Developed from extensive research into bee (buzz) rhythm, pitch, and “waggle dance” patterns, BEE-SHARP HONEYBEE from composer Rae Howell is an immersive journey through the secret life of bees, performed here by the Sunwrae String Orchestra, intertwined with the hum of a live honeybee hive.
Today, Rae is our featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our composers and performers. Read on to learn about her varied passions outside of music, from making art out of recycled pianos to volunteer firefighting and more…
What have been your biggest inspirations on your musical journey?
My musical journey has always been inspired by nature. If I really think about it, my intrepid musical-adventure-seeking throughout many countries around the globe, has spurred countless creative projects inherently linked to our natural world and environmental science phenomena. And because there’s no Planet B, over time I’ve become more focussed on creating specific climate-related projects, researching the incredible rhythm and pitch patterns found in nature, particularly those concerning the impact of environmental issues we are immediately faced with.
Tell us about your first performance.
Delightfully dressed, hair in pigtails, I confidently strolled out onto the stage to perform for a piano competition. The only hiccup was, that at the tender age of 6 or 7, I’d never played on a grand piano before and had no idea where the sheet music should sit (the piano was soo big!). Time and time again, my sheet music kept slipping off the keys, until finally it wafted through the air and came to a rest (well) underneath the belly of the piano. I reluctantly crawled my way across the stage and under the big beast to retrieve my music, in front of a now-giggling (read: cackling) audience. If only they could see me now.
If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing?
I’d be tap dancing! Or failing that, fighting fires. My world is a rather colorful patchwork of activities, so I’m never short of things to do. Apart from writing and playing, I’m also a piano technician, a music & arts lecturer, I make art from recycled pianos (for the love of our environment and sustainability), and I’m a volunteer (wildfire) firefighter (just made lieutenant!) in my regional community in Australia. My multimedia projects somehow fit in around all of that!
What were your first musical experiences?
My creative journey began sitting on my bedroom floor with my beloved Casio AM/FM radio cassette recorder (the one with the bass boost), making DIY radio shows for friends and family. Capitalizing on my piano practice, I recorded original intros and outros, live and unplugged, until the player kept chewing up the tapes. Here, my bittersweet plan to become a musician was born. Daily practice minutes turned to hours, and my fascination with all-things-music has since paved an adventurous path of writing and performing, collaborating, conducting, and curating (rather ambitious) music performance projects.
Where and when are you at your most creative?
I am definitely at my most creative when I’ve a clean slate and I have the time to really focus on a single project. I like to go “away” to compose, so I can go deep into my creative work, as there’s generally buckets of other administration and production work (and chores!) to be distracted with otherwise. I have a home studio where I am usually very productive, but for fresh creative work I prefer to be somewhere else, with a gorgeous view of trees/mountains/water, and remote, so my hat-juggling doesn’t get in the way!