So there I was, back in 2010, thinking I knew a fair bit about how music is put together. After all, since graduating with a bachelor’s degree in music I’d been writing commercial music for BBC TV, ITV, Channel 4 for years; I’d scored scores of adverts for most of the major agencies and, of course, I was becoming increasingly well known as a calssical composer, with works being performed on Classic FM and Radio 3 by orchestras like the English Chamber Orchestra, the BBC Concert Orchestra and so on.

But then my writing partner, Phil Edwards, threw me a curve ball: “Why don’t we write a musical together?”

Ever up for the challenge I said OK. Well, eight years later we have written not one, but five major new works — for both film and stage — and we are now deep in the development doo-doo with producers in London, New York and, er Dublin!

But what’s interesting to me, as someone who rather lazily thought he knew a thing or two about applied music, was just how much I had to learn. The last few years have been a voyage of discovery in which I’ve learned to appreciate how music informs, reinforces, contracdicts, cajoles, mocks and generally becomes a vital part of the story being told. But never the lead — always the bit-part player whose job is to support the story, not become the story.

I’ve learned that less is more, more or less, and I’ve learned the power of a single note when all the flab is stripped away, exposing the emotional core of what the music is all about. Most of all, though, I have had to un-learn a lot of the complicated music and bloated orchestrations and arrangements I wrote as a younger composer in favour of something more subtle, something that is stripped bare of any artifice or ‘flash for flash’s sake’ elements.

it just goes to show — even with three decades in the music industry behind me — you’re never too old to learn.

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