Panufnik Legacies III: Ewan Campbell

Following the recent release of the third album in the Panufnik Legacies series, which features brand new music from alumni of the LSO Panufnik Composers Scheme, we asked the composers themselves to tell us a little more about their experience writing for and recording with the Orchestra.

Ewan Campbell'I’ve had the good fortune to be involved with the Panufnik Composers Scheme since 2016 when I wrote a short set of movements called Three Glimpses for a workshop with the LSO. I was delighted to be invited subsequently to compose a longer work, Frail Skies, for performance in 2018 and overjoyed that the Orchestra chose to include that piece on this disc in 2020. 

I have always visualised music to some extent before I compose and normally aim to have an imaginative overview of the whole work in my mind before pen meets paper. Visualising music is a much-discussed idea, and certainly, most of the language that we use to talk about music relies upon visual metaphors. For myself, I have come to realise that I think of the sounds initially in terms of shape, density and texture, rather than the more oft-cited ‘colour.’ Once I know how I want the music to feel (in a tactile rather than emotional sense), I craft it in my mind as musical elements such as ensemble, timbre, articulation, line. 

The volunteer Ewan Campbell sm

If musical impressionism is the aural equivalent to painting, I think of this process of conception as more akin to sculpture, and certainly, composing Frail Skies for orchestra felt similar to wood carving. In my limited carving experience, the natural form of the wood informs the eventual shape, and I start chiselling with nothing more than a vague sense of the outcome. Each cut of the chisel is directed by the feel of the wood’s grain and slight differences in its density, with the eventual form being arrived at through a series of ever closer approximations until eventually smoothing the surface with the finest grade of sandpaper. When composing Frail Skies I similarly edited and re-edited, stepping back occasionally to see how the overall form was taking shape – making sure that the intricacies of detail were not getting lost in the overall, or, more problematically, the detail, obfuscating the structure. I’m excited by complex and intricate music, that rewards repeated listening experiences and work towards that target in my own composing, hoping to balance the surface construction within the structural form and harmony. 

But a composer is always in collaboration with performers and must understand themselves through the eyes (and ears) of their collaborators. Working with the LSO over several years has given me the perfect opportunity to hone this ability. Through attending workshops with the Orchestra I’ve had first-hand experience of how the Orchestra respond to my music, as well as that of my fellow composers, and have gleaned information for my subsequent composing.'

Listen to Ewan Campbell's Frail Skies on Apple Music now

Panufnik Legacies III Album CoverPanufnik Legacies III

Each year the LSO's Panufnik Composers Scheme gives six composers the chance to write for a world-class symphony orchestra, under the guidance of our Principal Guest Conductor Francois-Xavier Roth and composers Colin Matthews and Christian Mason. Launched in 2005, the scheme was devised in association with Lady Camilla Panufnik to celebrate the musical legacy left behind by her husband, Sir Andrzej Panufnik, and to give new generations of composers new opportunities to develop their skills. Since then, over 80 composers have participated and the Orchestra has released several albums showcasing the work of these incredible new talents.

The third album in our Panufnik Legacies series features new music from Ayanna Witter-Johnson, Ewan Campbell, Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian, Donghoon Shin, Alex Roth, Matthew Sergeant, Patrick Giguère, Sasha Siem, Bethan Morgan-Williams, Michael Taplin, Benjamin Ashby & Joanna Lee.

This recording has been generously supported by The Boltini Trust. The LSO Panufnik Composers Scheme is generously supported by Lady Hamlyn and The Helen Hamlyn Trust.

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