Photo: Composer Jessica Curry

21 March 2019

Composer, BAFTA award-winner, radio presenter and co-founder of the British video game development studio The Chinese Room, Jessica Curry shares her thoughts, experiences and inspirations, ahead of the advance premiere of her new NYCGB commission, ‘She Who’.

When did you start composing and what or who were your early passions and influences?

I started playing the piano when I was four and composing soon after. My first attempt at music and lyrics: “Jessica Curry is in a hurry she’s going on holiday. Hip Hip, hooray, she’s going on holiday” became an instant classic. As a young child I was obsessed with extremely sad music. My favourite piece when I was small was the exquisitely morose Coventry Carol and the first single I ever bought was the almost unbearably tragic Chi Mai (used on the Life and Times of David Lloyd George) by Ennio Morricone. What a fun child I was!

What did you find particularly exciting about the experience of writing for a choir?

For me, there is nothing as exciting or inspiring as writing for choir. It really is my absolute joy. I read English Literature at university and both my mum and my husband are writers so the written word is an integral part of my life and forms a large part of who I am. There is something so human, so direct about the choir and it never fails to touch me on a very profound level.

How would you encourage audiences to listen to your music?

I truly believe that music should be for everyone and that’s one of my favourite things about writing music for games. It’s so democratic and anti-elite. So I can honestly say that I don’t mind how someone chooses to listen to my music. Having said that, it’s always very special when someone buys an album rather than just streaming as it means they’ve made a conscious choice to support you and I’m always very touched by that.

How has your composing developed and where do you turn for inspiration?

I am self-taught so I am still learning new things every day. There are advantages and disadvantages to this! It means you don’t sound like other people and you can break conventions sometimes simply by dint of not having been taught them. At other times it can lead to a lot of anxiety and imposter syndrome. Life in general inspires me - nature, my son, travel, friends, laughter, music, illness and loss - it all goes into the pot.

Who’s the most underrated composer or musician that you think people should be listening to?

I’m always surprised that more people don’t know about Cardiacs. They are my all time favourite band and are so musically innovative and unafraid. I only saw them live once and it was one the highlights of my life. Go forth and listen to Cardiacs!

What advice would you give to budding young composers?

Be talented, be tenacious, be polite, be funny, be easy to work with, be inquisitive, be there on time and most importantly be original. Don’t be arrogant, don’t be late, don’t be fooled, don’t be shy.

What’s next?

I’m about to embark on the next game soundtrack for The Chinese Room and I just can’t wait. Working with husband Dan’s words is always incredibly inspirational and it’s always a lot of fun too. I think we bring out the best in each other.

*Jessica Curry’s ‘She Who’ is a new piece commissioned by NYCGB with the generous support of PRS Foundation and selected for the New Music Biennial 2019. The National Youth Chamber Choir will perform ‘She Who’ at the New Music Biennial 2019 festival weekends which will take place on:

5 – 7 July 2019
Southbank Centre, London

12 – 14 July 2019
Hull (various venues)

Please note that tickets for the events are free but you will need to book in advance. Tickets and the full schedule will be available soon from The New Music Biennial website here