Who or what inspired you to take up composing, and pursue a career in music?
My music teachers at school. They were so enthusiastic about it that I thought they must be in on some very special secret….it turned out the music I’d hear in my head wasn’t that different to what they were doing….it has to get out some way or another. They helped me to get it out!
Who or what were the most significant influences on your musical life and career as a composer?
At an early age ( 8-9) it was seeing three films at the cinema within a two week period….”You Only Live Twice” , ” The Jungle Book” and ” Oliver”. All astonishing musically and visually, but music was so front and centre for these films that it made me feel like I wanted to be a part of the process that had made me feel the way I did when I saw them in that dark theatre.
What have been the greatest challenges/frustrations of your career so far?
Challenges and frustrations are almost the same thing for me….the most fretful being the first day of composition when you have nothing but a blank page and a lot of people are waiting somewhere for me to send them something of which they have very high expectations
What are the special challenges/pleasures of working on a commissioned piece?
The pleasure is getting it done and people being happy with it…the challenge is getting it done so people are happy with it
What are the special challenges/pleasures of working with particular musicians, singers, ensembles and orchestras?
I’m fortunate that I’m able to work with the best in the world in terms of performers. Anything I put in front of them, they will play brilliantly and make it sound and feel immediately better. I’m spoiled in that regard. It’s important to treat individual performers with care and attention so that they feel free and secure enough to give it their all. Then the relationship, much like that which I have with directors, is one of part therapist, part musician.
Of which works are you most proud?
I generally don’t like much of what I do, in as much as I can’t hear it without thinking I wished I had done it differently, mostly better, but there’s not much I’d change about ‘The Tiger Who Came To Tea’; it’s a piece that feels about right to me, it makes me happy to watch it.
How would you characterise your compositional language?
Sympathetic to what ever I’m writing about or for.
How do you work?
I hear lots of music in my head whilst just being around and about so I sing ideas into the phone or sketch the odd sequence down, depending on where I am. Then it’s to an instrument for working out an idea which will either survive or be abandoned – and that’s on guitar or piano working ideas up in a DAW [digital audio workstation] so others get the idea too and there’s something tangible to play to people. If it’s a film, I’ll watch it once and then walk around with the film in my head and let it all percolate.
Who are your favourite musicians/composers?
So many. Probably the most influential would be John Barry, Stevie Wonder, Debussy and Tchaikovsky. As I get older, there’s a bit more Mahler but mainly I love great melody
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
Not having to do anything other than music and to be happy with what I’m doing and with whom I’m doing it
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Don’t try to please others, write honestly and maybe think this: if the person whom you admire most in the world musically was standing next to you, could you play them whatever it is you’re working on right now and not have to make an excuse for it?
Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
If I’m alive in ten years time, I’ll be happy to be anywhere doing anything
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Having nothing to worry about
What is your most treasured possession?
I have things that I love but they’re just things and I’ve stopped thinking about things being precious. My family will always be the greatest and I have no desire or ability to own them
What do you enjoy doing most?
Being childish and also cooking
What is your present state of mind?
Tangled, Busy, Yearning, Hopeful, Cynical, Stupid
David Arnold composed the score for the recent tv adapation of Judith Kerr’s classic children’s story ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’. The soundtrack is now on CD and digital format from Sony Music Masterworks.
David Arnold is a multi-award-winning British film and television composer. Best known for his work on blockbuster films such as Independence Day, Stargate and Chronicles of Narnia, he also took over the mantle from John Barry to compose the music for five James Bond films (including Casino Royale, for which he was nominated for a Grammy, a BAFTA and won ‘Best Song’ at the World Soundtrack Awards). Other films scores include Godzilla, Shaft, Zoolander, Hot Fuzz and Stepford Wives.
David Arnold’s television work includes Sherlock (Emmy winner for best score with Michael Price) Little Britain, Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased), Dracula and Good Omens. Over his 20-year career, he has won Grammys, Ivor Novello, International Emmys and Royal Television Society Awards. He was recently twice nominated for an Emmy for the Amazon /BBC production “Good Omens”
In 2012 David Arnold was appointed to the prestigious role of Musical Director for the London Olympics & Paralympics Closing Ceremonies and was also involved in one of the highlights of the Jubilee Thames Flotilla, composing a new arrangement of the ‘James Bond theme’ as HM The Queen passed by the MI6 headquarters.
As well as being a world-renowned score composer, David Arnold is a highly esteemed artist, record producer, songwriter and conductor who has worked with some of the biggest names in music, including Queen, The Who, Kate Bush, kd lang, Bjork, Chrissie Hynde, Iggy Pop, George Michael, Massive Attack, the Kaiser Chiefs, Shirley Manson, Shirley Bassey and Sir Paul McCartney.
Photo credit: Julie Edwards