Interview Andrew Keeling: Opus 20 - Hidden Streams

Music Journal, ISM Magazine, January 2000

How did you become interested in music?

Music has always been there. Having sung along to Beatles' records as a child, someone heard me and urged my parents to send me to Lichfield Cathedral as a chorister. I then got a scholarship to Oakham School and won several school composition competitions.

What made you decide to become a professional musician?

I have a distinct impression I didn't decide. It's as though music made the decision for me.

Who were your teachers?

Early on I was self-taught. During my time at school I got into rock music, and after leaving school played semi-professionally in bands, before studying the flute at Huddersfield university with Atarah Ben Tovim. I was unimpressed by the contemporary classical music scene at the time (1970's) and needed music which reached the heart and not just the head. I listened to Robert Fripp (King Crimson), T2 and Nick Drake, as well as Holst and Messiaen.

Which teachers had a particular influence on you?

I heard Nicola LeFanu's piece The Same Day Dawns in a concert in 1987, and immediately asked her if she would teach me. There was something in that music which shook me to the ground, probably the balance between intuitive and intellectual processes. I also studied privately with Anthony Gilbert, and then with John Casken for my PhD. These three allowed me to develop intuitively without losing sight of the fact that the head should always be engaged.

Have you had any important breaks?

Being asked to write a piece for Evelyn Glennie, and being asked to write pieces for Discipline Records affiliated artists by Robert Fripp.

How did they come about?

I wanted to write a percussion concerto and enquired whether Evelyn might be interested. She was, and is giving the piece its first performance in London in November 2000. A succession of, I would say, 'synchronicities'', led to Robert's invitation.

Who has helped you in your career?

I have never thought of composing just as a career. But several people have helped encourage me: Steven Wray and Thomas Tulacek who have performed my work; Rosalind Rawnsley of Worfield Charity Concert Trust who has commissioned several pieces and included others in concerts; Robert Fripp of Discipline

Which organisations have helped you in your career?

The SPNM (Society for the Promotion of New Music), particularly Richard Steele, included my music in workshop performance and concerts. As I didn't study full-time, this was very important in terms of hearing my music played by professional ensembles and soloists.

What are you working on now?

Last year I wrote a lot of music and at this moment [November 1999]

I've slowed down by working on two projects: a piece for the California Guitar Trio and an arranging project for Discipline Records. In December I begin work on two new pieces: a piece for the Newbold Piano Quartet, and a piece for early instruments for Virelai.

Are you doing now what you set out to do?

I began writing late (31), and I therefore had no clear career path in mind. I have been continually surprised that so much seems to have emerged in so short a time. I have tried to follow the promptings of the unconscious as carefully as possible, so in that sense I am doing what I set out to do.

How do you divide your time between different activities?

I still have to do a fair amount of teaching (RNCM junior School, Liverpool University and Rossall School) to make a living. However, funding seems to be developing to allow time for composing. It's as though things happen at the right time.

Where do you see yourself in another 10 years?

The future is best left to take care of itself.

What advice would you give someone leaving college?

If you feel 'called' to compose, follow your calling.

(This article first appeared in Music Journal, the monthly magazine of the Incorporated Society of Musicians. It has been reprinted with permission.)

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