Laurence Osborn on composition - Britten Sinfonia

Laurence Osborn on composition

Laurence Osborn (b. 1989) is a British composer currently based in London, and is being commissioned to write a new piece for Britten Sinfonia in At Lunch One in October 2019. Laurence’s piece will be performed during lunchtime concerts in Cambridge, London and Norwich, with celebrated harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani.

We had a chat with Laurence and got to know a little bit more about him, what his influences are and his career so far…

Laurence Osborn

Laurence Osborn © Chloe Wicks

What’s your earliest musical memory?
I have a very vivid memory of my mum singing Hey Ho, The Wind and The Rain to me while wheeling me in a buggy around Stamford Hill during a thunderstorm. My earliest memory of actually making music is singing along to Breed by Nirvana in the car with my dad. I used to think that when Kurt was screaming ‘she said’ he was actually screaming the name of my friend Tasir from nursery.

What has inspired you most recently?
Two experiences stick out, and both are Bach-related. The first was spending a few afternoons having a look at the first movement of Brandenburg Concerto No 5. Bach’s approach to form and phrase structure in that movement is completely wild. Some of it reminds me of the sort of collage you find in Stravinsky. The second was seeing Mahan giving a ferocious performance of the Partita No. 6 in E Minor at the Wigmore Hall. It opened my ears to timbres and articulations that I had no idea were possible on the harpsichord, and forced me completely re-evaluate my approach to writing for the instrument. I threw a lot of music in the bin after that!

What advice would you give to aspiring composers?
Listen to absolutely everything. Go to lots and lots of concerts. Have a method of working and finding your voice that suits you, rather than one that you think is ‘correct’. Be aware of how many people are giving their attention and care in bringing your music to life on any given occasion.

What’s your musical guilty pleasure?
The act of listening to the same song on repeat for the entire duration of a journey. I hit a new low earlier this year when I managed to listen to Frozen by Madonna all the way from Brussels to London.

If you turned your iPod on now, what would be playing?
Esa-Pekka Salonen’s recording of the original version of Mussorgsky’s Night on the Bare Mountain with the LA Phil. It’s a recording that demonstrates just how radical and unique Mussorgsky’s voice was, and I’ve been listening to it a lot recently.

Which musical instrument do you wish you could play, and why?
The piano. I regret having not learned to play it every single day, because it’s such a useful tool for discovering the music of other composers.

If you hadn’t been a musician what might have happened, or not happened, in your life and career?
I realised I wanted to be a composer relatively late, but I’ve always had a creative outlet of some form or another. I did a lot of creative writing while at secondary school, spent hours in my room designing mazes while at primary school, and drew lots of pictures of dinosaurs in nursery. So I might have been a poet, a landscape architect, or an illustrator for journals of palaeontology.

Career highlight?
It has to be the first time I ever heard my music played. The performance was given by a student string quartet during a workshop at university, and it was so intense I felt like my heart was going to burst out of my chest. I still get that feeling whenever I hear a new piece played in rehearsal for the first time.

You can be among the first to hear Laurence’s new piece in At Lunch One, 1-4 October 2019 at Cambridge’s West Road Concert Hall, London’s Wigmore Hall and Norwich’s St Andrew’s Hall.

You can support Laurence’s new commission via Musically Gifted and receive signed scores, complimentary tickets to the world premiere and even meet the composer.