Alexander Chapman Campbell, composer

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

I don’t remember a specific time when I started composing. Between the ages of about ten and twelve I began to add my own ideas to the music I was learning in my piano lessons. I’m not entirely sure what inspired this; I don’t recall anyone suggesting the idea to me. A natural step from this was to start writing my own pieces, and by the age of fourteen I had written a number of compositions for the piano. People around me began to notice and talk about the positive effect my music had on them, and I began to feel that this was my part to play in the world, as though I’d discovered my own personal piece in the great jigsaw puzzle of life.

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

I think my love of nature has greatly influenced my musical life. I spent much of my childhood in the Scottish hills, and I loved the freedom of the wild open spaces, the rushing rivers and the many beautiful trees. I still live in the Scottish Highlands and draw a lot of inspiration from living here.

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

Being a professional composer involves a lot of work that is totally unmusical! Having composed the music, getting it heard can involve a whole host of challenges; some exciting and rewarding but others can be frustrating. Websites, fundraising, marketing and contracts are just the start of a long list! I think it requires a lot of persistence and a love and belief in what I’m doing, which tends to carry me through the more difficult times.

How would you characterise your compositional language?

Emotive, reflective, melody-led, sparkling, flowing, stirring.

What is your compositional process?

For me composing music involves the joy of discovering something new. When I sit down at the piano to write I’m totally focused in the moment. A lot of the time it feels like an exercise in patience; I sit there, exploring sounds on the keyboard, waiting and hoping for a new idea to strike. I think it’s important for me to be relaxed; it’s more about allowing the process to happen rather than forcing it.

Who are your favourite musicians/composers?

I love a wide range of music and composers: A brief list might include: Gregorian Chant, Chopin, Vaughn Williams, Lord Of The Rings soundtrack and the Icelandic band Sigur Ros.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

For me, as a composer, success is simply composing the music in the first place. The act of creating something new is a mysterious experience that I’m constantly fascinated by. Of course I hope that people will then listen to my work, and if my music gets played on the radio, shared online or performed live, then that too feels like a form of success. But by focusing on success as being the creating bit, it keep things simple and takes the pressure off!

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

I think I’d encourage any aspiring musicians to remember the importance of being themselves. Learning from and being inspired by others is of course valuable, but in the end nobody plays the same instrument in exactly the same way, just as nobody composes exactly the same music. I believe we all have something unique to give, and I think it’s important to find this unique voice and to share it.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

Somewhere that looks a lot like here and now! I love where I am; composing, recording, releasing new work. I hope this will continue for the rest of my life. Having said that, I’d like to compose works for other instruments, and choral music too. It’d be wonderful to be in a position where I’m recording such music and seeing it performed.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A walk in the mountains followed by tea beside a fire with a good book.

Alexander Chapman Campbell’s third album is released on 6 April 2018. Entitled Journey to Nidaros, the recording features a beautiful collection of piano music inspired by a 650km solitary trek across Norway.

(photo: Hugh Carswell)

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