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This interview is taken from PN Review 208, Volume 39 Number 2, November - December 2012.

in conversation with Robin Holloway Angela Leighton

ANGELA LEIGHTON: To start at the beginning, or perhaps to imagine a beginning, I want to ask you when you first started to compose? What was the first piece you remember writing down, and why? What drove you to write those notes? And then, at what point in your life did you decide that composing was what you wanted to do?

ROBIN HOLLOWAY: I always wanted to compose - can't recall a time when I didn't: my parents described the perpetual stream of monotone issuing from the pram in the streets of Leamington Spa, then Walsall, responding to ambient sounds in shops and parks; and I myself remember singing along to the wonky wind-up gramophone. There's an unceasing river of whistling or humming in my consciousness - from that infantine prattle and twitter to adult life, always some music 'on the brain', whereby I sing, silently in public, out loud when alone, and especially on walks and journeys, attempting to replicate whole stretches of beloved symphonies, operas, songs, etc. When I began to learn musical notation via early piano lessons, 'composition' began in accidentally or deliberately altering the little exercises or real pieces I had to practise. I can't recall when things began to be written down - probably as a chorister at St Paul's Cathedral, where the intensive daily intake upon the white pages of complete ignorance was overwhelming. Every new encounter was responded to instantly. All church music of course - Tudor, Restoration, Victorian ...


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