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Alex Groves is an Ivor Novello-nominated composer whose work often blends classical instruments and live-processing to create uncanny soundworlds which blur the line between acoustic and electronic.

His music has been presented nationally and internationally at venues including the Southbank Centre, Barbican Centre, Kings Place, soundfestival, Britten Pears Arts, St George's Bristol, The Concertgebouw and MONOM, broadcast on NTS Radio, BBC Radio 3 and BBC Radio 6 Music, and released on Cantaloupe, Nonclassical, Bedroom Community and Coviello Contemporary.

Our Q&A with Alex:

WHAT ARE YOU MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO ABOUT BEING PART OF THE MAGNUM OPUS PROGRAMME?
I’m really looking forward to being part of a community alongside my fellow Magnum Opus composers, the programme mentors, Britten Sinfonia staff and the players. Being a composer can be quite isolating when a lot of your time is spent at a desk working away on things, so it’ll be great to be embedded within the organisation and have a big group of people to bounce ideas off.

WHAT SORT OF MUSIC DO YOU LIKE TO WRITE?

I’ve described my work in the past as music that you have to lean in to - music that asks a listener how they feel about it rather than prescribing their reaction for them. I still think about my music in those terms but I’ve been a bit more front-footed recently in the way I write. I just finished an MA at Guildhall and it’s shaken up my approach to things in a really good way. It’s given me the confidence to follow my intuition more and I’m excited to see where that leads me next.

WHO HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST MUSICAL INFLUENCE?

Weirdly, I think my biggest musical influences have come from the world of visual art - people like Barbara Hepworth, Bridget Riley, Richard Long and Agnes Martin whose work and writings I return to again and again. I love finding out how they think about the work they make and hearing how they conceptualise it has really shaped my approach to music and composition.

WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO COMPOSE? WHY DO YOU THINK CREATING NEW MUSIC IS IMPORTANT?

I think creating anything new is about trying to distil your own experience of the world down into something that you can share with others. Whether it’s music, art, performance or writing, it’s an attempt to make sense of the mess of everyday life and find a way for others to see a little part of themselves reflected in it. Each of us has a different perspective and we’re constantly experiencing new things so there’s always a stimulus to create, always a new idea to be shared.

HOW DID YOU GET INTO COMPOSITION?
I’ve always loved listening to music and spent my teenage years seeking out new bands and artists. As I started to do more and more music through school and beyond, I realised that I most enjoyed writing music and seeing other people bring it to life. I like to know how things work - seeing what’s under the bonnet or behind the curtain - and I think with music that means understanding all the little building block of how it’s constructed so composing felt like a natural thing for me to do.

WHAT 3 PIECES OF MUSIC WOULD YOU CHOOSE FOR YOUR DESERT ISLAND DISC?
Passacaglia from the Mystery Sonatas by Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber - I’m drawn to the beautiful simplicity of this piece again and again. Those four descending notes of the opening are constantly being reinvented, making the music feel as if it’s almost being written in real time.

the little match girl passion
by David Lang - One of the most heart-wrenching pieces of music I’ve ever heard. It completely stopped me in my tracks the first time I listened to it and it has the same effect on me to this day. The intricate choral textures and sparse story-telling are so atmospheric that it never fails to send a chill down my spine.

Track 10 by Charli XCX - it feels like the perfect pop song got put in a blender and came out even better. Our listening habits nowadays roam across all kinds of genres and artists, and I’m really enjoying letting the pop and electronic music that I love influence my writing more and more.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE SNACK?

My favourite snack is a KitKat Chunky because it’s got an excellent chocolate to biscuit ratio and still feels like value for money even as chocolate bar prices creep ever higher.


Learn more about Alex on his website

Upcoming Magnum Opus concert:

Magnum Opus Composer Showcase

Magnum Opus Composer Showcase

Discover 3 new chamber concertos, written by our current Magnum Opus composers and performed by soloists Ryan Corbett (accordion), Sean Shibe (electric guitar) and Emma Smith (jazz vocals).
Book now