Featured Composer: Samuel Dickenson


Queensland based composer, conductor and double bass player Samuel Dickenson has been hailed as one of Australia’s most exciting and talented young composers, praised for his “singular and imaginative spark of individuality.” Currently studying a Ph.D. in composition at The University of Queensland, he has studied composition under the guidance of Josephine Jin, James Leger, Dr Gerardo Dirié and Dr Robert Davidson as well as received mentoring from local television composer Garry Smith and Hollywood orchestrator and conductor Tim Davies (Despicable Me, The Simpsons Movie, Frozen).

Samuel’s music has been performed in several countries reaching audiences in venues such as the Singapore School of the Arts, Worms Trinity Church, Würzburg St John’s Church and the Bamberg Concert Hall. In 2013, he was admitted to the Australian Youth Orchestras National Music Camp program for Composition. In 2014, Queensland Youth Orchestras appointed him Composer-in-Residence, where he has composed seven original works for various ensembles. Samuel has also been commissioned by the Arts Council of Darwin, Germany-based Würzburg Chamber Players and various other ensembles such as the Brisbane Philharmonic Orchestra and the Melbourne-based Plexus ensemble. 

Currently, Samuel is exploring a stylistic extension of the romantic aesthetic, with an emphasis on craftsmanship. His music presents digestible, generous melodies and accessible structures.

Samuel Dickenson's new work Nightmares was premiered in PLEXUS SQUARED: The Launch on 20 May 2015 at Deakin Edge, Federation Square.

Nightmares (2015)

Nothing is quite like the shaking terror that is felt when jerking upright from a particularly nasty dream. It is a bizarre and abstract subject to think about, let alone provide inspiration for a musical work. In a way the intangibility lends itself to a form such as music in which the listener can close their eyes and imagine a scene unfolding. In writing Nightmares I focused on a particular narrative in which the dreamer encounters a terrifying chase, something that many of us have dreamt about and are understandably fearful of.

Our protagonist finds themselves noticing all sorts of off-kilter imagery as they begin dreaming, with strange and foreign imagery permeating their imagination. A feeling of fear settles in and begins growing—grotesque tendrils twist from the soil and small creatures flitter past quickly through the cold night air. The dreamer finally realises there is something pursuing them, catching a glimpse from the corner of their eye of a shadowy figure. In a panic they dash off into the forest, dodging behind trees or obstacles in an attempt to lose the creature whom is tracking them so relentlessly. This chase perseveres until the creature seems to be shaken off the trail and our dreamer carefully stands behind a tree, holding their breath. Once they are sure things have returned to safety, an attempt to escape the dark forest is made until the end is in sight. Just before reaching the edge the shadowy creature appears and approaches quickly, causing our dreamer to retreat into the ghoulish forest once more, unable to escape. Exhausted, our hero finally collapses and is dragged away with unearthly speed through the nightmarish foliage before finally awaking in a profuse cold sweat.

– Samuel Dickenson