think of a topic to suit the style of music. My teacher told me to just write extensive rants and pull lyrics from there, so I set about writing this wildly overdramatic rant about how undervalued and under-appreciated the jazz genre is nowadays, and it eventually transformed into this melodramatic satirical journey of a jealous ex-girlfriend who essentially goes through the stages of grief through song. Most of my teachers can confirm that I tend to overcomplicate things, and this was a challenge when trying to write simple catchy melodies because I overcrowded them with unnecessary passing notes and acciaccaturas, losing the essence of the melody. I learnt that most times, less is more, to be brutal in chopping down melodies, and that the silence in a melody is just as important as the notes.

What advice would you give to future Year 12 composers who are preparing for their exams?

1.     Let go of the perfectionist side of you for a moment. I remember my teacher telling me to stop second-guessing every choice I made nearly every week, which is super important when you’re just trying to get material down, otherwise you end up not writing anything because you don’t find that it’s good enough.

2.     There are parts you won’t enjoy (like Sibelius midi sounds making your counterlines sound like crappy Mario sound effects), but it’s all worth it for all the parts you do.

3.     If you can work with the ensemble you’re writing for throughout the compositional process, do it!! You never really know how something sounds until a real band has played it, and it helps inform your choices so much.

4.     Be prepared to put the work in. Pieces don’t write themselves.

5.     Sing your melodies, it’ll make a world of difference.

6.     Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not a real composer, especially if you’re a female, and even-more-especially if you’re a female in jazz. There’s a line in the Carole King musical ‘Beautiful’ in which her mother tells her that ‘Girls don’t write music. They teach it.’. There are going to be people who think you don’t have the strength for it or that you aren’t clever enough, but let it fuel you to work even harder.

7.     If given the opportunity to, conduct ensembles! It will help you understand the importance of each instrument’s role and importance in the ensemble, and how to write for them practically.

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