Composer Andrea Tarrodi on her synaesthesia, using electronics and writing for ballet

Swedish composer Andrea Tarrodi is particularly renowned for her orchestral writing. Her new work Solus is opening the 2020 Last Night of the Proms

Andrea Tarrodi (credit: Louisa Sundell)

Based in Stockholm, Andrea Tarrodi has written music for a wide variety of instrumentations, orchestras and choirs. Winning a Swedish composition competition in 2010 for her orchestral piece Zephyros led to her music being performed by ensembles across the world. She is the Nordic Chamber Orchestra’s composer in residence.

I have synaesthesia, so I approach music from a visual perspective. Different notes and chords have different colours. When I was young, I was initially torn between painting and composing, and I still approach music through an artistic lens. I do sketches and drawings of the shape of the music before I write it and then always do a painting or illustration on the scores when I complete them.

My music is tonal, and a lot of people see it as impressionistic in style. I think there’s always been the same feeling in my music, but I’ve evolved technically over the years and have learnt to express myself better.
I prefer writing for orchestra, because of the huge palate of sounds available. Writing for chamber ensembles, though, helps me to learn skills and techniques which I can then translate to my orchestral writing. When you write chamber music, you can really focus on the details because you often tend to have more time to do so.

I’ve also used electronics in my music. One thing I like about writing electronic music is the immediacy of it: you can hear how it’s going to sound right then and there. I wrote a piece for viola, electronics and ‘yoiking’, which is a kind of ancient native style of singing. I wove together old recordings of women yoiking with sounds of the viola.

Having recently written a short opera, I would love to write for ballet or dance. I like having a text or piece of non- musical inspiration to work from. It’s easier to get into the music faster. Writing melodies was a very different practice for opera, though, because the lines tend to be a lot longer when you write for the voice.

I share a studio with friends in Stockholm. There are two architects, a costume designer and a photographer, so we’re all doing totally different things but are all creatives. I have a keyboard there and wear headphones so I can just go into my own world and not disturb anyone.

Andrea Tarrodi was interviewed by Freya Parr.

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