Doug Thomas, composer

Who or what inspired you to take up composing, and pursue a career in music?

I come from the world of popular music, from playing in rock bands when I was a teen to studying contemporary music performance in London. At the same time, I always had a keen interest in classical music and the great composers. The turning point that convinced me that composing would be my main focus in my career was the first time I heard the music of Max Richter, and realised I did not have to choose between the excitement of popular music and the beauty of classical music.

Who or what were the most significant influences on your musical life and career as a composer?

Miles Davis taught me that quality was more important than quantity; Erik Satie taught me that there was no need to be a virtuoso to write beautiful music; Philip Glass taught me that classical music did not have to sound “classical”.

What have been the greatest challenges/frustrations of your career so far?

As an artist, I cannot stop myself from comparing my career and works to other’s. Often I end up disliking my own works. I feel like I will never be satisfied with the music I compose.

What are the special challenges/pleasures of working on a commissioned piece?

The rules and limitations: Very often I find that having boundaries set up from the start makes me more creative.

What are the special challenges/pleasures of working with particular musicians, singers, ensembles and orchestras?

I learn a lot from interacting with other musicians. Composing is a very lonely activity, and it feels good to have some real human interactions sometimes.

Of which works are you most proud?

I am always most proud of my latest work. Always my latest, until the next one.

How would you characterise your compositional language?

Simple, limited, but ever growing.

How do you work?

I am very disciplined. I try to tame my muse, and time my time spent composing and practicing. I work with goals and objectives, and like to work on several projects at the same time to vary my work. I try to learn new things on a daily basis. I also believe in the creative habit as explained by Twyla Tharp.

Who are your favourite musicians/composers?

In addition to the composers cited previously, some of my favorite artists: Bach, Chopin, the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Keith Jarrett, Brad Mehldau, Nils Frahm or Yann Tiersen.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

The first time I saw Brad Mehldau in concert with my parents. I was around sixteen years old and remember being mesmerised by his performance for two hours straight!

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Listen to the advice, but decide yourself. One day a good friend told me he enjoyed my music, but thought it was too slow and too sad. I decided to focus on that, and make it even slower and sadder! Do not let criticism stop you. There are no limits. Art is art, so don’t be afraid to dare. Be open minded and keep learning all the time, from everything.

Doug Thomas is a French composer and artist based in London.
Since founding NOOX in 2014, Doug has released numerous solo projects, including Short Stories, Vol. 1&2, Angles and Cassiopeia. His interest in multi-media collaboration has also led to engagements with choreographers, photographers and visual artists from around the world, including London, New York and Reykjavík.

Doug has studied at the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance in London, as well as with Berklee Online College of Music. Some of his mentors include Jérôme Bechet, Dylan Kay, Audrey Riley, Maurizio Malagnini, Enrica Sciandrone and Stefania Passamonte.

“Music allows me to express ideas and feelings in a unique way. Each piece I compose is an attempt in finding balance between interest and beauty, within the limits of my own language and experience. I like the idea that music can provide us with an alternative to our daily life, whether it completes it, or helps us take some distance from it.”


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