We explore partnerships old and new in Duets in a Frame on Wednesday 1 June, with our 22nd commission from Sir Harrison Birtwistle and very first from Tom Coult – one of the most promising young voices of his generation.

Before we give the world premiere of Tom’s new commission Spirit of the Staircase he took some time to answer our quickfire questions:


What do you regard as your greatest artistic achievement?
The music I feel most affection for tends to be measured in pages – sections of music between about two and four pages long. I can think of some examples in my recent pieces Codex (Homage to Serafini), Sonnet Machine, My Curves are not Mad and Beautiful Caged Thing. As a whole piece however, I think there is a clarity and precision about Four Perpetual Motions for 10 players (2013) – it does exactly what it sets out to do.

What do you fear?
That the effects of decades of neoliberalism – on equality, education, the public realm, human relations, labour, the arts – will prove irreversible.

Which piece of music has had the biggest effect on you?
Bach’s Goldberg Variations.

What’s the most unusual performance you’ve been a part of?
I’ve performed in a couple that were raided by police.

What’s currently on your coffee table at home?
Three candles (‘nah nah, three candles…’andles for threeks’), a copy of the Equity magazine, a small chicken figurine and a Harry Potter colouring book.

What was the first recording you ever bought?
I remember buying a CD by The Offspring quite early. The first classical CD was Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos played by Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields. Bach is still my absolute favourite composer, though my taste in performances have dropped by about a semitone since then.

Describe yourself in three words.

If you could have any other profession, what would it be?
I’d make clocks.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
Igor Stravinsky.

Tell us your best musical joke.
A diner is eating in an Oasis-themed restaurant and is served a starter of leek and potato soup. ‘Excuse me waiter,’ she says, ‘but in what way is this leek and potato soup related to Oasis?’.

Witheringly, the waiter replies, ‘You got a roll with it’.

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