I started to compose when I was about 14 and observed my school's orchestra in action
I remember thinking, that looks amazing, I wish I could be part of that. There were two answers to getting involved - learn an ensemble instrument (I picked up the double bass, and that worked), and start to write music for people to play, and so I started to write music for my friends
I was a great browser of second hand bookshops. I found a copy of the 'Historical Anthology of Music', a post-war anthology of early notated music for American students, edited by scholars. Here were strange, wonderful, exotic early compositions including by the celebrated fifteenth century English composer, John Dunstable (c. 1385-1453).
I transcribed several of these pieces for my family to play.
This kicked off a great love of English music from around 1400-1700 which continues to inspire me for these reasons: strong and intense harmonies (the 'contenance angloise' was a phrase coined by the poet Martin le Franc to describe the rich harmonies of Dunstable's music); fascinating and even maverick approaches to the design of music, which I still use to get my compositions started today; and the tension between a kind of spiritual longing for timeless release, and earthly experiences including war, illness and pleasure, which often finds expression within the same piece.
The music from this time navigates sacred and vernacular themes, and bridges vocal and instrumental composition, in ways that resonate now especially in a post-recordings age when a renewed focus on music returns us to the value of live performance experience on stage, or just making music together in chamber groups.
I lived for a while in Bath and discovered film through the Bath Film Festival. I worked on a number of live scores for silent films. One such project was a marathon 75 minute score to the complete film Battleship Potemkin (1925) - its director Eisenstein produced a silent film of unbelievable velocity and rhythmic drama. The act of composing a score for it transformed my ideas about scale in orchestral, stage and film composition. The experience also helped me solve a tension between a personal love of musical ideas (chord, motif etc) that are simple, clear and vivid, and a personal drive towards musical art that is complex in its expression.
As a result, key words for me in music are 'harmony', 'colour', and 'rhythm'.