Steve Crowther: Can you tell us something of your background?
NL: I was lucky to be the daughter of a composer (Elizabeth Maconchy) so I grew up knowing that being a composer was not glamorous, was a lot of hard work, but nevertheless was the musician I was designed to be.
SC: Can you describe the programmed works to us?
NL: My String Quartet No 2 is a single movement lasting about 10 or 11 minutes. It was conceived as the musical equivalent of a sonnet – vivid imagery in 14 ‘lines’ (brief musical sections) with their own internal rhymes and ‘end-rhymes’.
SC: Do you write at the piano, do you pre-plan? Can you describe the compositional process?
NL: I move between writing at a desk and at the piano. The composing happens in my head and has to be gradually teased out. Usually there is quite a bit of pre-planning and sketching. The last stage is typesetting at the computer, when there is quite a bit of editing to be done.
SC: Is it important to know the performers? Do you write with a sound in mind?
NL: I prefer to know the performers and to write with their sounds and characters, but this second string quartet was commissioned to be the test piece for a competition, so I had no idea of the many different ensembles who would play it.
SC: How would you describe your individual ‘sound world’?
NL: I am not sure I could – the nature of a sound world is that it cannot be expressed in words. Just listen and find out!
SC: What motivates you to compose?
NL: Wanting to make music. Perhaps it is a kind of addiction.
SC: Which living composers do you identify with or simply admire?
NL: I admire a number of my contemporaries (Weir, Osborne, Finnissy, Casken, Beamish, Whitehead.. ) but I don’t identify with them.
SC: If you could have a beer and a chat with any composer from the past, who would it be and why?
NL: I would like to have a glass of wine with Francesca Caccini or a beer with Thomas Linley the younger.
SC: Now for some desert island discery – please name eight pieces of music you could not be without, and then select just one.
NL: Not in order…
Stravinsky: Petrushka, Mozart: Piano Concerto in A K488, Schubert : Winterreise, Beethoven: Quartet in C sharp minor op 131, Janacek: Sinfonietta, Bach: Goldberg Variations, Maconchy: The Land (orchestral suite), Lumsdaine: Salvation Creek (chamber orchestra).
Just one? Petrushka.
SC: …and a book?
NL: Vanity Fair (Thackeray).
SC: …a film?
NL: Tale of Tales (Yuri Norstein)
SC: … and a luxury item?
NL: Black chocolate. Zotter is a fantastic brand of very dark chocolate, you can buy it at Alligator in Fishergate on the Fulford Rd.