Friday, 28 June 2013

Composer of the month: Anna Meredith

Anna Meredith is a composer and performer of both acoustic and electronic music. Anna's music has been performed everywhere from the Last Night of the Proms to flashmob performances in the M6 Services, Soundwave Festival to London Fashion Week, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival to the Ether Festival, and broadcast on Radio 1, 3, 4 & 6.
She has been Composer in Residence with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, RPS/PRS Composer in the House with Sinfonia ViVA, the classical music representative for the 2009 South Bank Show Breakthrough Award and winner of the 2010 Paul Hamlyn Award for Composers.
Anna’s string quartet, Songs for the M8, will be performed at the next LM concert (Saturday 7th July) by the Ligeti String quartet.
Steve Crowther: Can you describe the work to us?
Anna Meredith: Songs for the M8 was a commission for the Presences Festival in Paris and premiered by the Quatuor Renoir – it’s 5x 2min miniatures – each one very much in its own mini world . The idea behind the piece was a sort of homage the frequent teenage car journeys me and my friends would make between Edinburgh and Glasgow – along the M8.  As motorways go its pretty exciting with lots of bit of large scale public art including sheep on a grass pyramid and a giant face made out of pipes.  But to be honest its more about awaking into a different moment or world from the one before.
SC: Do you write at the piano, do you pre-plan? Can you describe the compositional process?
AM: I plan everything out on blank paper first – drawing a big graphic sketch to map out the contour or pacing of each piece plus any adjectives or moods I’m aiming for along the way. Then it’s a matter of zooming in to fill in detail – this working out phase can sometimes be at the piano but more often just striding about my room singing tunelessly…
SC: Is it important to know the performers? Do you write with a sound in mind?
AM: I definitely write with a sound in mind and certain pieces have been very influenced by a particular performer’s skills and way of playing (obvious example being Shlomo and the Concerto for Beatboxer) but I also think it can be a good counter to this to let the material be the most important thing and if you need to write relentless nightmarish scales or patterns then it can be easier to just be ambitious with what you want ,accept that players might end up cursing your name but believe in the effect you’re trying to create.
SC: How would you describe your individual ‘sound world’?
AM: Guess it depends from piece to piece. Its amazing how differently people hear the same material so the same piece might be described as ‘gorgeous’ ‘horrendous’ ‘repetitive’ or ‘complex’.  There are definitely certain scales, chords and rhythms that I find myself coming back to a lot and the word ‘bombastic’ tends to be used a lot – but not in this piece!
SC: What motivates you to compose?
AM: On a mundane level, the most important day to day motivation will be a deadline. Hate them but can’t live without them! On a more creative level it’s a real mix from mundane every day objects like car indicators or bits of found text to something more amorphous like trying to create a certain atmosphere or energy.
SC: Which living composers do you identify with or simply admire?
AM: Most important composers to me are my composer friends. Namely, the other members of the Camberwell Composers Collective – Mark Bowden, Chris Mayo, Emily Hall and Charlie Piper. Along with a handful of other composer mates they’re the people I send my pieces or ideas to and are always helpful to bounce ideas around or just put it all in perspective a bit.  On top of that I’m a massive Gerald Barry fan. I quite often ask young composer ‘what would Gerald Barry do?’ if stuck on a bit of a piece – he always surprises me.
SC: If you could have a beer and a chat with any composer from the past, who would it be and why?
AM: Um, tricky, maybe Janacek? Looks like he’d have some good stories and be a genuinely interesting and fun person to share a crispy beer with.
SC: Now for some desert island discery – please name eight pieces of music you could not be without, and then select just one.
AM: Lawks. Such a nightmare as you know you’ll change your mind tomorrow – so for today….:
Sibelius 7th Symphony
Gerald Barry – Importance of Being Earnest
Matt Rogers – Specialized
Emily Hall – Befalling
Beethoven – 7th Symphony
Michael Gordon – Decasia
Messiaen – Quartet for the End of Time
James Blake – James Blake
Just one is frankly unfair – maybe the Beethoven?
SC: …and a book?
AM: Loved Cloud Atlas.
SC: Film?
AM: Love a good sci-fi action bonanza so I reckon it’d have to be District 9.
SC: … and a luxury item?
AM:  I love roller coasters – especially suspended or flying ones so I’d like some kind of portable ingenious self-assembling coaster – if you could get onto that that’d be great. Thank you….