Meet the Composer: Ben Gaunt

After a year spent pushing their music in new directions, four of our LSO Soundhub Phase I composers will be presenting their work in a showcase concert at LSO St Luke's on 19 June. Here, we meet Ben Gaunt...

Tell us a little about your background as a composer.

I recently completed a PhD at The University of Sheffield, studying with Dorothy Ker, which was a fantastic experience. Actually, it could be the best decision I've ever made!

Over the summer I had a couple of private lessons with Michael Finnissy – he really is a generous man, and an excellent teacher. Previously, I attended the Royal Northern College of Music and Manchester Metropolitan University. I spent far too long studying at university, so I am happy to be on 'the other side'; lecturing at Leeds College of Music.

I have been lucky to work with some wonderful musicians: Icarus Ensemble, Ensemble 10/10, London Sinfonietta, Oren Marshall, Sarah Nicolls, Christopher Redgate. Recently, I was commissioned to write a piece for York Late Music Ensemble (conducted by James Whittle). I loved working with these young, talented musicians; they were so open and vibrant and excited and really treated my music with a respect it probably doesn't deserve! 

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Listen to Carina's Observatory, performed by the York Late Music Ensemble

What was it that attracted you to the Soundhub scheme?

I wanted to write something for karateka (karate practitioner) and two musicians. I think LSO Soundhub is the only scheme flexible enough to let this happen...

A long time ago, when I was struggling to find my voice as a composer, I was given an excellent/worrying piece of advice along the lines of 'would the people you admire like your music?' This idea of associating yourself with people you admire has stuck. I love the music of Darren Bloom, Maxim Boon, and Aaron Holloway-Nahum, and noticed they had all been accepted onto Soundhub, and I knew I'd want to be part of the LSO community.  

Are there any particular themes ideas or techniques you explore in your music?

Nowadays, I write slowly and do my best to ensure each piece is as individual and multi-faceted as possible, drawing inspiration eclectically. For example, my last piece was about space and pillars and Wagner and rotations and machines. The piece before that was about Salvador Dalí and exploding heads and horror films and Latin and hymns. My current piece is about light and buildings and children's books and fire and monks and Devon and ritualism and hotels and my living room and Schubert and Scarlatti. As a consequence, I think all my pieces sound different to one another, but I don't really care!

Also, I like maths. There is maths everywhere in my music. It's taken me about one month to write two minutes of piano music because of all the maths! 

What other projects are you currently working on?

I've written a trio called 16th-century Horror which was professionally recorded (thanks to the generosity of Sound and Music). I've sent the recordings on to three electro-acoustic composers (Adam Stansbie, Rob Bentall, Andrew Reeman) who will then produce remixes (whatever that means...) which we will release as an album. I recently got a bit of funding from the IMR, and will be holding a one-day conference related to this, which should be fun.

I'm also writing a large-scale solo piano work in four movements. Each movement will be premiered by four different pianists: Christopher Guild, Leanne Cody, Gary O'Shea and somebody else (if you know anybody who's interested, let me know!)


You can find out more about Ben from his website, or you can follow him on Soundcloud and Twitter. Better yet, hear his final work at the Soundhub Phase I Showcase at LSO St Luke's on Sunday 19 June 2016.