Old Racket and New Balls - Jonathan Lloyd shares some thoughts on his two new pieces written for his RPS Elgar Busary commission - one for winds and one for strings - and to be performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra in 2013
‘Audacious’, ‘quirky’, ‘engaging’, ‘individual’ - apt words all to describe the music of Jonathan Lloyd, who emerged in the 1970s and early 1980s as a composer with a distinctive and original voice. His Symphony No 4 was one of the stand out works of the RPS first Encore Series.
Q. What led you to write two smaller-scale works rather than one for full orchestra?
A. The thought of getting twice the exposure.
Q. So your string piece isn't intended as a nod to Elgar's Introduction & Allegro?
A. Sure it is. That was the first thing of his I ever heard and it's still my favourite. Not that mine sounds much like the Elgar - same with Symphonies of Wind Instruments, I love that piece but mine doesn't sound much like the Stravinsky either - nothing sounds like them really, that's what makes them special.
Q. So doing without the full orchestral palette didn't bother you?
A. Not at all - that's what attracted me actually - which may surprise people who know my work. Not a guitar, mandolin, sax or drumkit in sight - in fact no percussion.
Q. Are both titles direct references to tennis?
A. Well I play most days - but tennis racket's spelt qu isn't it?
Q. Is 'old racket' autobiographical or symbolic in some other way then?
A. In the sense that music comes from some ancient noise out there and travels to us here through time.
Q. And 'new balls'?
A. New balls move through the air better - makes music travel easier.
Q. That sounds like writing for you is a journey of some kind.
A. It's more a sort of slowed-down performance really, in my case very slowed-down as I don't use a computer. I set off and make it up as I go - then the musical score becomes a record of that particular performance at that time.
Q. Don't all composers work that way?
A.. Apparently not - I gather some do a lot of pre-planning before they put a note down. I sort of trance myself and tune in that ancient noise I talked about, then go from there.
Q. Are the pieces linked in any way?
A. Not directly in terms of material - but they're both in a single movement and run around fifteen minutes each. They also share a conspiratorial air you could say.
Q. How's that?
A. Well, there are plots and counter-plots being hatched all the time - by groups and individuals, cabals and loners, losers, false prophets - they're all there. Sometimes you wonder whether what you're hearing is what's actually happening.
Q. Talking of which - you've been known in the past for a certain scepticism towards the music business. Do these titles reflect that in some way?
A. Now there's one I never thought of - you're not a conspiracy theorist are you?
Portrait of Jonathan Lloyd by Theo Jamieson