Owen David


United Kingdom



Owen David was born and raised in the outer suburbs of West London, where the sprawl of the capital meets the countryside. His parents were both Welsh and the Welsh language was a familiar sound in the family home when he was growing up. Regular summer holidays in North Wales, reinforced a feeling of connection to a Celtic cultural identity.

After graduating from University, where he studied politics and history, Owen spent most of his working life in the area of environmental management. He is married with one daughter.

Owen’s earliest musical memories are of listening to and being captivated by Perry Como singing Catch a Falling Star on the radio at maybe age 3 . He was very attracted to the bright instrumental sound of the British band, The Shadows, as a young boy before The Beatles, bringing in their wake more sophisticated musical ideas and huge creative energy, came to dominate popular music. As a boy he joined the local Church Choir which brought him into contact with works by classical composers. Bach’s Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring was a favourite from his time in the choir. He wrote his first song when we was 9. His father came from a musical family and would often listen to classical music on the radio. So classical music was always quite a strong presence in the home, although there was no piano in the household until he was aged 11. Owen’s first instrument was rythm guitar and as a result he always approached the keyboard from the perspective of chord structure rather than scales.

Owen has never had any formal musical training beyond the choir and school but has often dipped into musical theory and the history of music. For the last ten or so years he has been focussed on composing in the tradition of classical music and is now seeking to make his work more widely known.

He lives in Surrey near the River Thames, which has always been a big part of his life both in terms of everyday experience and as a source of inspiration for his music. He strongly believes that reviving the classical tradition through new compositions that the public will engage with will help heal and restore our societies which have been so damaged culturally by the restrictions of the last couple of years.

More of Owen's work can be found at owendavidmusic.org including a number of compositions for string quartet recorded by Leos Strings.



What does music mean to you personally?

It’s a landscape of the mind. I feel at home there, roaming over the landscape. Others may have explored before you, but that doesn’t mean you won’t make exciting new discoveries. Another way of thinking about music is that it combines both emotion and logic. There are scales and chord sequences that are very logical - sometimes they have the force almost of a mathematical equation - but then there is also the beat, the lilt the rise and fall,the soft and loud, the succession of notes which all reflect our emotional moods, in ways that are far from inevitable or predetermined. When it comes to composing, you are trying to work on several levels - it’s like fishing on the surface, below the surface and deep down all at one and the same time.

Do you agree that music is all about fantasy?

It has to be a yes and no answer. From one perspective music is indeed fantasy, an escape from the world of “getting and spending“ we are all involved in. But looked at from the opposite perspective, music takes us closer to reality because at our core there is consciousness and music is able, somehow, to make a direct connection with our consciousness. . What appears as fantasy in music is often telling us deep truths about ourselves. It is because music (in general, not just classical music) helps us approach reality in this way that it has always been and still is so popular in all its many forms.

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

If I were not focussed on music as a composer, well I would probably still be engaged in creative work of some type - fiction, playwriting, poetry or philosophy. That said , I find just about all areas of human endeavour and activity very interesting whether it’s engineering, art, sport. politics, science, agriculture, language, business, green energy or space exploration - to name a few areas of interest. My problem as a composer really is to keep those other interests within bounds so I can maintain my focus on the music in hand! When you read about the lives of the great classical composers, though, you find it is rare for them to have been interested only in music. They got involved in the politics of their time, cultural controversies, philosophy and so on. The idea of the virtuoso living a kind of quiet monkish musical life is a quite recent development I feel.

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

Not really. Classical music, as a musical genre, was once confined pretty much to Europe and the upper classes but has now spread around the whole planet. Probably more people are exposed to music in the classical tradition through films, television advertisements, computer games and online sites than ever before. The recent Covid-related lockdowns have given renewed impetus to creating music in the home. Classical music may be a minority interest but it is now a global one and not confined to any one social group.

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?

Just the same as always! We can go back tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of years to the shamanistic practices of individuals in small bands of humans or even hominids using simple drums, gourds with rattling seeds and bone flutes to create intense semi-hallucinatory group experiences that bonded people together and deepened their understanding of what the hunt meant. The role of music is to connect with a deeper reality, to give sense and meaning to our lives and that remains true today. That doesn’t mean it has to be oppressively serious of course. I’ve never liked the term serious music. Looking to the future, of course it will be interesting to see how artificial intelligence develops. Can AI really out-compose humans? No evidence of that yet. AI can beat us at chess, outclass doctors in diagnosis and drive cars but it hasn’t yet cracked composition! I am not sure it can. What unites chess, disease diagnosis and driving a car is adherence to a set of rules that can in turn be converted into numbes. Yes, one can impose rules on composition but while computers can produce something that might bear a passing resemblance to a composition there is no evidence that they can produce compositions that charm, delight and move. If we are ever out-composed by computers that will be a sad day. Perhaps it will be time to close up shop.

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

The musician always needs to be creative! For me creativity has a strong mystical element to it, as it takes place at some deep level of consciousness and then rises to the surface. It’s mystical in the sense that we cannot track its movements. Many days I wake up with some vague idea of a melody imprinted on my consciousness. The melody isn’t really formed, it’s like a abstract code almost, a ghost of a melody. Other times the vapour of a tune rises up from the keyboard as one enters a kind of trance and idly plays the notes with hardly any conscious control. I think that’s as far as I’d like to go in describing what the role of creativity means for me. I think most creative people don’t like to delve into the creative process too far - not because they are superstitious about it but because they understand that it is a bit like those scientific experiments (Schrodinger’s cat and all that) where the act of observation collapses the experiment. One last thought though: perhaps composers and performers need to think about their audiences more and be creative for them.

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

Give them free tickets to the concert and a free pizza after the show! Surely we have so many billionaires around us these days one of them would like to fund that!!  It would probably do more good than many other charitable projects.

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

I think most composers probably love all their “children“ but I do have a fondness for one composition in particular - Remembrance - which was recorded as a string quartet piece by the Leos Strings last year and can be found on my website. I like the fact that it took something like 45 years for that piece to go from start to finish and also that I know that,overall, the piece has benefited from such a long gestation! It started as a piece for piano and I think it was the melancholy of the opening melody that attracted me to it, and made me work on it for so many years. The piece moves from the minor to a major key at intervals and that kind of reflects my approach to life - optimism more often than not breaks through. One quote about the creative process I like is that someone once said composers never complete their works, they only ever abandon them. That’s very true, I think. As a composer you know there is always scope for further incremental improvement but there comes a point where you have to accept that any small improvement is going to be at the expense of other compositions and your creativity in general, so you abandon the composition or, on another view, maybe you “release it into the wild“.

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

Yes, Google “Best ever classical tunes on You Tube“. Have a listen, see which ones you like and then follow up on the composers you like with further online searches.

Do you think about the audience when composing?

Definitely. There is always a virtual audience out there during composition, critiquing it as it develops. I am always conscious the audience are“ lending you their ears“ - you don’t own them! . So I am very concerned they should be engaged, entertained, elevated - never bored. I have a real horror of boredom.

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

One or two of my pieces are slated to be used in a son et lumiere event on the South Coast of England. That should be fun! I’d like to have some of my classical songs for piano scored and recorded. The classical song tradition seems to be a neglected area these days - simple piano and voice can be very effective. I’d very much like to write an opera or operetta. I have plenty of potential arias for that sort of work and some ideas whose lives they might deal with. I’d probably choose a real person as the focus. Coleridge, Mary Shelley, Dickens, Orwell and a few others are of interest to me as possible subjects. I‘d like to write a Pavane to rival that of Ravel and Faure. We shall see! Lol And of course I still have hundreds of piano works I would like to get scored and recorded. Experiment? I am not sure what experiment means in this context...to compose means to experiment, to try out probably thousands of variations before you hit on just the right one to get the desired result. I don’t believe in experimentation for its own sake. That’s a bit like believing in shouting out words for their own sake when you meant to write a poem. In terms of style, I tend to work in styles that suit my fingers and my feelings. But occasionally I push mysel f out of my comfort zone. I quite like trying to get outside established chord sequences and yet stlll make the melody sound unforced. I feel comfortable writing in the traditional major and minor keys (or the more familiar modes if you are looking at it from that point of view) but sometimes I like to stray outside those boundaries into other modes or more atonal music. Whether I feel inclined to do so is driven by the demands of the piece rather than any urge to experiment.