Leo Chadburn on composition

Leo Chadburn (aka Simon Bookish) is currently putting the finishing touches to his new work for piano trio and electronics which premieres during our At Lunch series in January. He took some time out to talk to us about his influences, advice for other composers and what he’s been listening to recently.

Leo Chadburn relaxing

Leo Chadburn (c) Lucy Johnston

What’s your earliest musical memory?
Listening to the records in my parents’ collection: David Bowie’s Low, which I still love, Frank Zappa’s very strange soundtrack to 200 Motels, which I’m not so sure about these days, and Rondo Veneziano’s Venice In Peril: ersatz Vivaldi with disco beats. I was hypnotized by the LP sleeve: an airbrushed, retro-futurist vision of the sinking city, with robot gondoliers and robot cellists.

What has inspired you most recently?
This year, hearing outstanding live music – as well as going to a lot of concerts, I organise a concert series. In particular, Lore Lixenberg singing Nono’s La Fabricca Illuminata; visceral solo performances by Moor Mother and Angharad Davies in Bergen, the vocal ensemble Juice performing music by Meredith Monk, seeing Alwynne Pritchard perform Michael Finnissy’s Mr Punch.

What advice would you give to aspiring composers?
Make your own opportunities; be bold; watch non-Hollywood films; go to art galleries; make connections with artists who are outside your immediate field; have a sense of humour.

What’s your musical guilty pleasure?
There is no music I enjoy that I feel remotely guilty about. Life’s too short. I’ve been involved in early music, pop, experimental music, electronica… there’s something I love in most fields and genres of music.

The last concert you saw or performed in?
I was asked to sing music by Robert Ashley, Jennifer Walshe, Christopher Fox and Travis Just at this year’s London Contemporary Music Festival. It’s a wonderful, imaginative, thrilling festival, so I was extremely glad to be involved.

Which musical instrument do you wish you could play, and why?
Practically: it would be useful to be a much better pianist. More fantastically: the sounds that make my hair stand on end: the ondes martenot, the cornetto, the bass saxophone. It’s financially improbable, but I would love to own a synthesizer built by Don Buchla.

If you hadn’t been a musician what might have happened, or not happened, in your life and career?
I think the work entomologists do is important and incredibly interesting. I’m not sure I’m scientific enough to have had that kind of career though.


You can hear Leo Chadburn’s new work for piano trio and electronics during our At Lunch Two concerts at Cambridge’s West Road Concert Hall on Tuesday 23 January, London’s Wigmore Hall on Wednesday 24 January and Norwich’s St Andrew’s Hall on Friday 26 January. Click here for more info.

Help support Leo’s new work via our Musically Gifted campaign.

Find out more about Leo Chadburn here.