Tag Archives: Debussy

Interview with Eloise Ruth Garland

This interview took place online on 15 August 2020 between City’s Head of the Department of Music, Dr Ian Pace, and BMus graduate Eloise Ruth Garland.

Ian Pace: Hello again, all! I’d like to introduce you to another graduate of City’s BMus who has kindly agreed to do an interview, Eloise Ruth Garland, who graduated in 2016. Eloise is a professional musician, teacher, producer, and Deaf awareness campaigner based in London. She works alongside a number of charities and organisations to promote full inclusion and access to music for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing. She is also Associate Director of Audiovisability, a professional music and arts platform for Deaf and hearing professionals to showcase their work. In 2017, Eloise presented the radio documentary Listening Without Ears, which was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 as part of the station’s The Art of Living series (see the link below). The documentary explored ways in which people with hearing loss engage with music and sound, and challenged listeners to consider music appreciation from another perspective.

Eloise, you came to City from Chetham’s School of Music. What made you choose us, and how did the nature of your music study at university differ from what you had previously experienced?


Eloise Garland: Hi Ian – hi everyone! Thanks for having me today.

That’s right; I was a student at Chetham’s before coming to City in 2013. One of the primary reasons I chose City was because it seemed to offer the best of both worlds; I knew I didn’t want to pursue an undergraduate degree at a conservatoire, but equally I wanted the opportunity to continue developing my performance skills to a high level. City’s BMus course offered the environment and resources to take performance to the next level in more academic surroundings without the intense pressures I had felt previously at a primarily performance-based school.

IP: And as the course progressed, did you find it was as you expected, or different in some ways?

EG: The course exceeded my expectations – not least due to the wide variety of modules to choose from, spanning all areas of music.

The first year offered a range of core modules designed to widen students’ perspectives and experiences of music as a whole. The musicianship classes were something I hadn’t quite experienced before – they were very challenging at first, but helped me to get a grasp on some of the areas of music that, as a violinist and singer, I hadn’t had the opportunity to develop previously (for example, complex rhythms!). The whole year stretched my knowledge and understanding of music around the world, and I was challenged to engage in activities such as composition – something that I had previously avoided! At the time I’m not sure I appreciated the impact that these modules would have, but looking back I can see how fundamental they were in furthering my learning and adjusting to higher education.

The second and third years of the course offered the opportunity to hone in on my interests and skills – and again, the modules on offer were always wide-ranging and interesting.

IP: What were some of the modules you took in your second and third years? I certainly remember you taking several of the ones I taught then.

EG: Yes, I took several of your modules, including ‘Music, Fascism and Communism’, ‘Debussy’, and ‘Nineteenth Century Opera’. I really valued the discussions we had as a group each week, fuelled of course by the additional reading materials and recordings. These discussions would cover all aspects of the music, such as score analysis, performance interpretation, and the social and political landscapes that influenced composers. This really developed my independent critical thinking which has had a lasting impact on many aspects of my career.

I also took a variety of other modules such as ‘Sound, Music and the Moving Image’, ‘Professional Development’, and ‘Music, Sound and the Environment’. The former and latter both offered the opportunity to consider how music is applied to our lifestyles and environments, while the Professional Development module allowed me to explore my interests as an emerging young musician. As students we were able to meet professional musicians working in the music industry and embark on work placements – a great opportunity to start building early networks!

IP: Fantastic – so have you been able to build upon some of the networks which began to form then?

EG: Absolutely – these networks have grown from very small roots to large branches over the last four or five years! I am still in touch with some of the professional contacts I made at City and they have all been incredibly supportive, offering guidance and moral support throughout my own journey.

IP: Since graduating, you have gone on to do a large amount of vital activity, teaching, broadcasting, campaigning, relating to deafness and hearing issues. May I ask how such issues affected your own study, and what sorts of measures institutions can best take to help those in a similar situation?

EG: Of course! I am particularly passionate about this area of work because I am deaf myself and wear two hearing aids. I also have severe tinnitus in both ears. As a musician I was faced with a unique set of challenges – for example, hearing aids often distort sounds, changing the pitch or volume of sound. Listening can be hard work and would often leave me absolutely exhausted at the end of the day.

While I did receive some support, at the time I was far less confident about advocating for myself and my needs – something I wish I could go back and change. That’s why I feel it is very important that new students who are deaf or have a disability are aware of the support that the university and faculty can offer. It may take the form of extra equipment (specialist microphones or a laptop), communication support (interpreters, note takers), or increased support in other areas (e.g. additional meetings with a mentor). I would urge any student who has any form of disability to talk to City’s Disability Support service and their lecturers during the very first week – it really will make things a lot easier!

IP: I know you have spoken about such things as the difficulties when lecturers move around frequently when they speak. Are there particular things like this you would recommend all those who teach think about?

I also imagine in this age, with facemasks, there are a new set of difficulties?

EG: Yes, there are a variety of simple techniques that make listening and watching far easier for deaf or hard of hearing students like myself. A few of my top tips are:

– Limit moving around the room too much or turning your back to the students as this makes it difficult to lipread.
– Avoid standing in front of windows as this casts your body and face into a silhouette (again, difficult for lipreading!).
– Repeat any questions or answers from other students before continuing with the discussion.
– If a student has one, use a special microphone which sends your voice directly to their hearing devices.
– If possible, set the room up so that everybody can be seen clearly.

Facemasks are also a bit of a nightmare! There are masks available with clear panels on the front – while not perfect, they do make the lips more visible and communication a little easier. If a student is struggling to hear you the first time, do repeat and rephrase what you’re saying, or discuss other ways of aiding communication.

IP: How about musicians themselves? What can they do, not least when playing with others who have hearing difficulties?

EG: Many of the same tips apply. For me, one of the most helpful things a conductor or director can do is to show bar numbers visually using their hands – this stops the old ‘is it bar 15 or 50?’ confusion creeping in! It isn’t hard to do and really does make the rehearsal process much smoother! Again, making sure that your face is clearly visible is key.

IP: Can you tell me some more about your educational work since leaving City?

EG: Sure – I work primarily with charities including Music of Life, Decibels, and Yorkshire Youth and Music to bring accessible music making opportunities to deaf and hard of hearing children and adults. People often assume that music needs to be simplified for deaf children – especially if they are British Sign Language users – but this isn’t the case. I am lucky to work alongside other deaf musicians such as flautist Ruth Montgomery to bring high-quality music education to all children, with a focus on general musicianship, reading notation, learning instruments, working in ensembles, and learning about music from around the world.

IP: You mentioned about multiple traditions of music from around the world earlier as well. Could you tell me of some which you have found especially interesting or captivating, and which you employ in your teaching nowadays?

EG: I am particularly attracted to music from the Middle East – an interest which was sparked during my second year at City whilst on Laudan Nooshin’s ‘Music Traditions of the Middle East’ module. I have since gone on to work with Laudan on a project with Tiny Owl Publishing, in which Laudan came to Frank Barnes School for Deaf Children to deliver a workshop about Iranian music. The children got the opportunity to see and hear a qanun – a plucked Iranian zither – and create their own rhythms using daf drums. I am still using these rhythms in my teaching to this day!

IP: I know you also have some thoughts on the opportunities for music study amongst those from less privileged or monied backgrounds. Would you like to share any reflections on this issue?

EG: I think it is a complex issue but, as someone from a working-class (and non-musical) background, I am very passionate about spreading the word that music can and should be accessible to all. Many local authorities, especially in London and other large cities, offer brilliant ‘wider ops’ classes for school children – often for free – so I would urge parents to take every opportunity available to them and their children. There were no such schemes where I grew up (North Wales), so I first picked a violin up aged 9 when the school decided to hire a teacher.

Importantly, just like I mentioned with deaf and hard of hearing students, I believe that music needn’t be simplified because of a person’s background – everyone is capable of achieving in music, and we all benefit from having hundreds of thousands of fantastic resources at our fingertips these days!

IP: My parents both came from working-class backgrounds, though by the time I came along, they could be said to have belonged to the lower middle class. They just got a piano into the house as a piece of furniture and apparently I asked about having lessons. But nowadays there are many who say classical music is a purely ‘middle class’ thing, of no ‘relevance’ to those from other backgrounds. Have you come across such views, and do you have any responses to them?

EG: I come across these views on an almost daily basis, and it shows just how much work there is left to do. I believe role models one of the most effective ways to show children and young people that classical music is relevant to everyone. Both Chetham’s and City were very good at this type of outreach work when I was studying!

IP: On a lighter note, do you have any particular abiding memories (not necessarily directly about study) from your time at City?

EG: I think one of my favourite memories from City was at the 2013 Christmas Cabaret. I distinctly remember 10 of us gathered around the piano (including one person lying on top!), each playing with one finger. I can’t remember what we were playing – but it was an awful lot of fun!

IP: The ‘Restrictive Practices Suite’! Transcribed from here. (It was Chris Wiley laying on the top of the piano). You must come back and we should do it again sometime!

Eloise, thank you so much for your time and fascinating thoughts. Do you have any further links you would like to share?


EG: That’s it – what a brilliant time!

I’d like to share the link to the recent Music of Life online conference where you can find out a bit more about the work I have been focusing on since 2017. We are just about to take on 4 new trainees for the 2020/21 academic year and there will be other opportunities in future to get involved. Do reach out to me if you would like to find out more.


Thanks for having me this evening – it has been great!


Interview with Toby Edwards

This interview took place online on 14 August 2020 between City’s Head of the Department of Music, Dr Ian Pace, and BMus graduate Toby Edwards.

Ian Pace: I’d like to welcome Toby Edwards. Toby graduated from City in 2018, since which time he has been working on a series of music projects, one a band with Felipe Airey-Franco and Tom Overton, who graduated the same year as him, the other an experimental free improvisation collective he co-founded with Jamie Turner who graduated from City the year before, all while working out what was to come next which will be a masters’ at Goldsmiths starting this term coming.

Toby, welcome back. Your time at City was somewhat more recent than with some others who have been interviewed, and so I imagine many things still remain quite fresh and vivid – what are your abiding memories from your study with us?

Toby Edwards: What’s stayed with me the most from my time at City is certainly the modules and lectures, which is all thanks to lecturers, including yourself! I think it would be difficult not to vouch for the quality of teaching and teachers at City, they are all so passionate, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable about their subjects and clearly very happy to be teaching them! The breadth of learning you can give yourself with your module choices at City is something to be envied, take advantage of this!

I remember speaking to friends on other courses at other universities and they’d often say that their lectures are boring and they often not bother to go, but for me that was never once a thought – I consistently found myself gaining so much from the teaching at City that lectures were something to look forward too, even when waking up early!

Special mentions to the Christmas Cabaret and also to the City University Experimental Ensemble, it introduced a completely new manner of playing music to me, as well as being an all around fun, meditative, relaxing, invigorating ensemble to be in! I’ll forever be thankful to Tullis for it. (You can even spot me in the banner photo above during a CUEE rehearsal).

IP:  What were amongst your early musical interests before beginning undergraduate study?

TE: Before joining the course at City I had actually done my first year of study at the University of Kent, I was unsatisfied with the course there and looked into the possibility of transferring and City were happy to take me.

Before I went to university at all, I was interested in, but not exceptionally knowledgeable of, soul, jazz and classical, as a listener of all three and performer of soul and jazz. A fan of learning James Jamerson basslines, learning more about playing jazz, listening to Shostakovitch, but of course going to a university to study music busted this right open. I was rapidly introduced to a far greater variety of music than I had ever been before and my interests developed, deepened, and I wanted to learn more about more. Part of my reason for leaving Kent in favour of City was the lack of variety in Kent’s module choices at the time, which City provided to me more than amply.

IP: Which modules did you take at City?

TE: In my second year I did the core module Analysing Music, then my choices were: Instrumental and Vocal Composition, Music Traditions of the Far East (which I was lucky enough to be on during Prof. Steve Stanton’s final year of teaching), Historical Performance Practice, Music, Fascism and Communism; and Popular Music Now.

In my final year I chose to do two major projects, a Dissertation on Debussy’s relationship with Japanese art and his music, and a Composition portfolio which explored indeterminacy in composition and performance. My chosen modules were: Debussy, Orchestral and Instrumental Studies, and Electronic Dance Music.

IP: I remember your dissertation on Debussy and Japanese art well! What attracted you to that sort of area in particular?

TE: The Music Traditions of the Far East module had introduced me to the Japanese art traditions and philosophies the year before, which continue to be a love of mine today (I have an Utamaro print from the early 20th century on my wall above me as I type!)

I can’t remember when exactly I saw them, but I came across a series of photos of Debussy and Stravinsky in one of Debussy’s studies, in one of these photos (which I’ve attached), you can clearly see two ukiyo-e prints: a copy of Hokusai’s Great Wave Off Kanagawa, and a portrait of a woman I couldn’t identify. Seeing this led me to read about Japonisme, the Parisian centred fascination of Japanese art and culture in the mid to late 19th century. Japanese art was well loved, well collected, and influencing visual art significantly. Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Monet, and many other impressionists and turn of the century artists collected, praised and in some cases, directly included their ukiyo-e prints in their work.

Debussy was the same – the cover of the orchestral score for his orchestral work La Mer was an abridged copy of The Great Wave and a set of three piano works entitled Estampes, referring to ukiyo-e prints are the direct evidence of his inclusion of Japanese art in his work, I wanted to see if the connection went further than titles and front covers, so I went ahead and started reading, and some time later, I’d finished a dissertation about it!

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IP: Tell me some more about your experimental free improvisational work, and how that developed with your City colleagues?

TE:  I joined the City University Experimental Ensemble (CUEE) in my second year, I had never freely improvised before, but Tullis Rennie is excellent at getting everyone into the right mindset for it and introducing the mode of playing to the ensemble. it didn’t take very long for me to fall in love with free improvisation, which is surely thanks to all the work Tullis does for CUEE, and all my peers in the ensemble too – ensembles are great for learning and socialising!

Tullis gave us excellent opportunities to perform, with the annual CUEE performance at Iklectik near Waterloo and performances during the rest of the year as part of City’s concert series. We worked with a variety of composers for performances, such as Cath Roberts, Sam Andreae and Michael Finnissy.

It’s in the ensemble that I became friends with Jamie, who after graduating would go on to study a Sound Art masters at LCC. For his masters’ exhibition he wanted to have a live performance of his work: a book of haikus which he composed for music making, for which I was recruited. It was there I met the rest of what would become the collective Subphonics. In my experience the process of working on improvisational is very different from working in any other genre: a much more iterative process, with lots and lots of thought and discussion between playing sessions as you’re not working from scores, or typically from anything that is particularly musically prescriptive. We’ve improvised using sections of books by Zamyatin and Woolf, from how we felt on a very hot day, from using an old English folk song, often one of us may just start playing then we go from there. I find it such a joy to work in such a creative and group-focused manner and wholeheartedly recommend free improvisation and CUEE.

IP: Toby, thanks very much for your time and fascinating thoughts! Do you have any links relating to your work or anything else which interests you, which you would like to share?

TE: Subphonics has just released its first sort-of release: a collage of out recordings from our first year and a bit together as a collective, which I think well demonstrates what I’ve said about the joys of free improvisation and can be found here:


Thanks Ian!