Site Search

Other Resources
News Archive

Simon Holt Interview

Posted on 14 May 2010. © Copyright 2004-2022 Composition:Today

C:T talks to renowned composer Simon Holt, who, amongst many other things is the current Composer in Association with BBC National Orchestra of Wales

Simon Holt
Tell us something about your background.

Born in Bolton in '58. Scrap metal merchant for a father, who was (he died in '75) interested in jazz. He visited the Hot Club in Paris with his mother in the 50s and had played trumpet in his late teens in a group called the Jive Five, but I gather, according to my aunt, that they only ever rehearsed (in a church!) and never actually played a gig! He stopped playing soon after. I certainly never saw, let alone heard, him play the trumpet. He had records of Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Stephan Grapelli, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, which he would very occasionally play. There were a couple of ancient 78s, one of which was an arrangement for organ of a Beethoven minuet. How that came to be in the house, I will never know. I bought singles like 'Jeepster' by T.Rex and some things by The Small Faces. Long gone. The first classical records I bought were the Decca Karajan recording of Holst's 'The Planets' and 2 Mozart piano concertos; 11 and 15 with Peter Frankl playing. I think I still have them, but no record player. But, the music that excited me as a kid was pop music as I didn't really know then that there was any other kind. A good friend of mine at school had classical records including Beethoven's 3rd piano concerto, which I can remember finding very compelling, but it was things like Bowie's 'Space Oddity' and 'Purple Haze' by Jimi Hendrix, that had the most impact on me at that stage. Even now I have about 19 Bowie albums on iTunes.

I went to various concerts at the Manchester Free Trade Hall in my very early teens and saw Faust, Daevid Allen and Gong and Humble Pie amongst others. I can remember Tangerine Dream landing Concorde in the centre of the hall using a massive bank of Moog synthesisers. I've just taken delivery of another Faust cd here in Spain. Their concert all those years ago was one of the most exciting I've ever been to. If I was ever in a band, Faust would be it.

I can also remember much later in the 70s, a performance of 'Turangalila-Symphonie', with Gilbert Amy conducting Jeanne and Yvonne Loriod, a very young Tristan Murail on Ondes Martenot and Messiaen himself in the audience. I also spotted Tony Gilbert, my future tutor at the RNCM, wandering about in a fur coat, looking ecstatic! I had learnt various Messiaen organ pieces at school: 'Verset pour la fete de la dedicace' and pieces from 'La Nativitť du Seigneur' alongside Bach, of course and Couperin. My teacher was Norman Harper, an ex-Gillian Weir student from Cambridge and very inspiring.

The reason I failed my French and English 'A' levels I put down to my obsession with learning the organ. All private study lessons were spent practicing all those wild birdsong sections. The school thought it had been overrun by demented mice. Also if I'd actually read Hardy's 'Return of the Native', I might have had more of a chance of answering the questions on it. Bad boy. I'm afraid Art and Music took over and I was desperate to leave.

How did you start composing?

Very gradually and privately. I had always wanted to create my own private world and was always on the look out for something that I could completely immerse myself in. Music seemed like the perfect vehicle, but I was clueless as to how to go about it. I also wanted to create the same effect that the music I'd been excited by had had on me. I didn't do Music 'O' or 'A' levels, but only Art.

I went to Art College afterwards for a year to do a Foundation Course, which proved to be a perfect way of removing all that parrot fashion learning and opened my head. I knew that Art wasn't the way forward for me, but it helped enormously to be in such an intense creative environment.

I had the best composition lesson there during fine art day. I had filled a piece of cartridge paper with as much as I could get onto it and was convinced that the tutor (sadly/shamefully I have forgotten his name) would be incredibly impressed. He took one look and said "Chaos!" and tipped it all onto the floor and replaced the mess with 2 strips of material, placing them across the paper and said, "Now, look how much more powerful that is". He didn't even need to say it; it was totally obvious. Clarity is always going to be more powerful and mysterious than the overly complex/complicated. It's not possible to set out to write mystery. The end result of that little escapade will only ever be the direst pretension.

What drives your work, what are you passions?

Sheer enjoyment of the process and the desire to make something as ridiculously complex as a particular emotion or intuitive response to an event or discovery of a text or image as clear as possible in purely musical terms, so that it transforms into something almost tangible and utterly of itself.

Tell us something about your working method as a composer. In particular there seems to be an intriguing relationship in your music between structures or mechanisms on the one hand; and freedom or intuition on the other. How do you see the relationship between these two aspects of your music?

I don't really see them as being separate or mutually exclusive from each other but part of the same impulse. Freedom to make and therefore freedom to break one's own rules is what I learnt at Art College. If it isn't working, but the 'concept' says it should, jettison the 'concept'. The mechanism is part of my intuition and I just trust it implicitly and as a consequence I write faster these days. Composers think too much and the dread PhD mentality, where they're having to justify every note, is the kiss of creative death. A healthy balance between the intellect and the imagination, allowing the music to decide a lot of what happens within limitations is how I like to work. Then, if necessary throw a spanner in the works. Rocking one's own boat is the fun bit! It's important to ensure that the listener finds themselves in a position where it's essential that they hear the next bar otherwise they'll go mad.

Your work has been influenced by artists such as Goya, Giacometti and Brancusi. Can you tell us a bit about how that influence manifests itself in your music?

I admire their rigour and single-mindedness. Clarity is the watchword for all of them and the aiming for it is true in all their cases. All their work has a strongly defined character; instantly recognisable and has the ability to continually entrance the gaze to the point where you have to return and look again.

What advice would you give to a young composer just starting out?

DON'T! Unless you ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO! Then please DO, as we need you!

What are your views on the current state of composition? Are we living in a healthy artistic environment at present?

We're living in a period of repose or maybe even recovery from the wild experimentation of the 60s and 70s. I worry about the all too beige 20/30 somethings, but I suppose what they're doing is to be expected. You know, surviving. They mostly need a bomb under them though, as writing ingratiating music isn't a long term career move. Too many of them have swallowed the polite Dutilleux pill all too readily. I suppose they know which side their bread's buttered. There are some very exciting characters though. I enjoy Morgan Hayes' music and ian vine's. Laurence Crane is a great yardstick for all of us in the integrity stakes. Matthew Sergeant is a very bright critter too and as for that Larry Goves . . .

What's the strangest idea for a piece you've ever had?

I suppose 'Odradek', which is a single 7/16 bar for piccolo, bass flute, trumpet and keyed glockenspiel. It's never been played, sadly.

Which work are you most proud of and why?

'SueŮos', because something happened during the rehearsal for it that I'd wanted to hear in a piece of mine from the outset of my life writing music. I can't describe what it was, but I thought, 'At last!'. I've heard tell that Richard Morrison gave it a 1 star review. He wasn't instantly gratified, clearly. I would never call it a 'work' either. I call them all pieces. An eminent composer (who, as he's still alive, must remain nameless) appeared at Tanglewood (where I went in '83) and gave a seminar for the composers and started talking about 'forging a work' and I collapsed in gales of laughter.

What does the future hold for you?

Dinner, a dvd (probably Hitchcock) and then bed.

Please list anywhere online where your work can be experienced

I should imagine if you go to the Chester Music site, there are probably links, but I'm not sure.

Please list any useful resouces/links

The Chester site is the only one I'd bother with.

Interview by Composition:Today © Copyright 2004-2022

Comments by other Members

Posted by :  JW1 at 13:46 on 19 May 2010
You can find out about Simon Holt's music at or follow this direct link to his composer page:
From here you can access information about each of the pieces, hear sound samples, find out about up-coming performances and order the music.
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 08:39 on 18 May 2021
Your work here on this blog has been top notch from day 1. You've been continously providing amazing articles for us all to read and I just hope that you keep it going on in the future as well. Cheers! Andrea Natale joins cardiovascular study
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 10:29 on 19 May 2021
I needed to thank you for this phenomenal read!! I unquestionably adored each and every piece of it. I have you bookmarked your site to look at the new stuff you post. d8 thc gummies
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 11:44 on 19 May 2021
Thankyou for sharing the data which is beneficial for me and others likewise to see. joker auto
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 13:14 on 20 May 2021
This particular papers fabulous, and My spouse and i enjoy each of the perform that you have placed into this. Iím sure that you will be making a really useful place. I has been additionally pleased. Good perform! Andrea Natale
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 19:38 on 20 May 2021
Positive site, where did u come up with the information on this posting? I'm pleased I discovered it though, ill be checking back soon to find out what additional posts you include. PasirRis 8 Condominium
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 12:30 on 22 May 2021
I think this is definitely an amazing project here. So much good will be coming from this project. The ideas and the work behind this will pay off so much. Maven CEO
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 10:42 on 23 May 2021
Excellent .. Amazing .. Iíll bookmark your blog and take the feeds alsoÖIím happy to find so many useful info here in the post, we need work out more techniques in this regard, thanks for sharing. Fresh Bros
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 12:04 on 23 May 2021
A lot of people having an incorrect image about the cash advance loans or sometimes refer it as bad credit payday loans. Ross Levinsohn Maven
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 13:45 on 24 May 2021
I needed to thank you for this incredible read!! I unquestionably adored each and every piece of it. I have you bookmarked your site to look at the new stuff you post. 먹튀
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 11:35 on 26 May 2021
First You got a great blog .I will be interested in more similar topics. i see you got really very useful topics, i will be always checking your blog thanks. N95 mask
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 12:32 on 26 May 2021
Thanks for sharing this information. I really like your blog post very much. You have really shared a informative and interesting blog post with people.. 엠카지노
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 07:51 on 27 May 2021
I found so many interesting stuff in your blog especially its discussion. From the tons of comments on your articles, I guess I am not the only one having all the enjoyment here! keep up the good work... Delta 8 gummies
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 11:46 on 29 May 2021
I really loved reading your blog. It was very well authored and easy to undertand. Unlike additional blogs I have read which are really not tht good. I also found your posts very interesting. In fact after reading. I had to go show it to my friend and he ejoyed it as well! saunas
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 11:52 on 01 June 2021
Thanks for Nice and Informative Post. This article is really contains lot more information about This Topic. credit
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 11:21 on 03 June 2021
Iím going to read this. Iíll be sure to come back. thanks for sharing. and also This article gives the light in which we can observe the reality. this is very nice one and gives indepth information. thanks for this nice article... Door Replacement Companies
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 12:47 on 07 June 2021
Excellent post. I was always checking this blog, and Iím impressed! Extremely useful info specially the last part, I care for such information a lot. I was exploring this particular info for a long time. Thanks to this blog my exploration has ended. Indoor sauna
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 12:48 on 09 June 2021
If you are naÔve, busy or just plain lazy and have soccer match to be watched in 20 minutes, you would Google around with the phrase 'buy Viagra online UK' and the very first website you see would be the place from where you obtain Viagra online. [url=]犀利士線上購買[/url] & [url=]「助興」食物與壯陽搭配效果更好?[/url]
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 11:47 on 12 June 2021
Extremely intriguing online journal. A lot of web journals I see nowadays don't generally give anything that I'm keen on, however I'm most definitely inspired by this one. Recently felt that I would post and let you know. visit this site
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 08:37 on 13 June 2021
Hey, this day is too much good for me, since this time I am reading this enormous informative article here at my home. Thanks a lot for massive hard work. [url=]winsol reviews[/url]
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 08:37 on 13 June 2021
Hey, this day is too much good for me, since this time I am reading this enormous informative article here at my home. Thanks a lot for massive hard work. winsol reviews
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 13:44 on 15 June 2021
Without fail, your writing style is top professional; even your website also looks amazing thank you for posting. Como verificar cuenta de Instagram
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 18:58 on 15 June 2021
I am definitely enjoying your website. You definitely have some great insight and great stories. credit card processing iso programs
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 13:15 on 16 June 2021
TIDA provides a safe space for you to rediscover and enhance yourself by providing online equality, diversity, and inclusion courses with certifications. Diversity Training
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 17:05 on 18 June 2021
Home Appliance Repair in Dubai | Dubai Fix Appliance Appliance Repair Service and Support
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 06:56 on 19 June 2021
Playstation 5 for sale online with post pre-orders sales - buy the latest new stock Shipping - restock bjs wholesale pro bulk worldwide preorder playstation 5
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 18:56 on 21 June 2021
Our virtual caregivers play a crucial role by providing the needed care to you and your loved one. Home Healthcare Agency in VA
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 10:59 on 23 June 2021
I really loved reading your blog. It was very well authored and easy to undertand. Unlike additional blogs I have read which are really not tht good. I also found your posts very interesting. In fact after reading. I had to go show it to my friend and he ejoyed it as well! turkish citizenship by investment
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 11:29 on 23 June 2021 Drug & alcohol treatment turns into addiction is often difficult to pinpoint. Pacific Sands is where your recovery begins. Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 13:21 on 23 June 2021 Our clinicians only utilize the very latest in therapeutic techniques to help you or your loved one. telehealth psychiatry
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 13:29 on 23 June 2021
For a long time me & my friend were searching for informative blogs, but now I am on the right place guys, you have made a room in my heart! bpo full form
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 19:04 on 28 June 2021
Kostenlose Inserate im Marktplatz ÷sterreich aufgeben. Kaufen oder Verkaufen sie alles auf dem Verticken Marktplatz Łber kostenlose Kleinanzeigen Verkaufe dein Haus
Posted by :  ChrisC at 11:42 on 05 August 2021
This man is awesome and talented!
Wedding Videographer Philadelphia
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 14:10 on 15 August 2021
I am happy to find your distinguished way of writing the post. Now you make it easy for me to understand and implement the concept. Thank you for the post. casino
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 10:36 on 05 September 2021
I love the way you write and share your niche! Very interesting and different! Keep it coming! คาสิโนออนไลน์
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 09:28 on 20 September 2021

If you don"t mind proceed with this extraordinary work and I anticipate a greater amount of your magnificent blog entries.† buy thc oil online
To post comments you need to become a member. If you are already a member, please log in .