Meet our Composer-in-Residence
Alex Groves (composer)
A great chance to see a modern composer at work in the historic location of Handel’s Music Room.
Our Composer-in-Residence Alex Groves will be spending the day in Handel House working on new compositions.
We caught up with Alex to explain a bit more about his process and the Composer-in-Residence day.
What does your composing process actually entail? Are there any common misconceptions?
My music normally starts life as a slightly odd combination of numbers, words and drawings in my sketchbook. I’ll often create the underlying structure of a piece first, mapping out the whole thing long before the musical material starts to emerge. From there, I start to flesh out the piece, thinking about the exact mood or character that I want to create. I think out it in the same way as how a painter might choose a size of canvas prior to starting the work – you know what size/shape the piece is going to be and so from there you start figuring out the colours. I guess one of the biggest misconceptions is that music emerges fully formed and just needs to be written down. Often the finished piece has a file name like ‘New Work 07 Draft 2 Vers 05 (June 2017) FINAL’ and that’s when you know you’re close. To get to the really interesting stuff, you have to compose out a lot of bad ideas and false starts, you have to put it down on paper, strip away everything you don’t like and start again from there. Lots of my time is spent tweaking and tinkering with ideas to make sure there the best they can be, but that way I find that the final piece is all the more satisfying.
What do you hope to get out of a day composing in Handel House?
I’m hoping that the change of space, the otherness of composing somewhere new will help focus my thoughts. As a freelancer, I’m constantly working on a million different things at once and sometimes it takes a change of scenery to allow you to put everything else aside and just focus on one thing like writing music. Space is at such a premium these days (especially in London) and I do most of my work in my bedroom, so getting the chance to work in Handel House is kind of like a big breath of fresh air that I think will help lots of the things currently flying around in my head fall into place.
What can visitors to Handel House expect to see on March 1st when you’re here?
I think it’ll probably be a combination of me starring into the middle distance, noodling on the harpsichord and feverishly writing stuff down when I’ve latched onto something that works. Although, one of the really interesting things in any creative process is trying to explain it to someone on the outside, so I’m really keen to chat through what I’m working on with anyone willing to listen. Often that process of putting it into words or a good question from an observer can be just the thing you need to get through a creative block you’ve come up against.
As a composer working today how do you take influence from the greats of Baroque music like Handel?
For me, the big things I take from Baroque and Classical music are the directness, simplicity and efficiency of the music. I like music were everything is working as a unified whole and where the simplest gesture is used to convey what needs to be said. I also love the way Baroque dance flows through so much of the music and that focus on rhythm and that propulsive drive is something that crops up a lot in my writing.
When: 1st Mar 2018 at 12:30