Steve Crowther: Can you tell us something of your background?
Chris Gander: I have lived in India and Iran where I studied the music of these cultures. I learned to play tabla and Dombak. I also studied Yoga and Indian philosophy. On returning I studied combining Indian music with Western compositional techniques, with the Indian Composer John Mayer. Also I studied western music at the University of Sussex and North Indian Music at SOAS The University of London.
SC: Can you describe Son et Lumiere to us?
CG: Son et Lumiere in many ways follows on from this as it presents musically and visually how we and the environment that surrounds us is united through, sound light emotions ,the seasons times of day the chakras etc. Often using the parameters above to describe this. The French title also tries to evoke the universality of the work, unity in a world and country that can seems divided. At the end of the day we cannot escape the fact that the universe is in balance and that we are part of that balance.
SC: Do you write at the piano, do you pre-plan? Can you describe the compositional process?
CG: I assimilate all the practical elements of the work. Length, instrumentation, where it is to be performed. Who is playing it. This swirls around in my brain (mind) for a while. Then I start at the beginning and finish at the end. There are of course some edits and adjustments. I never write sketches. The piece just forms in my head and I write it down. I don’t write at the piano but I do use a computer.
SC: Is it important to know the performers? Do you write with a sound in mind?
CG: I can’t imagine writing not knowing the performers. I am lucky I have always written for people I know.
SC: How would you describe your individual ‘sound world’?
CG: Well yes, as described above, it has always been a meeting point of different cultures, this I take great care to make as convincing as possible. Hence the reason for emerging myself in the cultures that meet (including our own).
SC: What motivates you to compose?
SC: Which living composers do you identify with or simply admire?
CG: John Mayer, has always been my great inspiration, it was an honour to study with him. Also not the sound world but the commitment of Michael Finnissy. I was also greatly influenced by the sitar player Dharambir Singh, who I also studied with.
SC: If you could have a beer and a chat with any composer from the past, who would it be and why?
CG: Who wouldn’t want a chat with Bach, probably the beer would be with Beethoven.
Bach because he said it all, we just follow in his light. Beethoven because we do need Ode to Joy right now.
SC: Now for some desert island discery – please name eight pieces of music you could not be without, and then select just one.
CG: Imagine - John Lennon, My Sweet Lord - George Harrison, Like a Rolling Stone -Bob Dylan, G’imme Shelter - The Rolling Stones. Bach - Chaconne, Beethoven - Late String Quartets, Sibelius - Violin Concerto, John Adams - Violin Concerto.
My Sweet Lord - George Harrison.
SC: …and a book?
CG: The Ragas of North India by Walter Kaufman
SC: …a film?
SC: … and a luxury item?
CG: Bottle of Bourdeaux (French Red)