Jonny Greenwood – The Quietus, 2014

Conducted in February 2014. Read the full article.

From the piece:

Greenwood’s contributions to Radiohead, recently and in the past, paint a more complex picture. There’s a hint of Krzysztof Penderecki in the choral keyboards of Ok Computer’s ‘Exit Music For A Film’, while the composer’s influence is more clearly heard in ‘Climbing Up The Walls’. At the same time, the brass arrangements for ‘The National Anthem’ and ‘Life In A Glasshouse’ suggest that Greenwood has a long held interest in, and talent for, more ambitious-than-your-average-band arrangements; and there’s his frequent use of the peculiar ondes Martenot, popularised by the composer Olivier Messiaen, which provides the incredible emotional pull on tracks like Hail To The Thief’s ‘Where I End And You Begin’ and Kid A’s ‘How To Disappear Completely’. We can also look back to the Ether Festival in 2005, when Thom Yorke joined Jonny Greenwood and the Nazareth Orchestra on stage, performing a new Radiohead song called ‘Arpeggi’.

It was unlike anything the band had yet released – but you can recognise it as the first iteration of ‘Weird Fishes/Apreggi’, from 2007’s In Rainbows. Where at Ether, strings rise and fall behind Thom Yorke’s vocals, the album replaces instruments with the voice of band guitarist Ed O’Brien; and while the central melodic progression is near identical on both versions, In Rainbows foregrounds guitars, burying the ondes Martenot which characterised the performance at the Ether Festival.

The dampening of that particular instrument is telling, because its relationship with Radiohead, and the bridge it builds between them and the composer Olivier Messiaen, is a neat symbol for Jonny Greenwood’s musical output. He confesses a long-held love for Messaien’s music and for the instrument, featuring it in his earliest solo compositions – ‘Smear’, ‘Piano For Children’ and ‘Popcorn Superhet Receiver’ in 2004 and 2005 – and on his scores for film, most prominently Paul Thomas Anderson’s acclaimed There Will Be Blood, which brought Greenwood’s solo compositions to a wider audience.

Like what you read? Commission me.