Poet Andrew Motion on his favourite composers

The former poet laureate muses on the music he loves

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Poet Andrew Motion on his favourite composers
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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

 

 

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  • Article Type: | Blog |
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