Olivia is a composer and clarinettist whose work aims to delve into the experimental and ethereal artistic spaces of sound making. Exploring the ways in which sounds merge and meld to create new timbres, Olivia’s compositions aim to tell stories of the human condition through sound. Their work particularly centers motherhood and aims to draw upon the strong bonds that exist within our shared human experiences.

Olivia’s work has been performed by Neave Trio (Netherlands), Dior Quartet (New York), American Modern Ensemble (New York), Mostly Modern Orchestra (Netherlands), SoundSCAPE New Music Festival (Italy and Switzerland), Ensemble Mise-En (New York) and Horizons Ensemble (Boston). Olivia’s recordings can be found on Spotify, including a duo album of original compositions, Eunoia, with Argentinian vibraphonist Pauline Roberts, and their 2022 solo EP :: mxm :: featuring a suite of original electroacoustic compositions.

As part of their PhD at Melbourne University’s School of Jazz & Improvisation (Australia) Olivia experiments with handmade Arduino synthesisers digitally processed alongside their clarinet, in Ableton. This practice is part of their research on the history and sociology of improvised computer music. In addition to their PhD candidature they hold their Master of Music Performer-Composer from the New School, New York

7. Program Notes

Before There Was Skin explores the idea of a person as home, and the strangeness of being irrevocably separated from that person. The piece was conceptualised during the Pandemic when many of us were separated from those we love. 

There is a strangeness to being physically separated from someone who is otherwise like home. During the Pandemic I was waiting to birth my second child, and coming to terms with the idea of yet another small piece of my heart living and existing outside of my body. 

I built a suite of songs around the concept of mother, a human who is also our original home. I am interested in connections through shared humanity, such as the idea of us all beginning in the same almost silent, dark and safe environment. These concepts are emulated in this piece through a meditative timpani ostinato like the beat of a mother’s heart, shared with the chimes, which also represent the churchly divinity of parenthood. You may hear repeated layered lines from the poem upon which the title was derived in various instruments throughout the piece: “You are the original home,” as well as the line “And before there was skin between us.” 

I hope these concepts draw listeners in and help us better understand our shared humanity. That in these very beautiful and human ways we are all connected in a worldwide community with every person in the world. Their fate is our fate. The capacity for everyone to love and live a full and free life is all of our responsibilities. As for me, I am lovingly connected to every mother, birthing person and parent throughout history, through our shared humanity. This piece is for all of us.