We decided to be all dignified-like this morning with a wee bit of classical music. If you didn’t know already — and judging from the level of Headiness out there, we’re guessing you did — suave Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood’s been composing soundtracks when not hanging out on Radiohead.tv or In Rainbows. He has a couple under his belt — one for 2003’s Simon Pummell film Bodysong, and in 2004 he went and completed his first commissioned work, Smear. That same year, the BBC knighted him with “Composer-In-Residence.” Congrats. During that time, and under said moniker, he did Piano For Children and Popcorn Superhet Receiver, which has its US premier in NYC as part of the Wordless Music Series this January. All that, and looks like he’s just getting started: Amid In Rainbows CD2, he’s completed the soundtrack for Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood, starring Daniel Day-Lewis. Wonder if Jon Brion’s pissed.
The PTA film’s based loosely on Upton Sinclair’s 1920 muckraking novel Oil!, so it makes sense that this track’s called “Future Markets.” Black gold and all that. The piece is performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra — conductor Robert Ziegler, the Emperor Quartet, cellist Caroline Dale, and piano Michael Dussek. Jonny, take a bow. Music and some Q&A after the jump.
[Photo by Zach Klein. Thank you, Wiki.]
Lovely. Even more lovely: There’s an interview with Greenwood over at the Nonesuch blog. We found these parts of the discussion to be particularly interesting:
NONESUCH: In previous interviews and your earlier orchestral works, you have expressed admiration for the music of modern composers like Olivier Messiaen, Gyorgy Ligeti, Krystof Penderecki, and Paul Lansky, among others. Could tell us more about how you were introduced to these composers’ music, and how often you still listen to their music today?
JONNY GREENWOOD: I first heard Messiaen when I was 15 or 16?the Turangalîla-Symphonie?and just found it magical, especially with the ondes martenot swooping around with the strings (who seemed to be playing an entirely different piece of music). I didn’t know it was allowed to write music like that. Also, it was the fact that he was still alive, still writing. I just latched on to him, partly in reaction to all the schlemiels who only liked twee classical music, but mainly because it was such other-worldly music.
Because of this I came to think of Messiaen and my favourite bands?like The Pixies, New Order, The Fall?as all being in the same category somehow … and I still do.
Penderecki I heard in the three weeks I was at music college. I’m glad I did … with his music, it’s hard to accept there’s only ?traditional? instruments being played. I saw him conduct his Viola Concerto and just couldn’t believe it was only strings on stage. Where was that noise coming from? Where were the speakers?
NONESUCH: Has writing pieces for orchestra and chamber ensemble always been an ambition of yours, or is it something that has developed over time?
JG: I was hooked when I joined a youth orchestra briefly in my teens and heard, for the first time, a room full of string players actually playing in tune. It’s an incredible sound. I guess it’s a shame for most of my stuff they have to play out of tune … but still …
NONESUCH: You are almost certainly the only rock star to play the ondes martenot, which also figures prominently in the score to There Will Be Blood. How did you first come to discover this instrument, and what does it add to your music that is different from by more traditional instruments?
JG: It makes the theremin look like a toy. I think the theremin is a toy. The ondes martenot is all about control; there’s no guessing, or random gestures. It’s a true musical instrument, and people who play it well can make it sing. It’s like the inventor approached it with the idea “How can we play music with electricity?”
NONESUCH: You have mentioned the special kind of magic that happens in a concert hall when an orchestra is playing together. Are orchestral concerts something you still have time and interest to see? How much live music of all kinds do you still go to?
JG: I’ve not seen anything live since we started the last Radiohead album, but there’s a Messiaen festival coming up, and I’ll be there for it all, if I can. It’s an addictive experience. [The Southbank Centre kicks off a yearlong festival celebrating Messiaen’s centenary beginning February 1, 2008.]
Can’t wait to see if Messiaen’s MySpace hits go up. Also, we realize not everyone knows what the ondes martenot is, so take a look and listen at Jonny and the rest of the gang performing “How To Disappear.”
Goosebumpy beautiful, right?
There Will Be Blood, the soundtrack, is out 12/18 on Nonesuch. The film opens 12/26.