Influences 影響


The CD has been on sale for a few months now. Sales are … well … slow, but I did not expect sudden interest in the first CD released by an unknown amateur. Nevertheless, I have been heartened by kind comments from people who have listened to the CD. I have also enjoyed hearing what influences people think they have heard in the music. People are usually right when they suggest a composer/country whose influence they hear. If I added references to my scores – like footnotes in an academic paper – to indicate places where there was a direct influence from another piece, each score would have an extensive “bibliography”.

The comment I hear most is that my music is very “English”. Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Holst, Britten and Rutter have been particular sources of inspiration. However, in the “bibliographies” for the pieces on the CD, English composers would be outnumbered by non-English composers. The Englishness in the CD must have been absorbed subconsciously from the atmosphere and scenery of Southeast England where I grew up. I do not set out to write “English” music. It just happens that way.

People in Japan, meanwhile, have often heard a Japanese influence. There is bound to be some given that I have spent almost half my life in Japan and all my pieces apart from the Serenade and Reflections were written while living here. On another occasion I will write more about Japanese influences (particularly in the quartet Memories of Japan), but here I will just mention Rainy Day. It was inspired by a washi (Japanese paper) doll, so in that sense it has a clear Japanese influence. However, the musical inspiration was Ravel. Towards the end of the slow movement of his Piano Concerto there is gorgeous piano ornamentation above the languid melody played by the cor anglais. I love this effect and I have used it in various places, including Rainy Day.

After a performance of Reflections in Japan in 2000, one audience member claimed to have heard a Japanese influence in that piece, too. Perhaps it was the subject matter: the “river as a metaphor for life” theme is familiar in Japan, and features in the famous enka ballad Kawa no nagare no yo ni (Like the Flow of a River) sung by Misora Hibari. However, Reflections was completed before I had ever set foot in Japan. The river depicted in the music (see the poem that accompanies the piece) is unambiguously English. Ironically, though, virtually every musical reference listed in the Reflections “bibliography” would be not from English composers but continental European ones, including Debussy, Schubert, Rachmaninov and Bartok.

The river metaphor might be why another listener heard a Czech influence. Smetana’s Má vlast (My Homeland) contains the movement Vltava about the Moldau river. But, Reflections was not influenced by Smetana. I only discovered Má vlast much later … after moving to Japan, in fact, where Vltava is extremely popular. The Czech influence might well be Dvorak rather than Smetana. His Cello Concerto was one of the pieces that got me hooked on classical music in my teens, and I played in Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8 at university. I taught myself orchestration and instrumentation by studying the scores of the Romantic symphonists, particularly Beethoven, Dvorak, Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Sibelius. I have never felt that I could emulate the scale, colours and intricacies of the scores by the great twentieth century orchestrators such as Ravel and Richard Strauss. On on a technical level, I have always felt most at home in the nineteenth century, close to Dvorak and his contemporaries.

I must also mention the Russian influence. I love the music of the Russian twentieth century greats: Rachmaninov, Shostakovich, Stravinsky, Prokofiev … There are shades of easier Rachmaninov in my piano writing, acquired from the Prelude in C Sharp Minor and Polichinelle, both of which I played in school concerts as a teenager. I also learned much about Shostakovich’s orchestral writing while sitting in a desk of the first violins during a performance of Symphony No. 5 by the University of Sussex Symphony Orchestra in 1997. One composition technique borrowed from Shostakovich and Rachmaninov is the use of a musical signature. Rachmaninov ended his second and third piano concertos with the rhythm “Rach-ma-ni-nov” and Shostakovich signed his Symphony No. 10 and String Quartet No. 8 with DSch (D – E flat – C – B). Listen out for “Seaton” (E flat – E – A – up a tone, i.e. B) in Bitter Suite.

The final influence is film music. John Williams has composed many inspirational film scores, but Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan are particular favourites. The haunting violin solo main theme from Schindler’s List reminded me that not all of the great tunes have been written yet. Hearing such melodies by living composers sends me back to the piano to try and find one myself. The main theme of the third movement of Bitter Suite was composed in one of those “trying to emulate John Williams” moments.

So, these influences from the greats extend not only to specific musical ideas or techniques, but also inspire me to keep composing. The hope – in music as in research – is that through learning from and referencing others, what eventually emerges is a distinctive voice of one’s own. So, however many individual corners of my pieces are reminiscent of other pieces or composers, ultimately I hope people will find my pieces to be distinctively “Seaton”.

28 February 2019







このほかロシア的な影響についても述べなければなりません。ラフマニノフ、ショスタコーヴィチ、ストラヴィンスキー、プロコフィエフ…といった20世紀ロシアの偉人たちの音楽が大好きです。私のピアノ曲には、10代の頃に学校のコンサートで演奏した前奏曲嬰ハ短調や道化役者といったラフマニノフの比較的易しい曲の色合いが含まれています。また、ショスタコーヴィチの交響曲のスコアについては、交響曲第5番のファースト・バイオリンを1997年にサセックス大学交響楽団の演奏会で弾いた際、色々と学ぶことができました。ショスタコーヴィチとラフマニノフから借用した作曲技法のひとつが、音楽による署名です。ラフマニノフはピアノ協奏曲第2番と第3番の終わりを「ラフ-マ-ニ-ノフ」のリズムで結んでいますし、ショスタコーヴィチは交響曲第10番と弦楽四重奏曲第8番をDSCH音型(ニ-変ホ-ハ-ロ)で署名しています。私の「ビタースイート組曲」で”Seaton”(Es-E-A-up a tone, i.e. B [変ホ-ホ-イ- 1音上げる、即ちロ])に注目してみてください。