Tonight we’re kicking off LSO Futures week, a celebration of new music and young composers, with a UBS Soundscapes: Eclectica concert at LSO St Luke’s, featuring British composer Tansy Davies. Davies, who the LSO first singled out as one to watch in 2005, is one of the many emerging composers at the heart of LSO Futures; over the course of the week, you can watch this year’s Panufnik Scheme participants take part in a composition workshop, hear the first performance of Jason Yarde’s new LSO commission, Modo Hit Blow, and enjoy a relaxed post-show gig on the Barbican foyers, featuring music by members of LSO Soundhub. Visit lso.co.uk/futures to find out more about what’s on offer
Throughout LSO Futures week, we’ll be using the blog to give you the chance to get to know some of the composers involved in the world premiere of Panufnik Variations on 13 April. Based on a theme by Andrzej Panufnik, the new work features opening and closing sections by Colin Matthews and variations by nine alumni of the LSO’s Panufnik Young Composer’s Scheme.
Today, we’ve asked London-based composer Christopher Mayo about his work as a composer and how he got involved with the LSO.
When did you start composing?
I think my earliest pieces probably date from when I was about 13 or 14. Very impractical pieces made by playing around with MusicProse on my Macintosh LC II. Actually, my mother had me write a song for the builders who were renovating our house when I was six – that piece is still waiting for a second performance.
Could you tell us a bit about your influences and inspirations?
I tend to fluctuate wildly in terms of where I draw inspiration for my work. Recently, I’ve been taking a lot of my ideas from visual art, particularly the books of Jon McNaught. My new pieces for Manchester Camerata (Dockwood) and Ensemble Amorpha (Birchfield Close) are both named after his books. When I find something which inspires me, I tend to keep coming back to it as a starting point for my work. I’m also currently going through a big country music thing – the ideas for the piece I wrote for the MATA Festival in 2011 stemmed from some really hard-panned hi-hats in Jerry Reed’s 1971 hit When You’re Hot, You’re Hot.
What did you enjoy most about being part of the Panufnik Young Composers Scheme in 2010, and how has the experience affected your music and career since?
The most enjoyable part was undoubtedly being in the room and working with the Orchestra. You just can’t quantify how valuable that is for a composer: time to try out ideas, time to interact, time to make mistakes, and all in a very supportive environment. It’s also had a very positive effect on my career. The association with the LSO has a way of opening doors and the continuing relationship with the Orchestra has led to a recording of my Panufnik piece and my involvement in these variations.
Can you tell us a bit about your experience of contributing to the new commission Panufnik Variations? How did you approach writing your variation?
It was a really interesting process. As a way of ensuring some kind of musical flow through this patchwork piece, Colin Matthews gave us each a tempo and descriptive character for our variation (mine was ‘Moderato and Quirky’). So I was reacting not just to Panufnik’s theme (from Universal Prayer) but also to this descriptive character. It was a fantastic opportunity to get more intimately acquainted with Panufnik’s music, to really pull apart the theme and try to find interesting new ways of putting it back together.
What other projects are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently the Sound and Music ‘Embedded’ composer with the Manchester Camerata and I’m in the final stages of writing my third piece for them. I’m also working on new pieces for Ensemble Amorpha and the English National Ballet. Further down the line, I will be writing a new piece for Crash Ensemble, working on the music for an immersive site-specific dance piece with the New Movement Collective, collaborating on a devised opera with Opera Erratica and developing a new work with Tal Rosner for the Royal Opera House.