Insomnia, by Charlie Piper

Charlie Piper


On Saturday 5 November we’re presenting a feast of new music in Pavilions: New Music Show 2.  We caught up with Charlie Piper to hear more about his new work Insomniac, which you can hear at the event.

Your work Insomniac portrays several different forms of insomnia.  Can you tell us a little about the different states reflected in the music?
Insomniac
 has three movements. The first movement has a frantic feel and portrays the sort of insomnia caused by anxiety or stress when your mind can’t shut down and thoughts spin frustratingly round and round in your head. The middle movement is a much calmer portrayal of the surreal sensation when floating between sleep and wakefulness. And the last movement looks at the effects of external influences on the ability to sleep.

One of the common causes of insomnia is anxiety.  What single thing makes you most anxious?
Deadlines.

Whilst writing this composition, I believe you spent some time in Sweden.  Do you find that your surroundings affect your writing at all?
Absolutely. I was staying in Gotland, which is a small Swedish island and very serene and beautiful. My work studio looked out over the sea and so, when I wasn’t staring distractedly out the window, I was in a good calm state of mind to work. However that isn’t always ideal – if I’m trying to write frantic music it helps to be in my rail-side London flat! Also I was in Gotland during the summer and so I experienced, for the first time, all-night sunlight – which certainly doesn’t help with insomnia – but the extraordinary colour and iridescent glow over the sea was a big influence in the atmosphere of the middle movement of this work.

And what time of day do you find is the best to compose?
I usually give myself 9-to-5 business hours to compose (unless there is a deadline looming!) which helps me focus my energy but I think the morning is probably my most productive period.

Your programme note for Insomnia states that ‘the final movement is concerned with insomnia caused by other external influences – such as a neighbour having an all-night party’.  Describe your ideal party.
One that I haven’t had to organise…

And finally…Insomniacs are often told to play music to relax before trying to sleep.  What is your favourite piece of music to relax to?
Possibly the Aria from the Goldberg variations.

You can hear Insomnia on Saturday 5 November at Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall.  Click here to book tickets.

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