My grandmother was a diva on the Paris Opera. My father was a trumpet participant – he even performed with the Glenn Miller Orchestra on one event. However then the battle occurred and he grew to become a CIA agent. I used to be born in Langley, Virginia, the headquarters for the CIA, however quickly after that I used to be shipped out to Cairo after which grew up in Beirut.
Beirut was the place I used to be launched to classical music. I heard Carmina Burana on the gramophone, and in addition La mer and Daphnis et Chloé, plus each type of Stravinsky. In the meantime, my father was into big-band jazz. He crammed the home with devices, which my siblings ignored. However I’d play all of them and my dad observed: lastly, considered one of his kids had the bug!
‘Rock musicians use their ears, they make campfire music – that’s how music is meant to be’
The Arabic rhythms I encountered actually struck me. There’s a Lebanese dance the place they ignore the primary beat and land laborious on the three, and each eighth observe is an up-chik [an upward-stroke guitar chord played on the offbeat]. Later, I found that reggae has the identical basis.
My father was elevating me to be a jazz musician, however then I heard Hendrix and the whole lot modified. It was the craze of rock music that appealed. You’re 16, you solely have three hairs in your chest, your voice is about to interrupt, you’re feeling like you ought to be grasp of the universe however you’re only a pipsqueak. Drums appeared like a manly instrument to play.
After I went to boarding college in Somerset, I used to be the one drummer. I used to be within the college band they usually saved firing me for being too loud. It was throughout this time that I had my first profound musical epiphany. We had our Christmas service at Wells Cathedral and listening to a thousand voices raised in track made me assume: that is what music is all about.
There are two sorts of musicians: of the ear, and of the attention. They’re separated at start however there are crossovers (just like the brass gamers who improvise however may also learn the dots on the web page). Rock musicians use their ears, they make campfire music – that’s how music is meant to be. Classical musicians connect with the music through the visible directions on the web page; with a schematic [score], you are able to do unbelievable issues.
Composing for movie was what took me again to the web page. Francis Ford Coppola requested me to put in writing music for his movie Rumble Fish and the outcome was a bit of out of the atypical. Throughout the course of, Francis mentioned to me: ‘That is all wired and funky and hip, however it wants strings.’ So 20 guys turned up, they usually performed their components so shortly that they had been completed in an hour. Since then, realizing what these skilled musicians can do, I’ve been reaching into that toolkit increasingly.
Ben-Hur started with a telephone name. I used to be requested to attain an enviornment manufacturing full with chariot race, horses and hundreds of underpaid Ukrainian extras. The present opened on the O2 and ran its course. Later, my supervisor advised me to take a look at the 1925 black-and-white silent-film model, made 30 years earlier than the Charlton Heston one – it took two weeks to defrost the celluloid print. I spent two years curating it, after which I needed to chop my music to suit.
The orchestra is a sophisticated beast and there’s nonetheless a lot to be taught. I’m not a classical composer, however I exploit the orchestra to do what I need to do. When the RLPO commissioned me to put in writing a percussion concerto, I used to be on the programme with among the biggest British composers: Elgar, Walton, Britten after which my skinny little piece! However I used to be proud to be on that invoice and truly it did fairly effectively.
At house, I groove alongside to the radio. I hearken to Shirley & Spinoza – they play the whole lot from the Seaside Boys to ’50s radio performs with concrete music. Budding composers ask me: ‘How do I discover my very own voice?’ The reply is, you should open your thoughts – and listening to eclectic music helps me do this.
This text initially appeared within the February 2017 subject of Gramophone. By no means miss a problem – subscribe today