Thursday 30 January 2014

Mark Simpson on composition

Britten Sinfonia will premiere Mark Simpson's new work, Geysir in February. Through the Musically Gifted scheme you can help support Mark's new work - donations close at 5pm on Friday 31st January. Mark won both the BBC Young Musician of the Year and BBC Proms/Guardian Young Composer of the Year  in 2006. Since then he has been commissioned and had his works premiered by ensembles including the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Aronowitz Ensemble and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.  We asked Mark a few questions about himself and his inspirations;

How would you summarise yourself in one sentence?
Passionate, ambitious, a dreamer, full of energy, wanting to be moved, wanting to move people, inspire people, be inspired by people, a perfectionist, constantly searching for those rare musical moments when time seems to stop.

What do you like most about music and composing?
The duality between the head and the heart, which for me as an emotional person who enjoys thinking, is the perfect match. Music encompasses everything. I can experience things that I would not have otherwise have been exposed to, ideas about philosophy, literature, poetry, biology, language, politics, physics, art, psychology. But I also FEEL music coursing through my body. The greatest pieces of music stimulate a part of my brain in way that is both exciting and hyper-emotional.

What inspires you?
Great literature, great poetry and art, things that move me, people who awaken a passion within me and share the intense passion I have.

How do you feel about new music and what we’re trying to do with Musically Gifted?

I feel a lot of things about 'New Music'. That question is quite broad and possibly too big for discussion within this short interview. But what I would like is for young composers (I'm including myself in this!) to be more daring. Embrace the future of our art form and do something amazing with it. Influences are hard to shake off, but when we reach for ideas that seem impossible, great art happens!

What was your reaction when Britten Sinfonia commissioned you?
I was honoured. It will be such a privilege to work with musicians that I've looked up to since I was a teenager starting out.

What would you like to be recognised for?

Writing great music, inspiring as many people as possible and bringing classical music to as wide an audience as possible without ever patronising them or distilling the great art form we have.

What’s your musical guilty pleasure?
I'm not sure I like the idea of a 'guilty pleasure'. It presupposes a hierarchy of style with classical at the top which I don't necessarily buy into.  I like listening to things that aren't classical, as much as I listen to 'classical' music, as long as it's good: the music of Jason Robert Brown, BeyoncĂ©, 80's music, folk music, German indie bands, house and techno music, Indonesian funeral music. There's nothing I'm really embarrassed to say I listen to, because I wouldn't listen to it if it wasn't worthwhile!!

At the end of a long day, how do you relax?
A quiet drink with friends, in a local pub, in bed before midnight.

If you hadn’t been a musician, what might have happened?
I probably would have done something with Art or German. I had two very inspiring teachers in both subjects at High School who awoke a real passion for both.

Is there anything else you want to share with the world?

I have been a question on The Weakest Link and University Challenge, and once appeared in an episode of Grange Hill!

Mark Simpson's new work will be performed by Britten Sinfonia's wind principals on Thursday 13th February at Cambridge's West Road Concert Hall and on Friday 14th February at London's Milton Court Concert Hall. Click here for more info.

You can support Mark Simpson's new commission through Musically Gifted. Donations must be received by 5pm Friday 31st January. Click here for more info.

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