Robert Singer (OPUS2018 winner) on composition - Britten Sinfonia

Robert Singer (OPUS2018 winner) on composition

Robert Singer is the winner of Britten Sinfonia’s OPUS2018 competition for unpublished composers, and will have his piece Watercraft premiered during lunchtime concerts in March 2019.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…

Robert Singer (Image by Yony Photography)

What’s your earliest musical memory?
I remember humming along to the engine changing pitch when the gears were shifted in the family car when I was a toddler. I remember thinking that it was almost like the car had a voice. I suppose this early form of imitation was similar to the process of learning music by ear.

What has inspired you most recently?
Most recently I have been inspired by walking on the hills near Cardiff. They inspire a creative process and help me to keep an eye on the bigger picture.

What advice would you give to aspiring composers?
I would say that there’s no right or wrong place to be when developing your art-form as it all leads to the same place eventually. Don’t be afraid to learn music theory because it may change your musical voice for a time, but will help you to learn new things which will eventually flow as freely as speaking. Keep your integrity and remember that sometimes what you need doesn’t always come all at once.

What’s your musical guilty pleasure?
I like to go out with a violin bow and explore what day to day objects like fences, bridges and metallic objects sound like when bowed. A lot of things make the most incredibly sound! It’s amazing what you can find out, and it’s always fun explaining what you are doing when dog walkers see you with a microphone and bow, and are bemused.

If you turned your iPod on now, what would be playing?
John Luther Adams, Henryk Górecki, Meredith Monk and Mark O’Connor amongst many other artists.

Which musical instrument do you wish you could play, and why?
The violin, because it is one of the hardest instruments to master and can produce some of the most beautiful sounds in my opinion. It’s also incredibly versatile and has the potential to fit so many different styles. 

If you hadn’t been a musician what might have happened, or not happened, in your life and career?

I may have gone into engineering or architecture, as I seem to be good at visualising things in 3D in my head. I think music making has some parallels to this, as I often think about the shape of a piece in a similar way to a physical object.

Career highlight?
So far, it has been when my ballet was performed at the Atmospheres Festival at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. I worked with an external choreographer for months creating an original story line about friendship, and I subsequently wrote the music. Seeing so many people come together and get into the spirit of the piece was a fantastic experience, and having a chance to put such personal meaning into a project was incredibly rewarding.

You can be among the first to hear Robert’s new piece in At Lunch Three, 22-27 March 2019 in Norwich’s St Andrew’s Hall, Cambridge’s West Road Concert Hall and London’s Wigmore Hall.

You can also support Robert’s new commission via Musically Gifted.