Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Composer of the Month: Christopher Fox

Steve Crowther: Can you tell us something of your background?
Christopher Fox: I was born in York, just off Holgate Hill, but the time I wrote these songs I was living in Berlin.

SC: Can you describe A-N-N-A Blossom Time to us?
CF: It’s a set of nine songs to poems by the German artist Kurt Schwitters. I translated the poems into English, sometimes quite freely.

SC: Do you write at the piano, do you pre-plan? Can you describe the compositional process?
CF: With these songs I remember choosing the poems I liked the most, favouring the ones which seemed to tell stories or were love songs. I had worked out some years earlier, from a long study of Schubert’s songs, that the best way to write songs was to start with the accompaniment – that’s what gives each song its character.

Is it important to know the performers? Do you write with a sound in mind?
CF: Always, and especially with singers. I wrote A-N-N-A Blossom Time for Amanda Crawley whose voice I had first heard in 1974. By the time I wrote these songs we had been married for nearly ten years, so I knew her voice very well. The piano part was written around my own rather less developed technique.

SC: How would you describe your individual ‘sound world’?
CF: I don’t think I can because I’ve never tried to cultivate one.

SC: What motivates you to compose?
CF: I want to change the world, just a bit.

SC: Which living composers do you identify with or simply admire?
CF: Many – but of younger composers I really admire Cassandra Miller, Egidija Medeksaite, Linda Buckley, Georgia Rodgers, Juliana Hodkinson.

SC: If you could have a beer and a chat with any composer from the past, who would it be and why?
CF: Stravinsky. My musical hero.

SC: Now for some desert island discery – please name eight pieces of music you could not be without, and then select just one.
CF: Cage, String Quartet in Four Parts; The Slits, ‘In the beginning was rhythm’; Joni Mitchell, ‘A case of you’; Handel, Semele; Tallis, Lamentations; Stravinsky, Apollo; Mozart, Serenade in B flat for thirteen instruments; Scelsi, Kya. I’d pick the Handel because it’s the one I can remember least well.

SC: …and a book?
CF: Emma.

SC: …a film?
CF: Himmel über Berlin

SC: … and a luxury item?
CF: A cricket ball.