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National Youth Orchestra Of Usa © Ryan Buchanan 28

Digital Composers

Digital Composers is a new project for secondary schools from Edinburgh International Festival, designed to support the Higher and Advanced Higher music qualifications, and in particular the composition element of the qualification by connecting students with leading composers from across a variety of genres.  

Developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and in consultation with music educators, the project seeks to enrich the learning experience of senior pupils by providing them with insights into the practise and experiences of working composers. Digital Composers will also see these professionals share inspirations and any advice they have for the students in creating their own compositions.  

Below are our first three interviews - composer and musician Anna Meredith talks about her career and practice, Blair Mowat, a composer for film and television shares what it is like to compose for moving images, and Sally Beamish unpacks her vast career creating music. Check back for more interviews coming soon include a conversation with Sir James MacMillan.

If you have used our online resources with your classes, we would love to hear from you. Please share your details and feedback here.

We chat to Anna Meredith, multi-award-winning composer and musician who hails from Edinburgh and has a deep connection with the International Festival having composed the music to our spectacular 2018 Aberdeen Standard Investments Opening Event: Five Telegrams. Anna talks about how she discovered a career as a composer, how she starts out creating new compositions, and shares stories from some of the fantastic works she has created over the last few years. 

About Anna Meredith

Anna Meredith is a composer, producer and performer of both acoustic and electronic music. Her sound is frequently described as ‘uncategorisable’ and ‘genre-defying’ and her “majestic bangers” (The Guardian) straddle the different worlds of contemporary classical, art pop, techno, ambient installations and experimental rock. She was awarded an MBE for services to music in the 2019 Queen’s Birthday Honours List, made the 2018 BBC Women’s Hour Power List and was voted Number One in The List's Hot100.

Her music has been performed everywhere from the BBC Last Night of the Proms to flashmob body-percussion performances at the M6 Services, PRADA, Chloe & Fendi fashion campaigns, Apple adverts, films, TV shows, installations and documentaries, pop festivals, clubs and classical concert halls worldwide and is regularly broadcast on BBC Radio 1, 2, 3, 4 & 6.

Anna has been Composer in Residence with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and the RPS/PRS Composer in the House with Sinfonia ViVA. She is also a regular presenter for BBC Radio3 and 6Music and a radio and TV guest, judge and panel member on numerous shows including appearing as Goldie's mentor for the TV show Classic Goldie.

Her debut album, Varmints was released in March 2016 on Moshi Moshi/PIAS to huge critical acclaim with 4 and 5 star reviews from press and media around the world including Pitchfork’s coveted Best New Music. Varmints was Loud & Quiet's Album of the Year 2016 & won the 2016 Scottish Album of the Year (SAY) Award.

Her second album, the Mercury Prize shortlisted FIBS, was released in October 2019 and scooped up the accolade of Electronic Sound’s Album of the Year 2019 and featured in numerous End of Year lists amidst a wealth of 4 and 5 star reviews.

Other recent projects include Five Telegrams, a large-scale orchestral piece written in collaboration with Tony Award-winning visuals company 59 Productions and co-commissioned by the BBC Proms, Edinburgh International Festival and 14-18 Now. Five Telegrams was performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Proms Youth Ensemble and the National Youth Choir of Great Britain both inside and outside the Royal Albert Hall at the First Night of the Proms and outside the Usher Hall as the opening night of the Edinburgh International Festival. .

After expanding into writing for film and TV, Anna scored her first soundtrack for Bo Burnham’s hugely successful debut feature Eighth Grade and followed with her first TV score for Netflix’s Living With Yourself. Her music features in numerous other films and shows including Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite.

Other recent projects have included an installation piece for the Zamboni machine at Somerset House Ice Rink, numerous works for the Ligeti Quartet, the world's first Concerto for Beatboxer and Orchestra, orchestral arrangements for Laura Marling, The Stranglers, and Sigur Ros, remixes and a four part Bach-inspired electronic installation for the shopping centre lifts in between M&S and Selfridges for Manchester International Festival.

Blair Mowat is a composer and music arranger for film, television and theatre and has worked on a variety of projects including David Attenborough’s Life Stories, ITV’s crime drama McDonald & Dodds and the Doctor Who spin off Class. We spoke to him about how he carved out his career in composition for the screen, how he goes about creating new music, and his exploration of unusual instruments.

About Blair Mowat

Blair has composed well over two hundred scores for film, theatre and television, with clients ranging from the English National Ballet and The Royal Shakespeare Company to the likes of the BBC and Channel 4. He is a BAFTA nominated, 4Talent short-listed, award-winning composer who is consistently in high demand. Born and raised in Edinburgh, his work includes Class an acclaimed 8-part spin-off series from Doctor Who on BBC One, and ITV’s hit show McDonald & Dodds, for which he also wrote the main theme, and was nominated for two Music + Sound Awards.  Classically trained from an early age, Blair has a BA (Hons) in Music from Durham University and an MA in Composition for Film and Television from Bristol University. In 2012 he was nominated for a Creative Scotland Award for 'Best New Talent' in the Scottish arts. As a musical arranger he has worked on shows such as Doctor Who and David Attenborough's Life Story.

For more info head to  https://www.blairmowat.co.uk/ 

We are thrilled to interview Sally Beamish OBE who has a vast career of composing music for symphony orchestra, chamber orchestra and ballet. Originally a viola player, Sally’s composition career took off when she moved to Scotland in the 1990s, and her work has multiple influences including a strong connection to Scottish traditional music. Sally shares how she came to be a composer, talks about the inspirations for her work, and provides some fantastic tips on how to manage your time when creating new music.

About Sally Beamish

Sally Beamish was born in London. She began her career as a viola player with the Raphael Ensemble, Academy of St Martins and London Sinfonietta, before moving to Scotland in 1990 to focus on composition. 

Her catalogue of over 200 works embraces choral, symphonic and chamber music as well as opera and ballet, often drawing on jazz and traditional Scottish music, as well as influences from the world of art and literature.

In 2018 she won the Award for Inspiration at the British Composer Awards, and in 2020 was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s birthday honours. She is a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Future projects include a concerto for Janine Jansen and Martin Fröst, which will be premiered by the Concertgebouw in 2021, and is co-commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra, Oslo Philharmonic and Swedish Radio Orchestra.

For more info head to https://www.sallybeamish.com/

Lucy Drever

Meet Our Host

Lucy Drever is a workshop leader and presenter. She works with various arts organisations including the BBC, the Philharmonia Orchestra, Lambert Jackson Productions and the Wigmore Hall. She recently became Associate Artist at the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and the Head of Musicianship at the Benedetti Foundation.