Five questions with cellist Oliver Coates

Oliver Coates

Cellist Oliver Coates has curated the 9pm late-night set for New Music Show 3 on Sunday 2 December and is also performing Alvin Lucier’s Music for cello and one or more amplified vases and Charlie Usher’s Yawl Ketch Schooner Brig.  Find out more about Olly below.

What was the first recording you bought?
Hats by The Blue Nile

Can you tell us a little bit about you?
I’m predominantly a performer on the cello and sometimes music programmer. I’ve made new music with lots of people, through improvising or in the studio: for example with Leo Abrahams on a recent album Crystals are Always Forming. I started playing the cello very young. I’m from London and have always been driven by discovering music from the past and the present. 

Who or what inspires you?
I’m inspired a lot by Robert Smithson. His ideas, writings and works inform what I try to do. Also recently I discovered the paintings and writings of Agnes Martin.

I’m inspired by some wonderful contemporary composers, featured in this event, such as Andrew Hamilton, David Fennessy, Charlie Usher, Larry Goves and Alvin Lucier. I enjoy looking into the right conditions for what Lucier calls “concentrated listening”, which some people might think of as meditative. I love when the form of a piece keeps me guessing.

I am inspired by old Scottish and Norweigian folk songs, as sung by Amy Kate Riach, whom I am recording for an album project at the moment.

If you could pick a favourite project or personal career highlight to date, what would it be?
Working with Netia Jones and David Sheppard and Amy Kate Riach on The Seafarer at Southbank Centre. It was an installation that took place in a series of dark corridors and boiler rooms and utility areas underneath Royal Festival Hall. I recorded music by Messiaen as the soundtrack, and the Anglo-Saxon poem The Seafarer was painted in a long line along the walls, dimly lit. We lived down there for two weeks while building it and it became my life.

My other favourite project was Everlasting Light at Sizewell Beach in June 2011. It was conceived and designed by Netia Jones. It was the most beautiful artistic experience I’ve ever had, and I’ll never forget the feeling of seeing those particular images projected onto the face of the nuclear reactor to the sound of Ligeti’s choral music.

And finally, name your 3 most listened to pieces of music at the moment…
Music for People who like Art by Andrew Hamilton

Born Free by M.I.A.

Three Ravens (Scottish traditional folk song, sung by Ewan MacColl)


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