Lockdown Recommendations from Musicians: Composer Augusta Read Thomas

Augusta Read Thomas talks us through the music by Bach and Davis that have been keeping her company during the coronavirus pandemic. Plus, a poetry podcast recommendation from the New Yorker

Composer Augusta Read Thomas

Musical recommendations

Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier, Books I and II (Glenn Gould)

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I consider JS Bach to be my most important teacher. His music underpins every day of my life. I love his music for far too many reasons to list, but for starters… I love its magic, sublime beauty, invention, craft, clarity, intensity, elegance, concision, perfection, technical mastery, form, flow, integration, magnetism, humanity, spirituality, empathy, power, civility and grace.

For me, his music will always be contemporary because it is timeless – it sounds ‘fresh’ and vivid in any context or epoch.

Miles Davis with John Coltrane: The Complete Cumbria Recordings

It is clear, in all my works, that I have been listening to jazz for 35 years. I am not a composer of ‘crossover’ jazz pieces; rather, there is a deeply integrated and digested sense related to jazz harmonies, flexibility, spontaneity and flow.

Although it is highly notated, precise and carefully structured, I like my music to have the feeling that it is organically being self-propelled, as though the listeners are overhearing an improvisation.

The collaborations between Miles Davis and John Coltrane are chamber music of the highest order.  They were able to link into the same sonic and spiritual wavelength as if they could hear and think, in advance, about what the other player was about to do. As well as being superb duo partners, they created iconic solos.

Podcast recommendation

The New Yorker Poetry Podcast

In a poem, a dash, colon, comma, line break or a stanza break can totally reshape the meaning of a poem.

If you change the order of two words, purposely interrupt a rhyme-scheme, create or remove a pause or change the voice of the speaker, the meaning can be transformed.

On this podcast, poets read and discuss a poem they admire that has been published in the New Yorker, before then reading and discussing a poem they themselves have had published in the magazine.

Superstar poets Kevin Young and Paul Muldoon – both of whom have held the title of poetry editor at the New Yorker, pose thoughtful, brilliant questions to their guests. I have heard all of these podcasts each about five times each!

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You can find out more about the music of Augusta Read Thomas here.