Skip to main content

Composer Spotlight Q&A

How did you get into composition?
I played a lot of clarinet as a teenager, and some of my most memorable experiences were playing new music, in particular playing Kenneth Hesketh's In Ictu Oculi with the National Youth Wind Ensemble. I think this was the moment that I thought "hmm, maybe I could try doing this as well!" Playing with sound and making interesting noises sounded fun!

What sort of music do you like to write?

I enjoy writing pieces that illustrate simple, physical gestures or actions. Often this is mirrored by their titles (e.g. SHATTER, fold). Perhaps related to this, I enjoy large contrasts, and have recently been really interested in balancing extreme sparseness and simplicity with extreme density and constant movement.

What excites you most about being part of Opus 1?

Being able to develop a piece over a long period of time, together with the support of experienced players and tutors. It is unusual to have opportunities to workshop and experiment far in advance of the final performance.

What 3 pieces of music would you have on your desert island?

Definitely something by David Bowie. I keep coming back to his music repeatedly and I discover new things all the time. It's hard to choose one song, but I'll settle on Blackstar for now. Listening to the album (of the same name) always gives me slight chills, knowing that Bowie died only a couple of days after the release

My second choice is Leoš Janáček's Sinfonietta. The orchestration in this piece is beautiful, yet extremely strange. The textures are often very thin, combining just a few instruments. I also really enjoy the cellular construction of the music, circling round and round endlessly.

And finally, Andrew Norman's The Companion Guide to Rome. This is a really beautiful set of miniatures based on various churches in Rome, making a string trio sound far larger than I ever expected. This is one of the first pieces of truly contemporary classical music that I heard.

What is the best snack? (We ask everyone this, it's important research!)

Toast with peanut butter! Quick and simple, provides a good variety of textures, and it tastes great.

About Sam

Sam Greening recently graduated from Guildhall School of Music and Drama with a Distinction in his Masters Degree, working across concert music, theatre, and dance. Sam is interested in high contrast, continuously shifting tempi, and subtly placed sounds, all within simple gestural forms. EXAUDI premiered his setting of Marina Tsvetayeva's Insomnia 8, a shell where the ocean is still sounding. Collaborative projects include Work-in-Progress, with writer Sam Redway-Wells, and music for choreographer Hebe Salmon's piece Giselle, this time it's about me which premiered at The Place. Sam received the King's College Bertram Faulkner Prize in his final year at Cambridge University.

Discover more