Composer Anders Hillborg on creating synthetic sounds, his studies with Brian Ferneyhough and the influence of the Beatles
I like to create “synthetic” sounds from acoustic instruments. I think it comes from my experience working with electronic music In the 1980s, the electronic music studio was a great laboratory for studying sound and becoming aware of the properties of different registers and harmonies.
Electronic music made me realize the difference between humans and machines. I now put humans at the center of my music and try to simplify my songwriting so that it is as rewarding for the performer to perform as it is for the audience to listen.
I collaborate as much as possible with the soloists for whom I write. I always try to adapt the piece for them and like to throw ideas at the soloist – even if they are not playable! I prefer not to hold back by sticking to what I think is playable. If something turns out to be unnecessarily difficult, I’m willing to change it as long as it doesn’t damage the basic musical idea. my clarinet Concertowritten for Martin Fröst, involves theater and dance which was his specific request, but it can also be performed without these elements.
As I come from a pop music background, the Beatles were my first big musical influence. I am still in awe of their exquisite harmonies and the ingenuity of their music. Next, Ligeti was extremely important in bringing me to the modern music scene. The usual suspects of StockhausenBerio and Xenakis were all very important too – as was Prince, again from the pop world.
I studied with Brian Ferneyhough. However, I am far from his so-called “new complexity” school of composition. The new complexity involves complex musical notation, and I think sound is incredibly complex on its own. The only complexity I accept is auditory: it doesn’t matter what is written in the score – it only matters whether you can hear SWNS or perceive the complexity.