How do you feel about receiving a Gold Badge Award from the songwriting and composing community?
“Honoured and delighted! Gold Badge is a very special occasion and I’m looking forward to seeing colleagues and friends.”
What has been the most pivotal moment in your career?
“Writing the music for a film about the National Trust, which meant I then had something for people to watch and listen to. Recordings are a much more commonplace resource these days but in the 1980s it was far harder to achieve and having an audio calling-card made all the difference. Not long after that, a composer exchange involving a two week visit to Russia in 1989 (about 6 months before the Berlin Wall came down) was key to my commitment to helping UK composers find a united voice and to speaking out in the interests of all music creators.”
Which person has been the most influential figure in your career and why?
“Without a shadow of doubt, the person who has given me the most support, encouraged me to say, ‘yes’ when I might have said, ‘maybe’, conjured amazing creative projects (and funding) out of thin air, been a total realist (something we all need!) and listened interminably, is my partner of 31 years, the clarinettist, Geraldine Allen.”
What one piece of advice would you give your young self, starting out in music?
“This has to be dual! On the creative front, keep writing and keep listening to all sorts of music. The more you exercise your skills, the more prepared you will be to take on whatever compositional challenges come your way. On the practical front, get connected to writer-representative organisations and writer communities. Sorry! Advice seldom comes in small packages!”
You spent two years working with Voluntary Service Overseas in Sierra Leone before you began composing professionally. How would you say this experience impacted or influenced your composition style?
“Living in a different culture is a life-changing experience. Africa entered into my music as rhythm and colour, and persuaded me to avoid unnecessary complexity. It also became the stimulous for creating cross-cultural works, composing alongside and drawing on the traditions, at different times, of African, Indian, Indonesian, Chinese and Japanese music. Last but not least, it led me to try always to make my music, present and purposeful.”
You founded the British Composer Awards for BASCA in 2003. At the time, how important and necessary did you feel this was?
“I was a girl on a mission! The BCAs were the culmination of more than a decade of personal efforts to establish an occasion when composers could come together and celebrate the achievements of the classical composing community in the UK. I think the BCAs have done a great job in helping composers in the UK grow in confidence, become more collaborative and have a stronger artistic presence. The Awards have also helped to kick-start not a few careers! I couldn’t be happier that they are still thriving after 16 years.”
Serving as Chair of both the Composers’ Guild of Great Britain and BASCA, you have dedicated yourself to championing music creators. What are the main challenges that music creators face in today’s current climate?
“All creators face the challenge of dealing with conditions that stop them from being the best they can be – lack of time, opportunity and funding. We learn to manage our time and to create opportunities but being paid reasonably or even adequately for what we do is a constant battle, whether it is the streaming debate or changes to royalty rates driven by commercial factors or the sheer pressure of demand on finite funding budgets. In my world (classical music) it seems we have still not found an equitable way of rewarding the music that labours under the description of cultural.”
You have been working in partnership with Orchestras Live, whose mission is to ensure that communities across the country have access to world-class orchestral experiences. What is the best way to keep orchestral music relevant to people’s lives in 2018?
“I’ve been involved in a number of projects with Orchestras Live and this recent one was a commission for the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, performed to a large and enthusiastic audience in Norfolk. Orchestral music at the blockbuster level is alive and well. Look at the constant stream of new film releases with massive scores, or film music at the Proms, or the audio content of video games now translated into live performances springing up around the country. The keener question, and this is where the work of Orchestras Live comes in, is how to lead those listeners into other repertoire so that they can enjoy the orchestral experience for its whole spectrum of musical richness.”
The 45th Gold Badge Awards are presented by BASCA and sponsored by PPL and PRS for Music, taking place at The Savoy in London from 11.30am to 4.30pm on Friday 19th October.