Poet Andrew Motion on his favourite composers

The former poet laureate muses on the music he loves

Poet Andrew Motion on his favourite composers

Interviewing Andrew Motion recently about his war poem An Equal Voice, which is being set by Sally Beamish for the London Symphony Orchestra and Royal Scottish National Orchestra, I asked him about the music he likes. While the question didn't quite fit with the direction of the rest of the article, I thought others might be as intrigued as I was to hear what the former poet laureate enjoys listening to.

'I used to listen to a lot of pop music and rock'n'roll when I was a boy,' he began, 'But all of that has now gone away. Except Bob Dylan. And at home I rather struggle to listen to orchestral music as it somehow seems too big for my flat. Mahler is the only person who overcomes that feeling. I also listen to Schubert and Schumann a lot.'

As for many classical-music lovers, Bach is his daily bread. 'A day doesn't go by without listening to something by him. Bach is the man above all others for me. Admittedly quite a lot of the Bach I listen to has quite large choirs in it, but I don't feel quite so intimidated by it in my front room, somehow.'

But it was Britten that first inspired Motion's love of classical music. 'I was brought up quite near Aldeburgh [where Britten lived], and his music spoke to me very directly about places that I knew. I also love Ivor Gurney, Purcell and Byrd. I often listen to Sally Beamish and Peter Maxwell Davies, and recently I've been exploring a lot of Judith Weir because she's just been made Master of the Queen's Music. So as it turns out I listen to a lot of English music. I don't know if that says something. It's funny, isn't it. But this is music that speaks to me, that I feel in my guts in a way.'

I asked him if, perhaps, his love of English music is rooted in landscape? 'Yes, it is. It’s profoundly to do with that in a funny way. It’s rather hard to spell out what that means, but I know you’re right. I mean when I listen to it my head fills with my own country childhood: rocks and stones and trees.'


Photo: Stuart Leech




Artist interview: Sally Beamish and Andrew Motion 

Artist interviews: Sir Peter Maxwell Davies

A guide to the music of Judith Weir


  • Article Type: | Blog |
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