Edmund Finnis is writing a new piece for Britten Sinfonia musicians to premiere during lunchtime concerts in February 2019. We had a chat with him and got to know a little bit more about him, his influences and what his career has entailed so far…
What’s your earliest musical memory?
I was very fortunate to grow up surrounded by older siblings who were always making music in the house, and an early musical memory is crawling underneath the piano and playing Lego there while my sister was practicing what I would later find out were probably pieces by Brahms and Ravel.
What has inspired you most recently?
Sometimes, rarely by design, what one is looking at and listening to seem to fit meaningfully together despite being separate, intensifying one’s perception of both, and of time passing. I had one of these unexpected heightened moments recently, listening to a recording of Boris Christoff singing “Within Four Walls” from Mussorgsky’s song-cycle Sunless while looking through the window at heavy rain and dark windswept trees outside.
What advice would you give to aspiring composers?
Listen widely and attentively; enjoy making discoveries. Befriend musicians and learn from them as much as you can about how instruments work, how the sounds they make can meaningfully coexist. Be guided by your ears, and concentrate on developing your inner ear – the sounds of your imagining. Spend focused time with the scores of pieces you love. Think independently, assess and reason things through for yourself when you listen and when you compose. Don’t become over-reliant on technology to the extent that you forget that we’re all human beings, with everything that involves.
What’s your musical guilty pleasure?
A few years ago my housemates and I discovered that playing table tennis while listening to Krautrock turned up very loud is extremely satisfying. Something about the driving, motor-like drums and looping bass lines matches absolutely perfectly with a good rally. Try it with Hallogallo by Neu!, or Future Days by CAN, or in fact almost anything up-tempo by CAN. I don’t feel remotely guilty about this from a musical perspective – why would one feel guilt about something like that? – but I don’t think our neighbours loved this phase as much as we did.
If you turned on your iPod right now, what would be playing?
My friend Max de Wardener recently sent me some of his new music for retuned pianos and it is wonderful, joyful stuff which I’ve been listening to a lot. It hasn’t been released yet, but look out for it.
Which musical instrument do you wish you could play, and why?
I’d love to have a go on a proper mechanical glass harmonica one day. I’d enjoy improvising with it, and would also try to play this.
If you hadn’t been a musician what might have happened, or not happened, in your life and career?
I would want to be creating things whatever path I chose. I’ve always thought it would be satisfying to make a really good table, so maybe I would have tried my hand at carpentry.
What is your career highlight so far?
I’ll never forget the bracing and slightly overwhelming sensation of hearing a full orchestra playing a piece of mine for the first time. This was at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, where their symphony orchestra under Sian Edwards played it with great force. It was an unforgettable and invigorating experience for me personally.
You can be among the first to hear Edmund’s new piece in At Lunch Two, 12-15 February 2019 in Norwich’s St Andrew’s Hall, Cambridge’s West Road Concert Hall and London’s Wigmore Hall.