Jonny Greenwood and the LCO – Boiler Room, 2014

Conducted in November 2014.Greenwood asked personally for me to interview him for the piece, following our interview earlier in the year.

Read the full article.

From the piece:

Many of Greenwood’s own compositions were less intrusive [than Michael Gordon’s Industry”]: the beautiful “Application 45 Version 1” bridged the set, calling forth the disconcertingly inoffensive silhouettes of Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman in Paul Thomas Anderson’s movie The Master, which Greenwood scored.

His pieces did that throughout the night; evoking images, and not always the images associated with the film scores. This is a notable characteristic of Greenwood’s music – you get a sense that on some level, it’s speaking to you.

We wanted to ask Greenwood about this directly: does he set out to imbue not only a sense of visuals but also narrative from his pieces? Although his work goes into quite experimental worlds it remains very accessible – like hearing a story being told.

Greenwood had typically thoughtful opinions on the idea. “That’s interesting”, he said. “I hope so. I’m beginning to understand now what music teachers would drum into us at school about something being said; it’s music and notes, but it’s a conversation as well. I always thought that was a bit of a primary school idea: a bit wet, a bit soft. But they don’t have to be saying nice things. There’s more than one way of talking. And I guess that’s hopefully how the music would work.”

A potential part of the reason for that feeling in his music is his fondness for voice-like instruments: the violin, the viola and the curious ondes martenot. They have incredibly strong emotional qualities, similar to a human voice; and Greenwood is used to providing music for Thom Yorke, one of the most recognisable and emotionally resonant voices in modern music. Perhaps it’s writing in that way – thinking of a voice – that makes his work successful. Greenwood agreed that, when he writes for orchestra, his working practices aren’t necessarily different from when he’s working with Radiohead.

“I suppose I’m still steeped in the idea of chords and melodies,” he said. “A chord and, you know, a song being sung. That’s kind of how I’ve always worked. The tension comes from trying to work out how to do that with non-standard chords and melodies. I’m so used to having a chord sequence, and there being a song written to it, that I suppose I’ve still got one foot in that camp a little bit.”

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