Members' Voices

Andrew Pearce – Composer

Reading 6 minutes

How did you fall in love with music?

I was always fascinated about how music was written down for people to play, so I began reading musical scores for bands and orchestra from probably 12 years old. I then began writing things down in a score and had fellow students play it for me at school or the youth band/orchestra. And by age 17 years I was writing full orchestral pieces and learning a lot from hearing the students play them, still the best way to learn composition and orchestration I think – on the floor!

At this stage, back in the early 1990’s, I was becoming very accustomed to the film music of John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, Alan Silvestri, Danny Elfman, John Barry and many others, especially the great brass writing of John Williams, so my first appreciation of orchestral music was probably in film score. Later, I began studying the great masters of the romantic era while at university.

Are you more of an arranger, an orchestrator, a composer or a conductor? Why and what’s the difference?

This is always a fascinating question, and I would answer “yes” to all because to me they are all naturally inter-connected skill sets. I’ve always conducted my own music whenever possible because I know exactly what I want to hear and it’s a joy to bring it to life – I’m very comfortable in this process.

From a practical point of view, it can make recording sessions very efficient too, as the composer/conductor can change the orchestration in the moment, rather than relaying to a conductor many times over.

At the most fundamental level, the differences in the skill sets you mention are probably the following:

A) The composer has the ideas, such as the melody/motifs and harmonic structure, any contour lines and should have a basic idea of voicings, orchestration, and texture, so the essence of the music should begin with the composer, of course.

B) The arranger/ orchestrator roles go hand in hand and in film or tv, composers generally require orchestrators to get them over the finish line out of necessity due to time! In some cases, an arranger can completely re-imagine a song or classical piece whilst staying true to the essence of the song, so might have license to go further than just ‘orchestrating’ a few lines from short score (as is common in the film and tv music world). I’ve just been through this process actually, arranging pop song covers for string quartet and reducing wind band scores to just violin and piano. You need to be an efficient editor too, it’s part of the process, ie. what does one leave “in” or “out” of the music when the ensemble is only a quartet for example? The best lesson for me is to always consider foreground and background – you have to prioritise and sadly leave some good ideas out or it becomes too crowded musically speaking!

C) Lastly, the conductor (who might also be a composer) will be skilled in bringing to life the essence of the score in hand, be able to command a group of people sight-reading the music, bring out the best in their performance and realise the composer’s music.

Did you remember your first songs? Could you describe how you felt when your first work was released?

Actually, I do! It was a piece written for my GCSE Music examination here in the UK. I was 14 and had to write a serial work based on the 12-tone system for a small group of brass players at school. The boys all showed up and we recorded it onto tape cassette (1989). Shortly afterwards, I wrote a brass prelude for my A level music examination for the youth brass players and guest trumpeter of the London Symphony Orchestra, Maurice Murphy who would later perform on my album ‘Cinema Symphony’. I remember loving that feeling of all those notes sounding together in the right place, it was exhilarating, and I wanted to write more!

I mentioned ‘Cinema Symphony’ above because this was the first big release of my music to the world. It was a huge epic work, recorded by The Royal Scottish National Orchestra. It was a huge undertaking for me, which I produced myself in 2007.

What’s your opinion on today musical’ creation, today?

It all happens so fast and is perhaps led too much by the technology, which will always have limitations compared with real instruments. We all have the same tools at our fingertips, so people are often writing to the strengths of the samples as it will probably never be realised for real players! Sadly, most people seem content with a sampled mock-up rather than a work recorded live by an ensemble that requires a lot more thought, ie. in the process of orchestration and performance, not to mention the art of recording the music! The variety of sounds available to us is sometimes overwhelming but allows us to preview how the final music will sound before an orchestra plays it. I do feel that younger composers should find any opportunity to actually hear their music played live. It’s such an invaluable learning curve, one learns so much from being in the room with real musicians who behave very differently to a sample library!

How would you describe your relationship with Sacem? Why is it important to protect copyright?

My relationship with Sacem seems to build more and more since my Definitif Member award last summer. They are so efficient, so positive and protect our rights at a time when composers are not always fairly compensated for their initial creations. The collection of our broadcast rights seems more important than ever, allowing the composer to concentrate on the actual musical creation and feel some sense of an ongoing career – I’m a very grateful member of Sacem and feel very embraced by the people in this fantastic organisation!

-© Andrew Pearce –

Read also

Fabrice Aboulker – Composer

Read more

Maël Péneau, composer and DJ, better known under his electro producer name Maëlstrom

Read more

Yannick Matray, publisher (InFiné)

Read more