Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?
I was introduced to music at a really young age; my father and grandfather were both composers, and so I grew up listening and loving their music. I started piano lessons at 3 and spent a lot of my spare time improvising and writing little tunes. As I grew up, I began to hone in on certain composers that music moved me and was very inspired by both classical and film composers.
Who or what were the most significant influences on your musical life and career as a composer?
I remember watching ‘Where Eagles Dare’ around the age of ten and being amazed by Ron Goodwin’s score. The way it enhanced the visuals as well as enhancing my emotions was a profound moment for me and probably the thing that sent me down the path of focusing on emotion in music. I also remember listening to the Ravel Piano Concerto and crying at the denouement; the same with the finale from Elgar’s Enigma variations. Listening to pieces that could make me react like that was a massively inspiring thing for me to go then and try and create something that could also attempt to do that.
What have been the greatest challenges/frustrations of your career so far?
Challenges I find fun. I think on the film side the challenges are usually related to time pressure and having lots of people involved and in the mixing pot. On the abstract side of things its usually creative isolation and trusting your own instincts and not really knowing for sure if anyone’s going to get it. I think the biggest frustrations have probably been getting excited about projects that for whatever reason don’t happen or get delayed for years.
Of which works are you most proud?
I’m really proud of ‘Solace’; it was a big undertaking, and I am really pleased (and relieved) how it’s turned out… I’m also proud of a few pieces that are very personal to me – “Masquerade” and “Transcendence” off my orchestral album ‘Reverie’. And the piece that started this whole abstract journey off “A”. It’s a very simple piece, but as always I find it’s the simple ones that are the hardest to write.
What are the special challenges/pleasures of working on a commissioned piece?
I think coming up with something that stays true to yourself while also fulfilling the purpose. It’s a tightrope but massively rewarding if you manage to combine the two.
What are the special challenges/pleasures of working with particular musicians, singers, ensembles and orchestras?
I feel very at home with an orchestra, but this latest project was an out of the comfort zone new experience. I’d written for choirs before but only a piece here and there or film music; I’d never done an album for voice. So I learnt a lot but was pretty fortunate that with the London Voices I had the best team for the job. The human voice carries a whole load of emotion so that already added a lot to the notes, so I think I learnt on this album to let the purity of the voice shine through and trust the notes.
How would you characterise your compositional/musical language?
I would say dense harmonies, lots of blurring and three-dimensional. I don’t think anything in life is just happy or sad; it’s different shades of emotion and so I try to translate that into my music and make it as 3D as I can.
How do you work?
I’ll come up with a concept, and then I’ll spend hours either walking or improvising, usually away from the piano. When I have a seed of an idea I’ll play with it and get to know it. I usually sketch out the structure of a piece very very quickly, then spend weeks refining the quick, instinctive sketch.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
Moving people with a piece of music and the more people, the better.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Trust your instincts – I think the only way you’ll ever come up with something truly original is to be instinctive and experiment – and write lots and lots of music.
Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
Happy and healthy and still able to write music every day…
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Still working that one out…
What is your most treasured possession?
If dogs count as possessions then my Puggle Dudley; if not then it would have to be my Grandfathers scoring stopwatch.
What is your present state of mind?
Excited and apprehensive, looking forward to letting my latest project out into the world and hoping people enjoy it!
Comprising 8 short works, Thomas Farnon’s ‘Solace’ (released 21 June 2019) draws on emotions and life stories, translating them through the human voice, to draw on the listeners’ experience into a form of musical escapism. It features the renowned London Voices Choir and cellist Peter Gregson