Rob Keeley

In the run-up to its concert at The Forge on 27th May 2014, rarescale’s Artistic Director Carla Rees talks to some of the composers who have recently written new works for the ensemble.
What is it that appeals to you about writing for the alto/ bass flute? I'm trying to get away from the notion of these instruments being 'exotic' and used purely coloristically.

What attracts you to rarescale as an ensemble? Above all its openness to new repertoire and its unusual instrumentation, encouraging new approaches to composition.

What is your musical aesthetic? Above all to use traditional means - harmony, counterpoint, melody and form to create interesting and attractive music that isn't afraid of charm.

Who are your main influences? Probably Messiaen, Faure, Britten, Tippett, Stravinsky, Dallapiccola, Haydn, Debussy, Donatoni, Sandy Goehr and Judith Weir.

How does Low Life I relate to your other compositional output? I am extremely interested in writing in two parts: I have already written a number of such pieces for flute and clarinet, two clarinets and harpsichord. So much can be said using just two voices, and this possibly stems from my teaching practice at King's. This is little piece I hope part of a cycle of short pieces featuring low flutes, entitled 'Low Life'.

How do you see the role of new music in modern society? Only that as long as people want to write music, and there are people with a sense of curiosity to want to listen to it, it means that there is something good and alive happening in society. It's a sign that not everyone is mesmerized by celebrity culture.

What made you become a composer? Initially, at the age of 9, an urge to make interesting pattens on MS paper (Britten tells of something similar!) - then hearing Bach's music (especially the Brandenburgs) and being spooked and excited in equal measure by the organ music of Messiaen - something clicked and I told myself that I wanted to do something like this.

Is classical music dead? Of course not.

If you could choose three pieces of music that have had a big impact on your life or musical development, what would they be and why? Three is I'm afraid, far too few. But I'd have to mention 'Peter Grimes', Messiaen's Dieu parmi nous' and Dallapiccola's 2nd set of Michelangelo choruses (these are very beautiful), all pieces I heard of performed in 1973, when I think I was at my most impressionable age.

rarescale will give the world premiere of Rob Keeley's Low Life I for alto flute and bassoon on 27th May 2014.