Emma Cardon, a senior in Logan High School, has been writing music most of her life. Recently she won the South-West division of the Music Teacher National Association Student Composition Competition. She is also a National YoungArts Foundation 2017 competition winner in the high school division.
“I started when I was really young," Cardon said. "I started messing around when I started piano when I was four. There’s a program when I was five where I arranged something. But the first piece that I actually composed, I was six and I sent that to a competition and I won. After that I just kept going.”
While breaking traditional classical music rules, Cardon writes atonal movements which create a feeling of tension and explore the musical spectrum of sounds. Cardon focuses on motivs- small musical patterns of two or three notes, along with forms, which create the structure of a piece. She also draws inspiration from the small details she observes in the world around her.
“Usually I start out coming up with something to focus on," she said. "Like some books that I’ve been doing recently are about different bugs and how they move. So I’ll choose something and I’ll start to map it out. I just write what sorts of patterns that I want to move - motivs, form - things like that. I usually just start writing. Sometimes I’ll plan more than others. I used to start at the piano mostly cause I was writing piano music. But now I write mostly chamber music or orchestra so I just do everything on the computer.”
Cardon has also completed numerous pieces for specific groups including the American Festival Chorus and Orchestra. She says the composition process varies when writing for a specific group in order to cater towards their desires.
“Last October," Caron said, "I did a piece for the American Festival Chorus and they just said they wanted something Halloweeny for their Halloween concert - not too weird, so there’s constrictions a lot to what you can do. I think most of the stuff I do is more of the learning experience- exercises.”
But for Cardon it’s not the writing part that draws her to composing, instead it’s hearing someone else play her piece for the first time.
“I think it’s when you have the actual performance. Seeing it sort of come to life - I guess you can say. It’s something you just hear in your head and then you write it down and it’s just notes," she said. "But then when you have an audience and people responding to it, it’s almost like you didn’t even do it. It’s sort of an interesting perspective.”
Cardon plans on attending Vanderbelt University’s Blair School of Music and majoring in composition next fall. She hopes to eventually be a full-time composer.
**Music by Emma Cardon and performed by the American Festival Chorus and Orchestra.