The music that made me

I fell in love with Berg's Violin Concerto

Composer Sarah Lianne Lewis selects some of the most important music in her life 

My earliest classical music memory

I have this bizarre recollection of watching a TV show as a young child (it must have been back when the BBC still had their old boxy blue-red-green logo!).  The programme - aimed at children - would explore different pieces of classical music.  In particular I remember the episode (or episodes?) that explored Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition.  

​Whilst the music played, the TV showed a 'painting' that had some aspect of it animated. Whilst the music for 'The Hut on Fowl's Legs (Baba-Yagá)' is very dramatic, the animation that accompanied it was quite terrifying, and I still remember that to this day.  My Mum also recounts how my great-aunt (who was very musical herself) had visited one day, and observed that - whilst I was happily playing with my toys - I was singing the 'Promenade' theme to myself ... I was only 3 years old at the time!  

The piece that inspired me to become a composer
Whilst I was studying for my A-Levels, I fell in love with Berg's Violin Concerto.  It was the first piece I chose to study more carefully myself, and it was one of those 'lightbulb' moments; I'd grown up listening to baroque and classical music, so had very little experience of 20th century music past 1920.  The realisation that serialism in music was actually incredibly beautiful and expressive, rather than being constrictive, was enlightening, and - whilst I've never written 12-tone music myself - it encouraged me to write music that wasn't replicating the chords and structures I'd heard in classical music that I played as a violinist and pianist.

The piece I wish I’d written
I think Salvatore Sciarrino's Luci mie traditrici (The Killing Flower) is one of the most exquisite pieces I've listened to. Sciarrino's music is hauntingly beautiful, and he creates this quietly tense atmosphere, using unconventional noises alongside more traditional techniques.  The entire opera murmurs and whispers its way towards its tragic end.  The way that Sciarrino uses all aspects of the instruments, and his use of silence throughout his music,  gave me the impetus to explore more unconventional techniques and pacing of musical material within my own work.