Debut Sounds: Introducing Young Composer Peter Longworth

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 Peter Longworth, 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 does it feel to start hearing your work take shape when the Orchestra begins to rehearse it?

PL: It’s a very exciting experience and there are a lot of nerves because you’re living with something for quite a few months when you’re writing it at home. You might speak to instrumentalists whilst you’re writing but when you hear it all together for the first time, there are always things you’ll be surprised by or things you’re going to be happy about in terms of how they went or maybe things you could to better; you could have a whole mixture of emotions at once.

LPO: You mention surprises, has anything turned out differently from what you expected in the way it’s being interpreted?

Not really, it’s hard to know when you’re running through something for the first time because everybody is sight-reading and getting used to the piece and after the first couple of run-throughs and after they had played it a couple of times, I was hearing much more and I had calmed down as well and was able to listen in a much calmer way, so nothing too surprising which is good and a relief.

LPO: Is there any way you can describe your compositional style, in this piece in particular?

PL: Melody is very important, or at least lyricism, and I quite like to write music which has a lot of contrast and music which is quite fast, quite playful and generally speaking music which is quite light a lot of the time, so when the music is more densely scored there are more contrasting moments or moments that have more significance.

< Hear some of the music that has inspired Peter's work!

LPO: Is there anything at the core of your work that you’re trying to communicate or express with this particular piece?

PL: With this piece, I was reading a lot of stories inspired by medieval poetry, so it’s all about adventure, romance and it’s all a very romanticised world; obviously nothing like it would have been in medieval times but it’s become this glamorised thing so I wanted to capture this sense of adventure you get especially when you’re a kid and you read a book and it’s just the most exciting thing and the adventures come to life; I wanted to try and reconnect with that a bit.

LPO: What do you want your audience to experience on 10 June, is it that sense of adventure?

PL: I want to take the audience on some sort of journey, it doesn’t need to be a specific journey as long as it’s a journey for them and it doesn’t matter if it’s different from my journey as long as they have some way of moving through the piece that would be good for me.

LPO: Sometimes people refer to the creative process as a bit of a journey, where you might be uncovering or discovering something as much as building it per se, which raises questions of how much we can control our creativity. Do you always feel completely in control of what you’re writing or do you sometimes feel like it’s happening without you?

PL: I gave up a long time ago trying to plan anything, so I start writing something and then I maybe write a few different ideas and then one day I’ll wake up and work on one idea and the next day I don’t do anything. The day after that I do something different and I see where they lead and hopefully enough ideas take off that I can find a way of putting them together and find a way of making a piece out of them. It’s like going down a rabbit hole in a way.

LPO: Would you call what you do classical? It can sometimes be a contentious term when discussing new music ...

PL: I don’t have a problem with the term because I grew up playing in orchestras and where I went to school not many people listened to classical music so I guess it’s maybe the easiest way of identifying it. The most important figures to me are people who would be called ‘classical composers’ so for me it’s not a label I have any issues with.

LPO: Is there anything you'd say to someone who might be new to contemporary classical and perhaps considering giving it a try on 10 June? 

PL: Come with as open a mind as possible. I think the most difficult thing is that we grow up listening to music and build all these preconceptions about what music should be and it can be hard; it would be great to go back to a point where you didn’t have anything conditioned in you and you could listen to something for the first time without any background, but it’s hard to do that so you have to come and not expect anything and see where you get led by the music.

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