Q & A with composer Robin Haigh
25 January 2018

Introducing our Next Wave 2 composer: Robin Haigh

Jack SheenNext Wave is a partnership project between NMC Recordings, Sound and Music and Sage Gateshead, designed to support and promote composers in higher education as they transition into the professional music industry. The following Q&A is extracted from the British Music Collection website as part of their New Voices series.

Robin Haigh is a composer from London, whose music has been performed across the UK, as well as in continental Europe and America. In 2017 he won a British Composer Award for his piece In Feyre Foreste for five recorder players, and received the Eric Coates Prize for his orchestral piece Movado. Robin studied at Goldsmiths University of London with Dmitri Smirnov, and then at the Royal Academy of Music with Edmund Finnis and David Sawer. While at the Academy, he participated in lessons and masterclasses with Magnus Lindberg, Bent Sorensen, Oliver Knussen, Judith Weir, and Michael Finnissy.


Robin's piece Zorthern features on the Next Wave 2 album which is available to pre-order here.


His piece will be performed at the New Year New Artists concert at Sage Gateshead on 27 January 2018. For more information and tickets click here.


There’s an element of humour in your final piece (and title)! How would you like an audience to react to the work and how do you expect them to?

I've always been interested in the idea of humour in music, though for a little while my output became rather serious, which I think had an impact on the quality of some of the pieces written around that time. When I was able to really try and embrace humorous elements in my music again, as in 'Zorthern' and also my recorder quintet 'In Feyre Foreste', it was something of a relief artistically. It can be quite stressful writing very serious pieces all the time! I think it's a dangerous game to worry about how an audience will react to your work; all i'm thinking about is whether I enjoy it myself, and then I can only hope that some members of the audience might have enough in common with me to enjoy it as well.

Zorthern combines elements of folk and classical music. What are your musical influences, what do you listen to when you’re not composing?

Most people who have had anything to do with me know that I adore the music of Sir Harrison Birtwistle, though I wouldn't really say this manifests itself in my work at the moment. I'm a big fan of composers like Purcell, Mozart, Wagner, Strauss, Stravinsky, Berg, Britten, and Feldman, and of more recent composers like Unsuk Chin, Andrew Norman, Gerald Barry, Thomas Ades, Sky Macklay, and Oliver Knussen. People often seem quite confused when I say that I only really listen to contemporary classical music; I don't have anything against other genres, i'd just rather chill out to Birtwistle's The Triumph of Time, which I can understand might sound like an odd thing to some! However, when I find myself writing for an instrument that's not not often heard in concert halls (i.e. one from a folk tradition), I like to spend a lot of time familiarising myself with the music 'native' to that instrument. So, when I was writing Zorthern, I found myself listening to '200 Accordion Hits'!


Read the full Q&A on the British Music Collection website.


Find out more about our Next Wave 2 project.


This work was created as part of Sound and Music’s Next Wave 2 programme. It was recorded and premiered in collaboration with Sage Gateshead and NMC Recordings. Next Wave 2 was funded by Arts Council England, PRS for Music Foundation, the Leverhulme Trust and The Angus Allnatt Charitable Foundation.


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