Music student Caspian Scott hit the right note with his composition for an iconic Canberra instrument.

An aspiring music composer from The Australian National University (ANU) has won a major international prize for his piece for the carillon.  

Second-year student Caspian Scott said he was shocked to find out he had won the competition, which is run by Iowa State University (ISU) in the United States. His winning entry—Idle Spires for Carillon—was just the second piece he had ever composed for the instrument.  

The win is a fitting nod for an ANU student, with Canberra’s iconic National Carillon a familiar sight for many locals. As an instrument, Caspian describes it as being “kind of like a big bell tower”.  

Carillonists play the suspended stationary bells from a keyboard of wooden batons and pedals, called a clavier.  

Caspian’s interest in the unique instrument was sparked by a class assignment.  

“I was quite excited by the idea of creating a short one-minute piece and potentially hearing my work played from Canberra’s carillon one day,” he said. 

“I got some good feedback on that assignment, which gave me a bit more confidence. My lecturers told us about the ISU competition and I decided to give it a shot. I was pretty shocked to find out I had won—it’s quite amazing.” 

Caspian wasn’t expecting his big breakthrough to come thanks to the carillon, which he admits is a “fairly niche” instrument.  

He’s used to composing for string quartets, jazz bands and even the guitar. 

But his success has given him more confidence in his ability to work with any instrument.  

“I’ve had my moments of doubt as a composer—I think all musicians do—so this was a really nice surprise,” he said.  

“Entering a competition like this is not something I would normally do. But I did the hard work and the research.  

“The key is understanding what the instrument is capable of, what notes can and can’t be played on it.” 

Caspian posted off his entry to the United States and had a nervous wait for the results.

“I remember double checking all the instructions on the website to make sure I had got it right. About a month went by before I got the email to say I had won. It was a bit surreal.”  

His advice for other aspiring musicians? It is worth giving it a shot.  

“Even if you don’t win, you might learn some things that help you improve. If you see an opportunity you have to seize it – but it does take some self-motivation,” Caspian said. 

“I’m grateful to have the support of my lecturers here at ANU like Dr Chris Sainsbury, Professor Frank Millward, Stephen Leek, Dr Alexander Hunter and Dr Thomas Laue.” 

Caspian’s piece will now be played on Iowa State University’s Stanton Memorial Carillon.  

You can hear more of his work here. Caspian is also involved in organising a composer’s concert at the Larry Sitsky Recital Room at ANU on 24 October.  

Top image: Caspian Scott at the National Carillon in Canberra. Photo: Jamie Kidston/ANU

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