Insight to Creating Beauty at Opus Theatre in Hastings

Polo Piatti in Opus Theatre. Picture by Peter Mould SUS-170305-104929001
Polo Piatti in Opus Theatre. Picture by Peter Mould SUS-170305-104929001

Polo photographed at the Opus Theatre by Peter Mould

How can we tell the meaningful, the good and worthwhile from the vacuous and trite? Such questions were the basis of the symposium at Opus Theatre last Saturday led by composers Polo Piatti and Paul Lewis. Both are committed to musical creativity based on melody and it quickly became clear that both are concerned about the current state of musical education which seems to go out of its way to avoid melodic structures or beauty.

Paul Lewis has been composing for TV and film for over 40 years. While much of his output will have been heard frequently his name is not necessarily over-familiar, particularly as an important part of his work consists of library pieces, composed as background or incidental music for one-off programmes.Both compose music which is experienced as late romantic and Paul spoke of his particular love of early 20th century composers from late Dvorak onwards.

Audience participation was welcomed and there was discussion of the quality of film music, which led in turn to a deeper consideration of just what constitutes quality. Polo argued that he always aims to entertain, which he sees as far more than simple enjoyment. Rather it should engage and enhance the listener’s experience and they should feel happy with it even if at times challenging. At the heart of this experience is the creation of melody – without which he would argue music does not really exist.

Whereas Paul composes at the piano, hearing the colours of the orchestra, and then works outwards from there, Polo shared with us his dreams – for his scores come to him fully fledged as dreams which he then has to pin down as notes on paper – frequently in the middle of the night.

Though both composers are familiar in Hastings, they shared some of their work with us as examples of modern melodically based compositions. Unfortunately the technical side of the afternoon was somewhat temperamental but we were able to hear Paul Lewis’ Rosa Mundi and then – a real coup – the first outing of excerpts from Polo’s new Piano Concerto which already sounded impressively romantic in impact.

There is more to liking music than ticking the box on your iphone. Perhaps there will be scope for more sessions like this to create a wider dialogue? By Brian Hick.

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