Today we’ve been continuing LSO Futures week, our celebration of new music, with two events at LSO St Luke’s – an Artist Conversation with composer Colin Matthews, who spilled the beans about his musical inspirations and 40-year career, and the annual Panufnik Young Composers Workshop, where this year’s participants had the chance to develop their compositions, aided by the LSO, conductor François-Xavier Roth and the scheme’s mentor, Colin Matthews. You can find out more about the Panufnik Scheme by watching a video created by the Helen Hamlyn Trust here. And if you’re interested in hearing some of the music by previous participants, head to the Barbican on 13 April for two LSO concerts, or pre-order LSO Live’s new CD, The Panufnik Legacies, which features eleven new works by emerging composers.
Here on the blog, we’ve been finding out more about the composers, all former participants of the LSO’s Panufnik Young Composers Scheme, who’ve been involved in the new work Panufnik Variations, which receives its premiere at the Barbican on 13 April. Today, it’s the turn of Toby Young …
How long have you been composing?
Almost as long as I can remember! Both my parents are musicians, so there was always something playing in the house, which very much inspired me to hum along (often making up my own tunes in counterpoint) or to try and improvise at the piano. When I was about seven I started performing as a boy treble for the ENO, and I remember this experience particularly inspiring me to write my own music and begin to think about different ways of notating my ideas.
Could you tell us a bit about your influences and inspirations?
Whilst I am classically trained, it has always been music outside this tradition that has particularly inspired me. My biggest musical influence growing up was my jazz piano teacher Fergus Read, who introduced me to a huge variety of music, from jazz artists like Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea and Brad Mehldau, to prog-rock groups like Weather Report, Gryphon and Captain Beefheart, who are all huge influences for me, even today.
What did you enjoy the most about being part of the Panufnik Young Composers Scheme, and how has the experience affected your music and career since?
The Panufnik Scheme was hugely beneficial in my development as a composer. It opened so many doors for me – both in terms of opportunities but also mentally, really expanding my horizons and helping me to think about music in different ways. It’s also hugely inspiring to work with such incredible musicians. Last year I had the privilege to be one of the inaugural composers on the LSO Soundhub scheme, and, for a young composer like me, to have had such close collaborations with such a great orchestra can do nothing other than inspire!
Can you tell us a bit about your experience of contributing to the new commission Panufnik Variations? How did you approach writing your variation?
I have long admired the music of Andrzej Panufnik, so to be asked to be part of this project was truly wonderful. I began by immersing myself in as much of his music as possible, trying to understand the sound worlds at play, and work out his orchestration techniques as a foundation for me to develop. Then I tried several small exercises to develop the given theme in a number of different styles, but always trying to maintain a dialogue with Panufnik’s work. Whilst I have used a few of those sketches for other things, one idea in particular really struck me, and seemed perfect to develop further for this project.
What other projects are you working on at the moment?
I am very lucky to be involved in a hugely diverse selection of projects at the moment, including choral pieces for the choir of New College, Oxford, and the BBC Singers, and a song cycle for Presteigne Festival. I also work quite a lot with dance music artists, and am currently co-writing a new album with the D’n'B’ duo Chase & Status, due for release later this year.