He's probably unaware of it but Josiah Carr uses the word "wrestle" a lot when he talks about writing music, as if his muse is an adversary to be pummelled into submission.
There's a suspicion that the struggle is his own fault. The young composer is one of those people who bites first and worries about the chewing later. Like the time, in his final school year, he wrote a two-hour musical, even though he'd never done any theatre work and his school had never staged a musical.
More recently, he accepted a commission from the NZ Symphony Orchestra National Youth Orchestra (NYO), where he is composer-in-residence, to produce a major new work, even though it was due mere weeks after he had to submit the final portfolio of his Master's degree.
"My uni supervisor [Leonie Holmes] called me stupid," Carr admits.
He managed it, though. The results are a freshly minted graduate degree and Redwood, a new work for orchestra that receives its world premiere at an NYO concert in Wellington on July 6, before the orchestra comes north the following day to play at Auckland Town Hall.
Redwood draws its inspiration not from the famous Californian groves but Whakarewarewa in Rotorua.
"I was walking through a forest and experienced a massive cathedral of trees," Carr says.
"It was stunning and made me want to respond musically. I don't normally write from experience but this kind of demanded it. I took the idea of a tree growing slowly into something huge."
Although Redwood started as a concept and developed into a story, Carr is wary of calling the music programmatic.
"Hundreds of composers have written [programmatic works] but if the audience isn't aware of the story does the music still hold together? I struggled with that but I think I've resolved it. As I've written and wrestled with it, the piece is closer to what I imagined and that moment of going through a forest."
Spaniard Jaime Martín is the conductor charged with bringing Carr's vision to life. Martín has plenty of experience conducting and playing in youth ensembles. As a young flautist in the European Community Youth Orchestra (now the European Union Youth Orchestra), his music director was the great Claudio Abbado, while the guest artists passing through included the likes of Jessye Norman, Vladimir Ashkenazy and Zubin Mehta.
"It was almost too much," Martín says now. "At 21, 22, you feel like, 'Now what?' What do you do after that? But it inspired us to keep going; it raises the standard in a way that you want to recreate wherever you go."
However, Martín says young players don't need superstars for inspiration. The NYO's featured soloist for the concerts is Todd Gibson-Cornish, a former member of the orchestra and now principal bassoon of the Sydney Symphony, who plays Jolivet's fiendish Bassoon Concerto.
"For players it will be excellent to see someone who a few years ago had been with their group and show them what happens next."
What happened next after Martín's time as a youth player was a starry career as one of the world's leading flautists. He was principal at several of London's top orchestras, including the Royal and London philharmonics and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, before turning his attention to conducting about six years ago.
As someone with more than 30 years' experience playing and conducting music at the highest level, does Martín feel it's his job to give feedback to young composers?
"I don't think it's part of my role but if I have comments to make I would," he says.
"I would give advice to someone who's not young, too, in the same way I would expect the composer to make suggestions to me in the way I conduct the piece. In music we need dialogue."
Carr says he's strong enough in his own convictions to fight his corner if need be, not that he anticipates any arguments.
"We're going to have to be on the same page for the work to come alive as I imagined it. He'll have ideas and I'm looking forward to seeing what he'll bring."
What: National Youth Orchestra, The Firebird, conducted by Jaime Martín, featuring the world premiere of Josiah Carr's Redwood
Where and When: Michael Fowler Centre, Friday, July 6; Auckland Town Hall, Saturday, July 7