Fanfare: Tell us a little about what characterizes your composing style.
James MacMillan: I think of myself as a modern composer with an abiding fascination for tradition. Therefore there are aspects of my style which may seem familiar to audiences and other aspects which will be new.
FM: What is your inspiration for composition?
JM: I have many inspirations. Music is the most abstract of the arts and the specific parameters of how music works has always fascinated me. Nevertheless, composers can have unexpected motivations, and sometimes these can be extra-musical, like a story, a picture or even an event. I am open to the possibility of all these things finding a place in my work.
FM: Tell us about your background. What led you to become a composer?
JM: I am Scottish. I grew up in the Lowlands and have lived most of my life in Glasgow. I wanted to be a composer form a very early age, although I didn’t know what that meant then.
FM: Is there anything particular you strive to reveal in your music?
JM: I suppose I have an ideal listener in mind when I compose, someone who is hungry and thirsty for music they don’t yet know. Therefore there is a questing and exploratory character to my music, underpinned by a sense that music is a universal language which communicates shared truths about ourselves.
FM: The CSO will be performing Veni, Veni, Emmanuel with percussionist Colin Currie this month. Why did you choose to use percussion as the primary focus of this piece?
JM: I was invited to write a percussion concerto over twenty years ago by the Scottish percussionist Evelyn Glennie. The challenge was to make something cohesive out of a wide range of disparate instruments, all coming together with a traditional orchestra. The solution was found in this piece of chant (“Veni, veni”) which became the building block of the entire work.
FM: What projects are you currently working on or are on the horizon?
JM: Strangely, I am working on another percussion concerto! I am writing it for Colin Currie, your soloist, and he will give the premiere late in 2014.