Greg Harradine

Pianist, Composer and Piano Teacher

United Kingdom

Author

About

Greg Harradine is a composer, pianist and music teacher, based in the Scottish Borders. Greg is influenced by both classical and folk traditions, finding inspiration in the natural world, as well as in other art forms, especially literature and painting. He writes music for a range of ensembles for both the concert hall and the stage. Commissions include Incandenza Variations for orchestra, a street opera, Drifting Dragons, which was performed in outdoor locations across South London, and incidental music for many theatre productions. He received the Cameron Mackintosh Resident Composer Award in 2014 which led to a year-long residency at Soho Theatre. He was awarded a BMus in Music Technology and an MMus in Composing for Film and TV, both from Kingston University.

More recently Greg has been focused on writing music for the piano. These compositions are shared publicly on YouTube, and scores and recordings are available to purchase via his website, or through becoming a supporter on Patreon.

Videos

Sheets

Interview

What does music mean to you personally?

Music occupies an expressive space in my life; it is the one domain where I can translate wordless thoughts and sensations into something almost tangible (nevermind that this ‚something’ is the amorphous, invisible phenomenon we call music). Through listening, I get a glimpse of the unique inner world of other composers and musicians; through composing, I get to be vividly myself and let my melodies and harmonies attempt to „break the frozen sea inside us“, to borrow Kafka’s powerful phrase.

Do you agree that music is all about fantasy?

No, I disagree. Music can certainly be about fantasy on occasion, but it can also be about reality, the everyday, even the banal. When music touches us, it is often because we recognise in it an emotion we have felt before. It reminds us deeply of reality, of something true inside us, and of feelings that we hope, perhaps, will return once again.

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

Each day I wake up feeling grateful that I can make a living through music. But had this not come to pass, who knows what I might have done? Perhaps: a school teacher, a mountain guide, a librarian, a stay-at-home dad, a personal trainer. Your guess is as good as mine.

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

The classical music audience has been aging for centuries. If composers and performers continue innovating and sharing a genuine passion for their art, the audience will remain.

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 has a myriad of roles, many of them in subservience to something else. But when music is created to be enjoyed simply as music — music for music’s sake — then I don’t think it should have a ‚role’. There should be nothing didactic or moral about music; we should simply listen, and either enjoy and be touched by what we hear, or not. The year we happen to live in, be it 1808 or 2021, shouldn’t change how our human minds appraise the sounds that reach us.

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

Musicians have always needed to be creative; not only because that is at the core of what being a musician is all about, but also in order to make a living from their art. I don’t believe it has even been easy for most musicians. Creatvitiy is present in every note that is composed or performed. If not, the note rings false, and a discerning listener will turn away.

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

In a sense, yes. We should be open, not too formal, enthusiastic, warm, unpretentious, honest, while remaining proud of the music we are sharing, and never make apologies for its perceived difficulty. Some people want to simplify or overly-commercialise classical music in order to attract the younger generation. This I disagree with intensely. It is patronising. If musicians and composers display passion, excitement, and of course talent, hopefully that is enough to attract new ears.

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

I am often inspired by other works of art — painting, novels, or poems — and use these to influence my compositions. I love this process: attempting to capture and translate the ineffable essence of a poem, a painting; metamorphosing it into a melody, a harmony. This method guides me — it is the Virgil to my Dante —and prevents me staring at a blank page or letting my fingers fall on to hackneyed chords at the piano. One of my pieces of which I’m most fond is ,The curse is come upon me’. It was inspired by both a painting and a poem. The painting is ‚The Lady of Shalott’ by John William Waterhouse, and the poem is that of the same name by Tennyson. I adored getting to know the painting and the poem — both incredible works of art — and then attempting my own musical interpretation. I found that the mood of doomed hope, of longing destined to end in distaster, suited my musical sensibilities remarkably well. You can listen here: https://youtu.be/y_1gggpF020

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

Attend concerts of music you don’t know. Listen without prejudgment. Seek out music of the renowned composers of history (they are famous for a reason), but also new classical music by living artists. Follow these living composers on social media; interact with them, they may even reply! Find likeminded friends and discuss, over a drink or a meal, why you do or don’t like certain works. Trust your own opinions, don’t follow the crowd.

Do you think about the audience when composing?

That way disaster lies. If composers write music for an imagined audience it will always be a compromise, it will always sound hollow, it will end up as an insipid mass of pretence. For genuine artistry we must look within, aiming to please and delight ourselves first and foremost. If an audience can be found, so much the better.

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

In the past I have written music for a wide range of situations and instrumentations: music for theatre, an opera, works for orchestra, for short films, but more recently I have been focusing on composing solo piano works. I find great creative reward in writing these piano pieces, and I am encouraged by my supporters on Patreon, who each receive the score and recording of my new works each month, plus other rewards. If you’re interested in finding out more, please visit my Patreon page. I would be delighted if you would consider signing up and supporting my music: https://www.patreon.com/gregharradine Do I experiment? I certainly experiment with the range of projects I take on; I am interested in collaboration in many forms. And I like to think I experiment somewhat in my own music, although most of it is fairly melodic and lyrical, so I couldn’t in all honesty say that my music is hugely groundbreaking or boundary-pushing. But my hope is that it connects with people and that, in listening, they hear something familiar said in a new way.