Anna Grig

Hamburg-based composer, singer, sound engineer, music teacher. Recent graduate of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

Author

About

Born in the family of piano technicians, Anna Grig started her journey into music at an early age. At 6 years old Anna was accepted at the music school as a singer and pianist. After graduation, she continued her education at DK Viborgsky (St-Petersburg), where she was trained as a jazz singer and theorist. Aged 16 Anna entered Music teacher training college (St-Petersburg) where she received a qualification in music education. Although the title suggests an extremely vide variety of activities, Anna was mainly focused on theoretical disciplines and the history of music.

Throughout her school career (1999-2009) Anna was a leading singer and stage performer specialising in pop music. There hardly have been any concerts where she was not involved. In the later years of school, Anna was asked to take part in many competitions and was always placed. Unfortunately, due to some misunderstandings, Anna has had to pause her singing career for several months after leaving school. Nevertheless, attending college meant that she started singing again as a solo and choir performer. In 2006 Anna begun studying composition with Sofia Levkovskaya (composer at the St-Petersburg Conservatory), parallel with that she started attending lectures at the Conservatory where she studied counterpoint, harmony, musicology and conducting. In 2009 Anna started taking composition consultations with Sergei Slonimsky.

In 2013 she came for a Summer School at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, where, thanks to the guidance of Gordon McPherson and Rory Boyle, she made the decision to make a much-loved hobby into a life-long ambition of becoming “a good enough composer”. Anna accepted a place at the Conservatoire later that year. The composers Conservatoire career was full of premieres, experiments and deeper explorations into her compositional voice. Some of the highlights of that period include electroacoustic works such as “the whisperer”, and underscore to “the mid summer’s dream”, ensemble piece “decent into madness” and various pieces for solo instruments as well as a few short film scores. Anna has graduated the Conservatoire in 2018 and is currently working as a freelance composer in Hamburg, Germany.

Anna talks about herself:

"I grew up in music, surrounded by pianos, exceptionally talented people and of course opportunities to harm myself. I come from a dynasty of piano technicians, so one, two or five pianos was a staple in the house and ever since I know myself I tried to make music. When I was 2 years old an unfortunately fortunate accident occurred: during one of my improvisation sessions, which would often sound akin to Avant Garde or modernist pieces, I decided that a piano close to the wall did not make any sense. After all, how would I run the metal ruler against the ribs? A few minutes later my mother rushed into the room following a wall-shaking crush of a toppled over piano only to find me happily splayed under the keyboard, laughing.

Now it has been over 20 years since that incident. My desire to be musically connected quickly progressed from tinkering on the piano and singing on the underground while the train roars its way through the tunnel (no one can hear me, right?) to a music school, concerts big and small, college, conservatoire and finally the passion turned into a profession.

Music is a language with many voices and dialects, meanings and emotions, but one thing is certain: music speaks to the deepest depths of a human being and tells a story in a way that words simply cannot. This is why I compose and this is why I am committed to telling stories. It is my mission to give your story a voice like no other and help it have a profound effect on the audience.

As years have past and gone and I have had numerous opportunities to work with fantastic musicians, theatre directors and filmmakers I have never stopped asking myself: “What would I be doing now if not for that faithful accident?”. And the answer is simple: I don’t know. But there is one thing I am certain of- I will always love telling stories with the universal language of music!”

Videos

Sheets

Interview

What does music mean to you personally?

Everything! I am not really sure if I would even be me without it. It is my language, with which I tell stories and express my deepest feelings, my meditation on life, my balance and equilibrium. It is the way I see and experince the world.

Do you agree that music is all about fantasy?

Yes and no. I am pretty confident that everything is in ist own way a fantasy, we all percieve the world through our own lens and one can’t deny the fact that what you belive your music to be as a composer would inevitably be different for the performer and the listener. Ultimately, all the fantasising we do is in one way or the other based on the reality we experience, therefore is fantasy all about imagination?...

If you were not a professional musician, what would you have been?

Probably a linguist or a veterinarian, but music is something that has been a big part of my life since before I was even born, so it is hard to imagine being anything else.

The classical music audience is getting old, are you worried about the future?

No, I am not worried. I also don’t believe that audience is getting old, I think the main problem is exposure and oversaturation at this point. There would be a lot of young people going to concerts if we as composers and musicians would be a bit less exclusive and maybe try to dilute this idea that classical music is in some way an elite activity. I do belive that there is a lot of „accessible“ new music out there today, we just often struggle to break through what Rimski-Korsakov called „easy misic“, so I am sure that younger audiences will be happy to listen if they could discover new works easily. Perhaps our whole perception of what is „classical audience“ could do with a bit of a reformation.

What do you envision the role of music to be in the 21st century? Do you see that there is a transformation of this role?

Music, like other art forms, is a reflection of sociaty in the moment of its creation. In this day and age it is also a very accessible art form. All it takes to go from „um-pa“ to Ligeti is a bit of encouragement and curiosity. But now music has become so much more than just commentary, it is a formative force in the modern world. You can influence whole social sectors, and it is no longer just on the scale of propaganda. It is a routine function that we often don’t even pay attention to. Should we as creators be more mindful of what we are saying in our art? Yes! Music plays an even more important role in this world than it has ever before.

Do you think that the musician today needs to be more creative? What is the role of creativity in the musical process for you?

How do we define creativity? Is it just an ability to produce original works? I believe that creativity is involved in all aspects of life. Parhaps the question should be „should musicians today be more mindful of their creativity?“. Then yes! Absolutely! Creativity on it’s own is nothing without nurturing and we could all do with some attention to our routines, artists or not. The way it translates to music for me is not just writing for the sake of letting it all out, but writing to be heard and understood, writing to make a difference. These aspects are easy to miss when you’re working on a commission or a film/game score, because there are so many other voices involved, but it doesn’t mean that you have to be creatively limited. I prefer to think of creativity in music in the same way I would approach a new horse, it is a power that you just need to find a right communication method with, then the sky is the limit.

Do you think we as musicians can do something to attract the younger generation to music concerts? How would you do this?

First, we would need to disspell the idea that classical music is for some different class of people. This whole thing starts with education, general accessible education, which in terms of music is often neglected. There is also the aspect that we’re all in our heads and there are still many trained musicians that prefer the feeling of „elite“. How to counter this? Make music accessible! All of this barriers, that all have grounding in history, aren’t helping anyone anymore. How many musicians have powerful and rich patrons now? What I do is I sometimes take my harp out on public, no concert, no „set-up“, nothing, I just go play and sing, talk to people when they ask questions. You won’t believe how many children and people my age (young adults) stop by to listen. And then a month or two later I often see those same people at a concert. They aren’t there to hear me, they are there because they saw a harpist at a park and that sparked interest!

Tell us about your creative process. What is your favorite piece (written by you) and how did you start working on it?

I always try to aim to be writing in the process of writing my favourite piece. There is no stronger creative force that being in love with what you’re working on. Sometimes I start with an idea or a story, and sometimes it is just a feeling that I can’t describe otherwise. Recently I have been woking more on larger orchestral works, however, I have always written quite a bit of chamber music. Out of relatively recent pieces I would like to give a special mention to „the passing of time“. It is a short song cycle for mezzo-soprano and piano that features some cute chipmunks. It is also the only piece that my husband wrought the lyrics for, so it has a special place in my heart.

Can you give some advice for young people who want to discover classical music for themselves?

Just go for it! Music, even the most complex one, is still a universal language and the beauty of it is such that depending on how you listen you’ll find different new things to discover. Don’t be pushed away by convoluted concert notes or names, allow the music to speak first and then read them. Music is alive in sounds not letters.

Do you think about the audience when composing?

Yes, most of the time... I don’t think we always think about our conversation partners when we speak, so to me this is similar. I always try to express my music in the most approachable way, but just as everyone else I can get carried away and compose for the sake of letting the music speak.

What projects are coming up? Do you experiment in your projects?

I am currently working on finishing an album of lullabies. I have recently given birth to a wonderful wee boy, and he has been a massive inpiration! Aside from that I am making some final touch ups to my harp concerto, which would hopefully be performed next year. And developing an early music program inspired once again by my wee human. Since I have been on maternity leave fort he last year and a half I don’t have a lot of public (they’re quiet projects for now) endevours, but what I am doing now is keeping me quite busy and excited about things to come.