Debut Sounds: Introducing Young Composer Jonathan Brigg

On Wednesday 10 June the London Philharmonic Orchestra will be premiering four new works from current members of the LPO Young Composers Programme. Find out more about Jonathan Brigg, one of our LPO Young Composers, from when we caught up with him at a rehearsal ahead of the Debut Sounds concert in June.

LPO: How did it feel when you began to hear your piece taking shape in the rehearsal?

JB: It was very exciting. Even though it was a difficult read-through the first time, there was a sense of fun about the whole thing. I could hear the potential for it to really work and that’s what I was after – more so than hearing details. It was even more valuable to hear the things that weren’t working out, such as places where the music was under-orchestrated, or where the pulse of the music needed to be made more explicit.

LPO: Is there a way you would describe your style or the style of this particular piece that you’re working on?

JB: The music I write tends to emphasise one style or another largely depending on the performance context, and pieces usually end up somewhere on a spectrum between fairly-jazzy-classical-music and very-composed-jazz-music. Recent pieces often deal with style through narrative, making use of stories and characters, people and personalities. Sinful Sinfonies is typical of my recent work in that the ‘attitude’ of the piece is quite jazzy, but the musical material doesn’t sound all that jazzy (to me at least). Jazz is always lurking in the shadows. The piece is classical, I suppose, in the sense that all the notes are written down, and it has a sort of classical formal scheme – and classical musicians are playing it!

< Hear some of the music that inspired Jonathan's piece!

LPO: Thinking about your audience on the night, is there something you would like to provoke them to feel or think about when they listen to your piece?

JB: I definitely want the audience to be drawn in as if they’re being told a strange story. The first movement should feel exciting and I’d like people to really feel the tension in the music and be surprised by digressions along the way. The second movement begins in similar vein but then is suddenly interrupted by music that sounds a bit like a carnival or a cabaret, or something in between. I always laugh at that point, because it’s so ridiculous, and I hope the audience are compelled to laugh too. If they don’t laugh the first time, I bring it back a second time a semitone higher so it sounds even more ridiculous. Surely somebody other than me will be laughing by then… In the final movement, the music is trying to say something authentic and it has a searching quality. Hopefully it will serve as a real antidote to all the chaos and the ‘sinning’ up to that point – it will also frame it, in a way, or perhaps even ‘replace’ it.


LPO: Would you describe what you do as 'classical'? 

JB: I think it depends. I’ve been doing a lot of work with jazz musicians in the past few years and so I got to thinking and hearing more through jazz language and tried to put myself in the shoes of jazz musicians when working on the material. A lot of that is now feeding back into the classical/composed music I’m working on and it’s likely that the reverse will happen soon, as I’ll be focussing on jazz projects again. Classical music has really particular connotations, as everyone knows, and some of those can get in the way of a useful description of music. Then there are all the distinctions to be made between ‘classical’ and ‘contemporary’. Regarding Sinful Sinfonies, I like the idea of it being thought of as essentially a classical piece of music, but the music itself is rebellious and doesn’t like the labels, so it dances playfully around them.

LPO: Say there is someone reading this who has never been to a classical concert or listened to much contemporary classical music before, and might not know what to expect from Debut Sounds- is there anything you would say to them about the concert?

JB: I would say… focus on what it means to you, first and foremost. Follow your instincts. Let the music paint pictures for you. Also try to stay present with it and experience it without filtering it through thoughts and intellect. If it’s rhythmical music, then feel that and respond with the body. If it makes you want to laugh, then laugh. Reference points can be useful but these are new pieces and the music is just trying to connect with your natural instincts. Give the music a chance and enjoy it!

Join us on Wednesday 10 June for our Debut Sounds concert where you can hear the world premiere of Jonathan's piece Sinful Sinfonies. For more information and to buy tickets visit our event page.