A Q&A with British composer Ellie Parker

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  1. You started playing violin and piano at five years old.  Did you have a special teacher who inspired you?  

    I was fortunate to have wonderful music teachers when I was in secondary school. Their positive attitude to music made the subject much more enjoyable to study. They were the teachers who you could talk to about anything, whether it be about music or in general, so the music department was always a safe place to visit.

    One day, I was waiting outside of the classroom before the lesson started and I found a leaflet about the Sound and Music Summer School for young composers. I told my teachers about wanting to apply for the opportunity and they were incredibly supportive. As a 16 year old who had only recently started composing, that extra bit of reassurance went a long way and I ended up attending the summer school and learning more about composition. It really was their positive attitude and belief that inspired me to continue composing and for this, I will always be very grateful.

  2. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

    That being a perfectionist will only get you so far in your life and career. I am often guilty of spending too much time on a particular project before I begin to overthink of the ways in which I could make it better. I have found that it is just as unproductive as not working on anything at all.

  3. When did you start hearing music in your head, and when did you build the confidence to express it?

    I was lucky that I grew up in a household with a family who loves music. My dad plays the piano and my brother and I were encouraged to also play the instrument so I think that it really was this early exposure to music which helped me develop a basic understanding of what a melody was. Thanks to my music lessons, I was used to interpreting other composers’ music through instructions from my teacher. It wasn’t until I started composing and collaborating with other musicians where I started to think independently as to how I would like my own music to be expressed.

  4. What composers inspire you and why?

    I think that, in terms of initially getting into film composition, John Williams and James Horner are the most inspirational composers to me. I am in awe of their work ethic and the passion which they put into their projects.

    However, there are honestly so many composers to choose so I may cheat and say everyone! Whenever I get the opportunity to meet other composers at networking events, I am always left feeling inspired by them. I like the idea that there isn’t one way to enter the film industry, so hearing different stories about how they became composers is great!

  5. Your new work is inspired by your experience with insomnia.  How do you express that through music? What is your philosophy on the correlation between mental health and music, and how did you arrive at this belief?

     

    I went full nerd mode for this project because I was interested, and a bit scared, about what was going on in my brain whilst I was experiencing insomnia. I read a book called “The Sleep Solution” by Dr W. Chris Winter and the book was really informative about the importance of sleep. The way the book was structured also gave me an idea as to how to structure the music for this project. I decided to focus on the process of falling asleep (the four stages of sleep leading to insomnia) and how contrasting music could be used to show the change in brain activity. I specifically want the music to focus on rhythm as insomnia is all about trying to find your regular sleeping pattern.

    Music is universal and it unites people. There are so many different genres of music but you will always find a certain style which you connect with. There will also be other people who feel the same way and from there, a community is formed. This sense of belonging is so important for your mental health. When you find music which you connect with, it becomes easier to open up about how you are feeling. I have anxiety so when I listen to other artists share similar experiences of how anxiety has affected them, it becomes relatable and allows me to become more accepting of myself and my emotions.

  6. What beliefs and values do you want to impart to your audiences?

    Mental health affects many people so if I were able to create music that would allow the audience to feel comfortable in expressing their emotions, I would feel like I have achieved something.

  7. How do you stay connected to inspiration?

    I listen to different genres of music. There are new artists which I discover every day and it’s always wonderful to hear their work. They inspire me to experiment more with my music and challenge myself as a creative.

  8. How would you describe your sound and composition style?

    I would largely say I am drawn to classical composition because there is so much you can explore with each instrument. However, I have recently been listening to more experimental music so I am aiming to combine these two genres, beginning with the insomnia project.

  9. What’s your biggest inspiration generally and in your favorite scores of yours?

    Most of my favourite scores from composers have had the ability to draw audiences in with their use of melody. I think the music is even more powerful if audiences are then able to connect it with other subjects. Melodic writing is what generally inspires my compositions and it is something which I would like to continue to improve.

  10. What advice would you give to your younger self?  What advice would your future self give you today?

    Be patient!! I would give this advice to my younger self and I know that my future self is going to say the exact same thing to me today!

    Check out the AWFC profile for Ellie Parker

    Interview by Lili Haydn

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