Sound Effect: Orlando Gough

Orlando Gough

Composer Orlando Gough has built his career around a taste for the unconventional. The former maths teacher has crafted music for battleships, choirs, TV operas, theatre productions, ballet and, most recently, a foghorn requiem for a lighthouse.

With an unusual inclination towards broad cross-collaboration, Orlando has pushed his musical comfort zones into a wide spectrum of genres. In 1998 he co-founded multi-genre collective The Shout and is currently an associate artist of the Royal Opera House.

Here, he talks us through the music that soundtracks his life. You can listen to all the songs below on our Spotify playlist.

The first music I remember hearing was…
Two singles my elder brother Piers came home with; Itchycoo Park by The Small Faces and We Love You by The Rolling Stones. I was bowled over by them both. It was the weirdness of the sounds and the lyrics; a window into an adult world that was scary and alluring.

The first record I ever bought was…
Gorilla by Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band. What a bizarre first record to buy. It was all pastiches and piss-takes. I played it into the ground. I knew all the lyrics off by heart.

The last great record I listened to was… 
Merriweather Post Pavilion by Animal Collective. It all came together for them on this album; great tunes, wonderful hooks, interesting lyrics, brilliantly subtle arrangements. The combination of electronic and acoustic sound is deeply exciting. Also, Vigilia by Einojuhani Rautavaara. This is an absolutely ravishing a cappella choral piece by the wonderful Finnish composer.

The song I wish I’d written is…  
Blackbird by Paul McCartney. I’m not a diehard Macca fan but this is fabulous. The lyrics are heartbreaking (my son Milo read them at my father’s funeral) and are perfectly realised in the music.

And then there’s the Cinq Rechants of Olivier Messaien which is, as far as I know, his only a cappella choral piece. I’ve written a lot of choral music in the last 20 years and none of it is a patch on this.

The song that makes me want to dance is… 
Orient Express by Joe Zawinul. It’s from one of my favourite albums My People. I have always been a fan of Weather Report, but for me Zawinul was even better afterwards. Orient Express is an irresistible groove. I played it so loudly at my 50th birthday party that the speakers blew.

The song that makes me cry is…  
Blackbird (see above). Also, When I Am Laid In Earth, the great aria from Henry Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas. It’s apparently simple, floating on a chromatic ground bass, unbearably affecting. Then there’s Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda, an adrenaline-filled, heartbreaking piece of music by Claudio Monteverdi.

The song that I know all the words to is…
My brothers are much better at remembering lyrics than me. They can launch into obscure songs from the sixties and not stumble over a single word. The one I’m very good at is Fairport Convention’s version of Matty Groves. It’s got about twenty verses and I’m fluent in all of them.

The song I want played at my funeral is…
I’d like to be floated out to sea on a longboat which has been set fire to, while Fanfare Ciorcalia play raucous brass arrangements taken from their wonderful album Iag Bari. There will no doubt be some health and safety issues, but whoever’s organising it will just have deal with them…

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