Composer Robert Szymanek on LSO Discovery's Digital Technology Group


One of the most rewarding aspects of my work as a composer comes through my teaching, giving people the tools to help them develop their ideas and realise their creative potential.

Over the last few months I’ve been mentoring young composers on LSO Discovery’s Digital Technology Group (DTG). It’s all been gearing up towards a special concert on the 26 July at LSO St Luke’s, which will feature my arrangements of their music alongside my own.

We’ll be performing our music with five LSO players, which is going to be such a great experience for the young composers (and me too!). They’ve been working really hard on their music. Their creativity and determination have been inspiring to watch.

The Digital Technology Group was set up by LSO Discovery to allow young people to use the computers, recording equipment, instruments and rehearsal spaces at LSO St Luke’s to make their own music. There’s such a broad range of styles in the group, from soul and gospel, to electroacoustic soundscapes and contemporary classical music. One thing that unites them, though, is that they are all highly talented and skilled musicians in their own right... Already!

 

About half of the concert will be dedicated to the DTG members. For the other half, I’m going to be performing my own music. And I must say I’m really excited.

The commission brief from LSO Discovery was that my performance had to be technologically inspired. Well, the timing of the concert couldn’t be better, as I’m currently in the process of launching an album called Music from a Crowded Planet, which was inspired by the sounds of different environments on Earth.

The album will be accompanied by a special Crowded Planet app for iPad and iPhone, which I’ll be using to perform my music during the concert.

The app itself is based on my own artwork, an image of the Earth made entirely out of circles.

There are 10 landscapes on the Planet: The Sky, The Ocean, The City, A Storm, The Outback, The Great Plains, A Volcano, A Garden, A Forest, and a flotilla of Icebergs.

Each landscape contains the sounds of one track on the album: single notes or chords, or repeating loops of melody or rhythm performed on an array of instruments. Tapping on the circles reveals the sounds, which you can layer together as you like, remixing the music and creating your own musical environment.

It all came about as a solution to a musical problem on the album. I wanted the music to sound really diverse, so I used instruments from all over the world and blended them together. Whenever I tried to perform the music live, however, I was never really satisfied. It just didn’t really sound like the album. I couldn’t play all those different sounds at once! So when I made the artwork and realised that there were so many circles on the image (5,678 to be precise), I thought: ‘Hmm… Lots of circles! Lots of sounds to play with!’

I just so happened to be working on another app with a friend of mine, Matthew Hasler, who is an extraordinarily gifted developer. We talked and decided to turn my artwork into something of a musical instrument that I, or anyone else, could play.

Here's a little image taken from 'Inside The Sky'

It’s taken two years to develop and will be available to download on the day of the concert, as will the album. What’s more, it’ll be amazing to perform on the app alongside the LSO players. I really can’t wait! 

Robert curates an evening of music in collaboration with the LSO St Luke's Digital Technology Group and LSO players on 26 July, where he will perform songs from his new album Music from a Crowded Planet alongside compositions by DTG members.