Ilan Eshkeri, composer

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

My first musical memories are of my mother playing Chopin on the piano. I then learnt violin and so classical music was a big part of life. When I was 13 I got my first electric guitar and I can still remember where I was standing when I heard Nirvana’s ‘Teen Spirit’ for the first time. My early twenties were spent in clubs listening to dance music so the collision of all these different genres is what makes me the musician I am today.

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

Dyslexia and synaesthesia have given me an extraordinary creative perspective but have also made certain things extremely challenging. Conducting a 90-piece orchestra in the gardens of the Louvre in Paris was a huge challenge; even though I had written all the music, it was the most nerve racking performance of my life. Finding my own voice and not imitating other people took me a long time, and finally, putting together my current project Space Station Earth has been the biggest challenge of my career.

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

I love the idea that there is no art without resistance from the medium, there are always boundaries to push against especially with a commission. The instrumentation, the style, the budget, the desires of the people you are working with, but all of these constraints force you into a place of creativity which you may never have thought of otherwise. This is why the challenges can end up being the greatest pleasures.

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

I often think of particular players when I am writing parts and I ask for particular players when I am making recordings. The musicians bring the musical ideas to life and I am always grateful for an extraordinary performance.

Of which works are you most proud?

‘Stardust’, because it was the fantasy score which I had always dreamt of doing. The ‘Young Victoria’ score because it’s a beautiful love story and I was in love when I wrote it, so it’s heartfelt work, and even today people often ask me for the music so they can play it at their weddings which is the greatest compliment. All the music that I have written for Ralph Fiennes’ films (‘Coriolanus’ ‘The White Crow’, ‘The Invisible Woman’) because we always take a creative concept to its furthest extreme. Reliquary for Burberry because Christopher Bailey was a generous collaborator, it was the start of something creatively new for me and it was so much fun conducting an orchestra and choir on a catwalk.

How would you characterise your compositional language?

I go through stages where I become interested in working with certain techniques processes and harmonic structures. Recently, including my latest project, Space Station Earth, I use a repeating a pattern of chords and then stack melodies one on top of another. I build the composition up or down by bringing in or taking out these different melodies at different moments. Sometimes they gel, sometimes they juxtaposed, sometimes they are long lines and sometimes they are more short riffs. It’s like minimalism with romantic melodies.

How do you work?

Since my daughter was born I no longer do late nights; I work 9-5 during the week. I have become very efficient at getting my music written in the time that I have. Finding the space to create is always difficult but my studio is my sanctuary.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

When the notes stop being random and start to mean something, not just to me but to other people too.

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

A lot of young composers I meet nowadays seem to think that the answer is in the technology – but computers and sample libraries are just tools like a pen and parchment was a tool to Beethoven. Stay focused on creating music with whatever you have in front of you. Good music is good music however it is produced and whatever it is played on.

What do you feel needs to be done to grow classical music audiences/listeners?

There is still an enormous divide and snobbery between classical and pop music. I can’t believe that this is still the case, but it is. However, people listen to music that sits between the two all of the time, even if radio and playlist find it hard to categorise and play. I know about this challenge because I create this kind of music. Perhaps it’s just the box rocking descriptions that need to change.

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

Writing another album and show.

What is your most treasured possession?

My grandfather’s violin.

Ilan Eshkeri’s new album ’Space Station Earth’ is released on 13th May 2022, with a live performance at the Royal Albert Hall on the 15th May, combined with spellbinding visuals from the international space station, with special guest, Tim Peake.

It promises to be a completely unique, immersive multi-media concert in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA),which allows the audience to see through the eyes of astronauts. Ilan Eshkeri combines his compositions as heard on the new album with both rare footage shot by astronauts aboard the International Space Station as well as with images from ESA locations.


Ilan Eshkeri is an award-winning composer, artist, songwriter, producer and creator.  Eshkeri’s work is performed in concert, theatre, film, television and video games and his eclectic body of work is linked by his love of narrative.  He won and been nominated for many awards, including two BAFTAs and two Ivor Novellos.  Amongst his extensive catalogue are multiple Oscar, BAFTA, Emmy and Grammy-winning works such as ‘Still Alice’, ‘Stardust’, ‘Shaun The Sheep’, ‘The Snowman & the Snowdog’, ‘The Young Victoria’, ‘A Perfect Planet’, ‘Ghost of Tsushima’ and ‘The Sims’.  Eshkeri has many long-term collaborators: he has worked multiple times with legendary naturalist Sir David Attenborough as well as with actor/director Ralph Fiennes. Eshkeri’s many creative partnerships include artists such as Annie Lennox, David Gilmour, Sinead O’Connor, KT Tunstall, Tom Odell, Emily Sande, Ash, Take That and Coldplay.

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