Q & A with composer Gareth Moorcraft
16 November 2017

Gareth Moorcraft is a composer and pianist from South Wales. He read music at Worcester College, University of Oxford, where he studied composition with Robert Saxton. He was later awarded an AHRC scholarship to study for an MMus degree in composition with Gary Carpenter at the Royal Academy of Music (RAM). Gareth is currently working on his PhD with David Sawer and Simon Bainbridge (also at RAM). His ongoing studies are generously supported by the Arts Council of Wales. He is one of the winners of the 2016 Royal Philharmonic Society Composition Prize.

Gareth Moorcraft's piece Reflections (After Gibbons) features on the Philharmonia Composers' Academy album which is available to download here.


Can you share with us your top five contemporary composers and/or pieces?

Tricky! I don’t have a top five - it changes too often! Still, some pieces I keep returning to at the moment are:

Steve Martland - Crossing the Border (available on NMC)

Benedict Mason - String Quartet No. 1

Michael Finnissy - The History of Photography in Sound

Niccolò Castiglioni - Inverno In-Ver

Hans Abrahamsen - Schnee


Where and when was your first composition performed? What was it?

My first performance was part of a composition workshop during my first term at university, so I would have been 18 years old. It was a piece for piano and tape delay performed by a fellow student, who did an excellent job! I remember there was something wrong with the venue’s computer patch controlling the delay, so we had to react to some unexpected timings and looping effects during the performance! The results were actually very interesting - there was a good lesson in this experience, I think!


Any stories of unusual jobs you had prior to entering the music world?

I’m afraid not, I have always worked in music one way or another! Then again, perhaps a PhD in music composition is a fairly unusual thing to do.


You're stuck in a lift with three people of your choice (dead or alive)! Who are they and what would be the topic of discussion while you wait to get rescued?

Oh dear! Cage, Stockhausen, Handel (with an instrument each)? Perhaps we could redefine lift music.


What are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on a new quintet (for piano and winds) for the Presteigne Festival and I’m about to start a new work for the Britten-Pears Brass Performance Course in Aldeburgh. Next year, I’ll also be writing a new work for pianist Tom Poster as part of a residency at MusicFest in Aberystwyth and collaborating with UPROAR, a new contemporary music ensemble in Wales. So I have lots to look forward to!


If you could collaborate with anyone across any genre or art form who would it be and why?

I find the work of dancer/choreographer Jonathan Burrows very interesting. In a piece like The Stop Quartet, he finds a wonderful balance between spontaneity and order; it creates (for me) a mystery or secrecy which I find fascinating. I also enjoy the playful element of his work. I’d love to explore some of these ideas in a new music-dance piece.

I’m also really keen to write for viol consort in future; it’s one of my favourite ensemble sounds. I’d love to learn how to write for these historical instruments and try to find a new way to explore their unique sound.


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