Caroline Leisegang is a young rising star in the world of South African classical music. She recently released her new and exquisite album Simple Circles. We caught up with the composer to talk about her time spent at Trinity College, the male-dominated world of South African classical music and what she has been working on lately besides her new album.
Classical music is a rather unconventional genre for a young South African musician to pursue. What influenced your love and passion for the genre and swayed you to pursue studying and composing classical music?
I’m not really sure, I was classically trained since the age of 6 and just stayed with what I knew. Studied music for matric, which was all classical theory and performance and so it was really the only way of music I knew.
You were awarded the amazing opportunity of attending Trinity College. What was that experience like and besides the obvious musical education – what did you learn and take from attending it?
It’s a very difficult experience to describe. The best way I could sum it up is by saying I honestly and truly learned to compose. It was theory based, but rather it forced me to go out, experience my surroundings and write about what I saw and felt.
The majority of classical music composers in South Africa are all much older than you and are all mainly male – is it rather daunting at times to be so young and composing music when you have to compete with people that have much more experience than you?
I wouldn’t say it’s daunting, it’s more nerve-wracking. I’m essentially trying to find my place and place my own sound in an industry that doesn’t really have a huge platform for classical, and apart from that, it’s trying to bring what I know to the table and almost hope for the best. The thing about experience is that it doesn’t always matter in composition, the nature of composition is evolving and growing so fast that you have to get up, learn as you go and write the best way you know how, and ultimately not think of anyone else. The best part of writing music is being able to learn how others write music and take from it what you need or want.
Many regard classical music as being a style of music that should only be listened to by “old people” – what are your thoughts on this sentiment?
Haha! Maybe I’m an old person! Classical music is for everyone, that’s my opinion. You have some 60 something’s listening to Taylor Swift and loving it, and you have some 7 yr olds listening to Chopin. Music is music.
I feel like much of your music, with its rather simple and emotional composition, is aimed at a younger demographic. Is there a subconscious part of you that is aiming to create music that would introduce a younger audience to classical music?
Definitely! I think it’s such a wonderful genre of music, with such a rich history that it really is for anyone. Classical is cool, I wish more people thought like me.
What is your process for composing your musical pieces – is there a specific formula that you follow when putting together compositions or is it a spur of the moment type thing?
It’s a bit of both. I use structure in it, but it’s as it comes.
When creating your music – is there anything, in particular, that influences what you create?
Not really. I’d say it’s more to do with my day to day life.
You also used to perform with The Frown – an incredibly eclectic South African band. Is there anything that you learned from performing with them that you’ve now incorporated into your classical music?
Well, I definitely learned that I’d like to play my cello more often and maybe write for cello one day, but I’m yet to do that.
I also understand that you are currently working on a ballet – can you give any insight into how that is coming along and what we can expect from it?
It’s coming along very well. The music is complete and will record early next year. All I can say is that it’ll be more of a short film and not a stage production.
Finally, can we expect you to go on tour with your music in the near future?
Good question! I’m hoping for 2017!