Skip to main content
Against a red background, a man in a dark jacket and shirt looks out of frame. His face is illuminated by a light from above.

Soundbox: an interview with Jay Capperauld

13 May 2024

News Story

Jay Capperauld may be most familiar to SCO audiences as the composer of The Origin of Colour (which received its premiere at the very beginning of the 2023/24 Season), The Great Grumpy Gaboon or Jubilee, his witty take on a familiar birthday tune written for the Orchestra's 50th anniversary concerts in January. As SCO Associate Composer, his remit extends far beyond this, including mentoring three young music creators - Emily Scott-Moncrieff, naafi and Daniel Abrahams - as part of this Season's Soundbox programme.

To get some insight into this role, we're delighted that Jay agreed to an interview.

What can you tell us about the process of mentoring Emily, naafi and Dan, this year’s Soundbox music creators?

Soundbox has been a year-long process with our music creators, which gives us the luxurious opportunity to think and create in a very deep and meaningful way from the inception of their initial ideas all the way to the finished product. The course is divided into three main phases; the exploration phase, the creation phase and the editing phase.

The exploration phase allows us to discuss, theorise and conceptualise the ideas of their piece as a group without the pressure of having to commit anything to paper at such an early stage. The creation phase sees the more practical production of their new works, with 1:1 sessions with myself and the brilliant external mentors Nathan Hall and Ben Lunn. This phase includes workshops with SCO musicians who realise their works-in-progress and offer invaluable advice on the technicalities of writing for specific instruments. The final phase is the editing phase which sees the development, honing and finalisation of the dots on the page, i.e. refining the performance material that is delivered to our musicians.

The whole year’s worth of activities is approached with a responsive and open ethos so that our music creators are the ones to drive their experiences and creative interests. I’m very proud of the culture we have fostered with Soundbox, which is an understanding that we all may be asked to step outside of our comfort zones (music creators, mentors and musicians included) and that by approaching our work in a thoughtful and positive way we can find a common creative goal.

My role as a mentor has to be responsive to each individual and curated in a way that provides a bespoke learning experience, driven solely by the desires of each music creator.

Were there any aspects of working with the music creators that caught you off-guard, say a means of conveying an unusual sound or a request you didn’t see coming?

Each music creator comes from a different musical background with different creative practices as well as different musical experiences and interests. This means that my role as a mentor has to be responsive to each individual and curated in a way that provides a bespoke learning experience, driven solely by the desires of each music creator. Whether their interests lie in learning music notation, developing compositional techniques, working with technology or building creative confidence, I see it as my job to develop a supportive understanding of each music creator in order to help them become the creator that they want to be.

Rather than showing them a blueprint for their process, I feel it was important to get to know Emily, naafi and Dan well enough to guide and respond to their interests with longer term goals in mind that could extend beyond the course, as Soundbox is fundamentally a development scheme that puts the individual at the heart of the experience. For a simple example, the initial ensemble brief did not include a Double Bass, but as discussions unfolded with each creator we discovered that the Double Bass was becoming an important aspect of their expression, and so we gladly included this as part of the ensemble which works magnificently.

How have the Orchestra members been involved?

The core ensemble for Soundbox comprises of nine SCO musicians who have worked closely with Emily, naafi and Dan by offering practical advice about writing idiomatically for each instrument during a number of workshops in the creation phase, where the ensemble tried out the works-in-progress while the writing process was still live. This was invaluable as it meant the creators could ask lots of questions and hear a plethora of options, whether that be a change of timbre, a difference of attack, an altered dramatic characteristic and everything in between.

For most of our creators this was the first time they heard their music being played by live musicians which is incredibly exciting and it is such a privilege that we could offer that new experience for our creators. The resulting new works will also be premiered by SCO musicians as part of the SCO’s Un:Titled concerts alongside music by Guillaume Connesson and John Adams.

How do these pieces tie in with the new works?

The programme for the Un:Titled concerts is intended to complement each of the pieces by Emily, naafi and Dan while providing a fantastic variety of expression that showcases the versatility of our SCO performers. Emily’s piece She breathes, she becomes is an emotional evocation of the life and decay of a flower, whereas naafi’s piece Joyride in your aura is an ambient, hypnotic work with electronic backing, and Dan’s energetic Hope in the Dark is an optimistic flourish in the face of adversity.

Each piece connects, either in style or expression, in some way to Connesson’s Disco Toccata and the intricate minimalist design of Adams' John’s book of alleged dances and I feel very fortunate that my own Kintsugi-inspired piece for solo flute The Pathos of Broken Things will be performed alongside the works of composers who I admire, and the music creators who inspire me through Soundbox. We are also hugely excited to welcome DJ Dolphin Boy back to Un:Titled who will provide an electronic thread that connects the various styles of each piece.

Finally, what effect has your work with Emily, naafi and Dan had on your own music?

The admiration I have for Emily, naafi and Dan’s work is immense and I am so proud of all they have achieved throughout this last year on Soundbox and the way they have openly stepped outside of their comfort zones and have challenged themselves to develop their craft and expression with such a positive frame of mind. That, to me, is very inspiring!

Related Stories

View All