Monday 16 June 2014

Patrick John Jones on Composition

A new work by Patrick John Jones opens Britten Sinfonia's 2014-15 At Lunch series which sees performances in Cambridge, Norwich and at London's Wigmore Hall in November and December 2014. Patrick won OPUS2014 our open submission competition for unpublished composers and is on the roster of Musically Gifted composers you could help support. In this blog Patrick answers questions about himself and his music.

How would you summarise yourself in one sentence?

Imagine a cross between a less good-looking Jarvis Cocker (minus the singing ability), a better-looking T.S. Eliot (minus the way with words), and a less funny Simon Amstell (minus the big curly hair).

That may or may not be almost, but not quite, entirely unlike me.

What do you like most about music and composing?
One of the most enjoyable parts of composing is when the ideas for a piece gather momentum and I can lose myself in shaping and refining the sound world that I am trying to create. Similarly, the music I like has a compelling power that can completely absorb my attention. I live for the moments when my mind is engaged with that kind of intensity.

What inspires you?

Original, potent ideas that are realised with passion and dedication. (This can apply to anything that involves human creativity, not just music.)

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

About new music: optimistic. One thing I am particularly excited by is the fact that we have almost immediate access to a profusion of different kinds of music. It makes it so easy to ignore any canon that is thrust at you, and allows the creation of your own canon of music and musical figures that are important to you. That can only be a good thing for creativity.

However, there is such an overwhelming amount being written now that it is impossible to keep up, and I am more interested in pursuing music that is new to me rather than staying on top of what is current. Every so often, though, I will hear something I think is really special in this vast mass of creative activity, and that is where my optimism comes from.

Ultimately, it is extremely important to allow composers to keep trying, and I’m very glad Britten Sinfonia is playing a part in that.

What was your reaction when Britten Sinfonia commissioned you?

Delighted! It was amazing to hear Britten Sinfonia's wind players so deftly tackle the scores given to them at the OPUS2014 workshop, and I’m really looking forward to working with them more.

What would you like to be recognised for?
Ideally: original, potent ideas that are realised with passion and dedication. Or streaking at a major sporting event.

What’s your musical guilty pleasure?
I like what I like unashamedly, as should everyone.

If you turned your iPod on now, what would be playing?
Currently the Bach Brandenburgs, played by Il Giardino Armonico. At the moment I keep obsessively coming back to the middle movement of number six.

At the end of a long day, how do you relax?

My mind can be very hyperactive after a long day, so I’ll often be in bed listening to something on headphones that will help clear my head before going to sleep. Perhaps some music with a mesmeric quality or an audiobook. I usually have a novel on the go too, as it's easy for my ears to get fatigued if I've been working on music all day.

If you hadn’t been a musician, what might have happened?

If my seven-year-old self had his way, I’d be a paleontologist. But because my close family is exclusively comprised of literature nerds, I’d probably be attempting to write a novel or an English thesis right now. Or clandestinely googling TEFL courses whilst working a nine-to-five.

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

A pot of tea. Or two. Maybe a vat.

Patrick is writing a piece for wind quintet which will be premiered during our At Lunch 1 tour on Friday 28 November at St Andrew's Hall, Norwich, Tuesday 2 December at West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge and Wednesday 3 December at Wigmore Hall, London. Click here for more information and booking details

You can support Patrick John Jones new work via Musically Gifted. Click here for more information.

Submissions for OPUS2015 are now open - click here to find out more.

Wednesday 4 June 2014

Nikola White on Kaija Saariaho

In this blog post Britten Sinfonia's Artistic Planning Director, Nikola White, discusses how we came to commission Kaija Saariaho for our 2014-15 At Lunch series and her thoughts on the composer's style;

Kaija Saariaho

Kaija Saariaho has been on our wish-list of composers to commission for a long time and is the first Scandinavian composer we have commissioned. Scandinavia is such a power-house of cultural excellence, with the likes of Magnus Lindberg, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Pekka Kuusisto all making a huge impact in the music world. I find Kaija particularly interesting as she’s a Finnish francophone; she went to study in Paris at IRCAM and has lived in the city since 1982.

When creating the programme for our At Lunch concerts, we are aiming to present a series that provides a good balance of both established and new talent, plus a breadth of compositional styles and instrumentation. Kaija’s music is all about the sound she is creating – I understand that when she was a little girl, at bedtime she used to hear very distinctive music "coming out of her pillow" – I love the idea of this – and apparently she used to ask her mother to "turn the pillow off"!
We’re delighted to have the opportunity of presenting her new piano trio in January 2015 and also, whilst not at all imperative, it is very welcome to have a female voice in the programming mix – I know that Kaija has been largely disappointed by the difficulties that female composers and conductors sometimes still face, and is saddened by the lack of progress in this area.

In many of her earlier compositions she has made use of electronics (such as Verblendungen, 1984) and created a sound-world full of colour and texture. It's interesting to see that in some of her more recent pieces (such as Laterna Magica, 2008), that don't use any electronics, she still manages to create blurry lines between textures that convey almost similar effects. And her opera, L'amour de Loin (2000) has lushly beautiful moments juxtaposed with acidic dissonances, whilst still retaining a musical consonance.

Although she has written for large forces where the colours she creates are overwhelmingly beautiful (such as Du Cristal, 1989), I find her chamber and solo works equally exhibit a fascinating array of colours. I also like the fact that she often writes specifically for artists who she knows and I think her admiration for them comes across in her musical expression, such as the flute pieces she has written for Camilla Hoitenga, and the cello works for Annsi Karttunen. Given that our At Lunch programmes are very much focussed on the individual principal players, and tend to exhibit a very collaborative process, I am sure that Kaija will enjoy this aspect of the commission.

Nikola White
Artistic Planning Director

Kaija’s Piano Trio features alongside her Nocturne for solo violin in our At Lunch 2 concerts in London, Cambridge and Norwich in January 2015. Click here for full information.

Help commission Kaija’s new piece via the Musically Gifted scheme. From as little as £10 you will receive many benefits including your name in the score and updates on the evolution of the piece.