Luke Styles on composition

We caught up with Luke Styles ahead of his commission On Bunyah, supported through our Musically Gifted scheme. On Bunyah will appear in At Lunch One in Cambridge, Norwich and London this November.

Luke Styles (c) Kira Doherty

What’s your earliest musical memory?
When I was very young and at nursery (so no more than 5 years old), I have a memory of a clown coming to visit the nursery and that this clown played the flute. I was captivated by this and then when I was about 6 or 7 I demanded to learn the flute. I’m not sure if my young mind added some of the colour to this memory but it’s how I remember it.

What has inspired you most recently?
I listened to a lot of the Proms online this year and I was very taken by Per Nørgård’s 3rd Symphony, which I ended up listening to 3 times. This then took me back to one of my composition teacher’s works, Wolfgang Rihm’s Vigilia. In an odd way both these works have fed into the current piece for Britten Sinfonia and Mark Padmore.

What advice would you give to aspiring composers?
Pursue projects and write music you want to write. Don’t get bogged down in ideas of what you should compose or trying to please others. Cultivate your individual voice and be proactive about realising your ideas. Be prepared to be a polymath of creativity and entrepreneurship.

What’s your musical guilty pleasure?
There are so many they don’t feel guilty. Recently it’s been reliving a number of 90s classics such as TLC, very classy.

If you turned your iPod on now, what would be playing?
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Which musical instrument do you wish you could play, and why?
The theorbo is pretty cool and is calling out for more new music to be written for it.

If you hadn’t been a musician what might have happened, or not happened, in your life and career?
I think I may have ended up being a director, as this is probably the next most creative field I am drawn to as it has aspects of making new work and the stage encompassed in it. I thought about reading law at one stage and was drawn to it’s adversarial aspects though I don’t think I could have stuck it out with the type of detail that is required of that profession. I like coffee a lot and often dream about opening a coffee van and driving around the country staying at beautiful locations and making tasty drinks. I can’t really imagine how my brain would work if I weren’t a composer though, it’s constantly on a type of compositional setting drawing on everything I hear and see and pulling it into my work, somehow or other.

What is your career highlight so far?
Performances of my opera Macbeth at Glyndebourne and Covent Garden, soon to be overshadowed by the premiere of my new song cycle On Bunyah by Britten Sinfonia and Mark Padmore!

On Bunyah is a new song cycle written for tenor Mark Padmore and Britten Sinfonia based upon ideas in a poetry collection by Les Murray which give a voice to many aspects of Australia. Tickets are now on sale for At Lunch One, taking place at West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge (20 November), Wigmore Hall, London (21 November) and St Andrew’s Hall, Norwich (23 November). You can support Luke’s new work on Musically Gifted here.