Tuesday 6 October 2015

Anna Clyne on composition

In January 2016 Britten Sinfonia premiere a new work by Anna Clyne, commissioned by Britten Sinfonia and Wigmore Hall with support from the Britten-Pears Foundation, for our 10th anniversary At Lunch series. Anna is one of the composers you can support through the Musically Gifted campaign. Find out more about Anna in this blog post as she answers questions about herself and her music...

What’s your earliest musical memory?

My earliest musical memory is hearing my mother signing nursery rhymes. My first deeply moving experience of a live concert was hearing Nigel Kennedy perform Beethoven’s Violin concerto.

What do you like most about composing?
It’s a wonderful opportunity to meet and collaborate with other artists, and to get lost in one’s imagination.

What inspires you?
I find inspiration in a myriad of things – it’s different for each piece – it could be a choreographer, an artist, an image, or a simple melody. I’m about to start work on a new piece for one hundred cellos, so for that piece it will be the very unique sonority, and how the lines interact, that will inspire the piece.

What advice would you give to aspiring composers?
Stick with it! A career in music takes time – it’s still very much a grass roots trajectory, building relationships with musicians, composers, conductors, artists and ensembles. Work closely with friends who are musicians to learn the intricacies of writing for those instruments, find like-minded artists, take risks in your music, and reach out to other artists that inspire you.

What’s your musical guilty pleasure?
When I’ve finished a day’s work of composing, I like to blast something completely different to cleanse the ears – something upbeat, and often with lyrics so that I can sing along whilst I’m closing up shop. Fitting the bill have been Lily Allen and Mae West, or if I’m after something a little calmer, I’ll call upon Nat King Cole or Nina Simone.

If you turned your iPod on now, what would be playing?
My musical appetite is all over the map, but most recently I listened to Roomful of Teeth – I’m finishing up a new piece for them and have been listening to their latest album to find inspiration in their unique sound. I’ve also been listening to vocal music by other artists/composers such as Trio Mediaeval, Clarice Assad, Purcell and Bernstein.

The last concert you saw?
Last weekend, I heard two totally different, but totally wonderful concerts – the Baltimore Symphony performing Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini with soloist Olga Kern, Strauss’ Alpine Symphony and the East Coast premiere of short piece of mine, Masquerade, under the direction of Marin Alsop – followed the next day by Tree of Codes with music by Jamie XX, choreography by Wayne McGregor and visuals by Olafur Eliasson in New York.

If you hadn’t been a musician, what might have happened?
I’ve always had a wide range of interests. If music weren’t an option I would have loved to study more languages and if I had a completely different skillset, I would have loved to become an astrophysicist. 

Which musical instrument do you wish you could play, and why?
I’m a rusty cellist, but I wish I could play the fiddle well. There’s something about folk music that I’ve always loved – from Scottish tunes heard during my time at Edinburgh University to old-time music and the blues in Chicago. It would be great to be able to pick it up and play. And it’s so much more portable than a cello!

Anna's new work will be premiered during our At Lunch series in January and will feature soprano Julia Doyle. Performances take place at Norwich's St Andrew's Hall on Friday 15 January, Cambridge's West Road Concert Hall on Tuesday 19th January and London's Wigmore Hall on Wednesday 20th January. Click here for more info and to book tickets.

This Lunar Beauty by Anna Clyne has been commissioned with support from the Britten-Pears Foundation.

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