This September, Momentum Ensemble will take a step into the unknown to perform world premieres of two greatly anticipated works. We caught up with Australian composer Cyrus Meurant to hear about his most recent projects.

Musicians spread on a black stage performing.

Can you tell us a little about how composition became part of your life?

Composition has always been a natural thing for me. Growing up I played violin and keyboard, and I performed in a lot of theatre orchestras for ballet productions, operas and musicals. I did five years of AYO National Music Camp as a composer and violinist, and off the back of these programs ended up receiving a composition fellowship at NIDA in 2004. My first commission was from the Australian Ballet in 2007, and although I had a great deal of experience playing in theatre orchestras in my teenage years, this was my first foray into writing music for dance in a professional sense.

The piece that Momentum Ensemble will premiere this September was commissioned to celebrate the 80th birthday of Leonard Amadio, one of AYO’s long-standing supporters. How did you go about creating this work?

I’ve known Len for some time through involvement with the AYO, so the idea of writing a piece of music to commemorate his 80th birthday wasn’t completely out of the blue. The music is developed from some themes from an opera I’m working on. It’s based on a philosopher, and rather than telling a particular story the opera explores his different ideas and philosophies.

Len’s commission is quite a powerful piece, which I think is apt for a celebratory birthday composition. It really builds up to quite a height before coming back to its original theme again, I’m looking forward to hearing the Momentum musicians bring it to life!

Do you enjoy collaborating with other people to create music?

I’ve worked closely with a lot of choreographers, and it’s really interesting to note the differences between them. In opera the composer tends to have the final say, but with ballet — choreographer is king. Fitting the music to the narrative of the dance can be quite challenging; it’s like problem solving. The positive aspect of working with dancers is that they can often be a great source of inspiration for me. If I’m struggling to write I will visit the studio and watch the dancers; it makes it a lot more realistic.

One of your most recent collaborations was a unique one…

Yes, it was! I was approached by Linda Beaumont, proprietor of Beaumont Care in Brisbane, who asked me whether I would be interested in writing some music to be installed in care homes. At first I was unsure whether I was the right person for the job as I have no background in care or music therapy. I decided to fly to Brisbane to meet the team, and everybody was so enthusiastic! Having spoken to the nurses and specialists I came up with the idea of writing music for four different times of day; morning, afternoon, evening and night; and these pieces are now played during meal times and group activities. They’ve had a really positive effect on the residents at the home, which is very rewarding for me too.

Momentum Ensemble will performs Cyrus Meurant’s All things come into being and pass away, on Sunday 3 September at the High Court in Canberra, and Monday 4 September at the Gallery in Melbourne.

In the meantime, check out some of Cyrus’ recent work from his album, Monday to Friday.