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Musicians chat with Andrew Powell about his fascinating life and career, from his early years as a member of experimental rock group Henry Cow through to his work as a leading record producer for Kate Bush and The Alan Parsons Project.

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Tayla-Leigh Payne 

composer and sound-artist

Details of Tayla-Leigh Payne's Presteigne Music Festival commission will be published soon.

What advice would you give an early career composer trying to make their way professionally? And what would you say was that breakthrough moment for you? 

AP: The best advice is to be persistent, trust your instincts, and don’t compromise your musical ideas.


I think my first breakthrough (other than being at a school where the orchestra played works in the mid-1960s by Humphrey Searle, Thea Musgrave and Luigi Dallapiccola) was going to a summer school at Wardour Castle led by Harrison Birtwistle and Peter Maxwell Davies when I was 16. This was where I first met Roger Smalley which two or three years later led to my being asked to join the group Intermodulation.

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Ash Cooke 

improvising guitarist and visual artist

How much experimentation and improvisation did Intermodulation employ in the presentation of their music and if so, has that approach fed into your later career or was it something that you moved away from?

AP: There was certainly a degree of improvisation in some of the works we performed, such as Stockhausen’s Prozessio although this was within pre-determined boundaries. I don’t think we ever played pure improvisations without some basic instructions from a composer while I was in the group and quite a few of the works we performed were fully through-composed.

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Chris Parfitt 

improvising musician who runs South Wales Improvisers

You were in Henry Cow in the late 60's. How did this cross over and influence your work with Roger Smalley and Intermodulation ? Are there any recordings in existence that you play on?

AP: I was only in Henry Cow for just over a year - it was a three-piece group at the time, with Fred Frith and Tim Hodgkinson. During that period we didn’t record anything unfortunately, just played gigs, mostly around Cambridge. I think that the spirit of improvisation was important in both Henry Cow and Intermodulation, albeit in somewhat diferent genres.

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Ethan Davies 

composer & Tŷ Cerdd Publishing & Research Manager

What’s the secret behind the astonishing range of work that you’ve created?

AP: Probably an interest in a very wide range of music from an early age - from Medieval to Classical and Romantic to avant-garde concert music, to rock, progressive rock and jazz, as well as Gamelan and Japanese music.

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Niamh O'Donnell 

composer, sound designer and pianist

Do you think your instrumental training has been integral to your compositional understanding and writing?

Niamh's Five Windows will be performed by the National Youth Orchestra of Wales in August 2024.

AP: I think that playing in orchestras or chamber groups, or rock groups, or as a soloist, definitely gives one a feel for what performing musicians think and need. It also makes you aware of things which are practically difficult, but playable, as opposed to plain impossible! (I do remember Stockhausen once, when someone complained that something was unplayable, saying during a rehearsal that he wasn’t interested in “the lazy dogmas of impossibility”!)

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James Clarke 

Tŷ Cerdd Recording Studio Manager & Producer

When working as a producer, how do you measure your contribution so that it enhances the work of the recording artist without sacrificing its fundamental concept?

AP: Listen carefully to the demos which the artist has given you, talk to them, ask them what they want to achieve in the recording of each work, and discuss with them your ideas for various possibilities of maybe improving some sections or areas of the pieces.

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Daniel Soley 

composer, producer and performer

Why was Here We Go Again, Rubinot! (2017) the film that brought you back to scoring to picture?

Daniel will be presenting original sound art in a Sound Bar guest performance at Atmospheres Festival, RWCMD, Saturday 4 May

AP: I had known the author and director of the film, Giuliano Tomassacci,  for some time, as he did a long interview with me for an Italian film magazine about my work on the film Ladyhawke some 20 years or so ago. When he approached me to do the score for this film I asked to look at it, and liked what I saw, and thought that it was an interesting idea, so I agreed to work on it.     

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Odilon Marcenaro 

electronic composer & sound-designer

How does being a Welsh composer inform your practice as an electronic composer? In other words, is there anything in your electronic music that makes it specifically Welsh?

AP: An interesting question, and one which is not easy to answer. Some of my music is obviously Welsh influenced - especially those works with Welsh texts, or featuring harp, male voice choirs, or brass bands, but then, being Welsh could be taken to mean that all of my work is influenced by my heritage, which I feel it is. I am at the moment recording several works for solo instruments and electronics based upon my impressions of and feelings for certain aspects of the Welsh landscape which mean a lot to me: a piece for solo french horn and electronics called Pentre Ifan (yn ystod y nos), (electronics done at IRCAM), a work for solo piano and tape - Under the Worm’s Head, and a piece for viola and electronics - Tu mewn Foel y Mwnt.

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Joseph Davies composer and collaborative artist

You’ve had an amazingly varied musical career as a composer, performer, conductor, arranger and producer. If you were told you were going to be reincarnated and this time would have a successful career as just one of these things (or something else music-related), what would it be and why?

AP: That is a very difficult question to answer, as I have really enjoyed working in different roles and between different genres of music - I find that they often cross-fertilise each other. If I were really forced to choose one option, I think the answer would probably have to be a composer, as I think that is the role which has given me the most lasting satisfaction.

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