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From the Archive: George Benjamin at the Barbican

Nothing Concrete text
5 Aug 2020
35 min listen

In an archive interview from March 2016, Ben Eshmade speaks to composer George Benjamin and counter tenor Iestyn Davies, just before the premiere of the then new work, Dream of the Song. 

How to find a way into really genuine creativity and come up with something really fresh and interesting and new, well one learns a little bit as one goes along

From the Archive sees us dig into our extensive contemporary and classical music and cinema podcast archive as we rediscover interviews and discussions with artists, with our long-standing producer and presenter, Ben Eshmade. 

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Ben Eshmade: Hello and welcome to Nothing Concrete, the Barbican podcast. I’m Ben Eshmade and this week, we’re visiting our archive, looking back to March 2016 when we spoke to composer George Benjamin and countertenor Iestyn Davies, just before the premiere of the then new work Dream of the Song. 

Performed as part of a three-concert series entitled Benjamin at the Barbican, this podcast has turned out to be a document of the composer and the composition process just before the premiere of this piece. 

George Benjamin: I was a fanatical muso from the age of about 7 or 8, and I knew what I wanted to do, and all I can remember is I had to wait so long!

Iestyn Davies: The great thing is that he says because I want you to, let’s say these triplets need to be very, very in time or if they’re not you won’t sound sarcastic and that’s my point.  So that’s a gift we don’t get with singing music by any dead composer.

BE: So George Benjamin is a musical alchemist who takes voices, words and stories and transforms them into a new element of glistening sound, vibrant colour and timeless art, and on the 18th and 19th March 2016 you could have witnessed a performance of his acclaimed opera Written on Skin, a premier (as mentioned) of Dream of the Song and an intimate lunch time concert of his works. Note this interview was recorded before the passing of composer and conductor Oliver Knussen in 2018. So first we visited Benjamin’s home in West London to learn more about the composer himself.

Composers lead in this modern age very busy lives. Where are you at the moment? This programme that we’re going to be talking about is next March, but I presume you have to work a long way in advance and you’re busy juggling?

GB: Well I’m about to go to New York, tomorrow in fact, to go to the USA stage premiere of my opera Written on Skin with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. I’m not conducting but I will be conducting a concert there in the Mostly Mozart Festival. Then I come back and then I have to conduct the world premiere of Dream of the Song, my new piece in Amsterdam with the [Royal] Concertgebouw at the very end of September. But apart from those two things, I’ve virtually nothing in my diary for the next six months. In fact for the next three years because I’m writing a new opera and my life is really dedicated to that, almost at the exclusion of everything else.
BE: I get the impression from what I’ve read and from meeting you that if you could get away with it you could write music all day long every day.

GB: I wouldn’t want to do that because I like to have some life in the middle as well. But also I love contact with other musicians as well. In this June I was at the Aldeburgh Festival in residence for about three weeks, working with a sinfonietta and working with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and with my great friend Pierre-Laurent Aimard and various other wonderful musicians – Olly Knussen – great friends of mine and I just had the most wonderful time. So I just love to make music. I love to travel as well but I need to be very seriously marinated in pieces in order to write them and if I leave them for too long it takes me a very long time to get back into them, and if I do concentrate on them then they begin to flow and that’s the ideal thing. To get a sufficient degree of cohesion and unity and to hear very precisely what you’re writing it’s best to concentrate really, purely on the task in hand. Debussy once said you either live or you compose and he lived plenty but I do know what he meant.

BE: You seem to spend various parts of your life as a teacher, as a conductor and a composer, but it sounds like all of those help each other or are more intertwined.

GB: Yes that’s the case. But in surprising ways. As a conductor I gain immeasurably from my experience working with live musicians and I’m privileged now to work with really wonderful musicians and that is a really a very great joy. And I learn things perpetually, not only about composing, but also about conducting, every time I do it. But actually, the difference between composing and conducting is extreme. Composing is something which comes note by note, gradually, within silence, reflection, meditation, on the structure. Every decision has ramifications way beyond the individual note itself. Whilst conducting is something communal and something social and something which usually gets done within four or five days. And is energetic and physical, the subject is music but you couldn’t be further apart. Teaching, that’s different, that doesn’t have much impact on my conducting but it does on my composing. I love teaching, I’ve taught for the last 30 years or more. In order to explain some harmonic, structural, rhythmic, aesthetic, stylistic element to my student I really have to understand it myself and that forces me to keep on learning. Plus contact with young composers, some of them extremely gifted, I’m very proud of my students, is immensely stimulating and yes on occasion has sprouted new ideas.

BE: You achieved success fairly early on. Obviously, there was the Proms performance when you were 20. Do you think that was a good thing or do you wish you’d had a more gradual growth into the composer you are now?

GB: I thought it was a wonderful thing at the time and I still think it’s a wonderful thing. I was extremely fortunate that the BBC, Robert Ponsonby, decided to put my work in the Proms and that the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Mark Elder did such a wonderful performance, but I’d been fortunate before in having such fantastic teachers, particularly Messiaen in Paris, to whom my first orchestral piece Ringed by the Flat Horizon is dedicated. I had also already the support of my publisher, Faber Music, with whom I’ve almost reached 40 years. I was sixteen when we started making contact. I was a fanatical muso from the age of about seven or eight and I knew what I wanted to do then, I knew I wanted to do this and all I can remember is that I had to wait so long. When you’re eleven or twelve and you dream about seeing a piece of yours in print like all the collections of scores that I’ve got and to hear someone really good play it as opposed to the very willing but not very competent school friends that I had. I was already in Paris when I was sixteen with Messiaen so it was very exciting but I had felt that I’d waited a long time. Plus I worked very hard and the other thing is, regardless of their quality, those early pieces of mine, they still get played so, I don’t want to quote a French song, but I don’t regret much.

BE: I know it’s different for everyone who composes but how do you see the music? Is it fully composed by the time you put pen to paper – I assume you do paper instead of computer?

GB: I do paper. I think that’s a myth that music is fully composed in your head. It’s meant to have been the case with Mozart but it wasn’t the case with Beethoven and once the harmonic style in the 19th century became more complex and language began to mutate then no, the act of composing creates the music. And often the ideas that one has in one’s head, for textures or for lines or for anything, they’re not as good as what happens when you compose with material. Often they’re clichéd and that’s a big mistake. You want something fresh and authentic in a piece at every moment so Lutoslawski had a nice idea about describing composing that you’re flying very high up in the clouds and gradually you descend and elements of the landscape become visible and the nearer you get the clearer they get and you land and everything’s done. The fact is there’s a lot of mystery and confusion in starting any piece of music. You don’t know what you want, you don’t know how to do it, you have no idea. And maybe what you want is related to what you’ve done before and therefore isn’t very interesting. How to find a way into really genuine creativity and come up with something really fresh and interesting and new, well one learns a little bit as one goes along. And I do have a little bit more of an idea of how my mind and my idea work than I did many years ago so you can stimulate it, you can help it, you can challenge it. Then if you’re fortunate things take off. It’s a very peculiar process to go through and one hopes that music gives the feeling of spontaneity, as if it were invented in the head as it were, in real time. But that’s an illusion.

BE: Let’s move slowly into these three concerts. The first one features the premiere of Dream of the Song. As you’ve mentioned already it’s conducted by your friend Oliver Knussen. Do you consider him a contemporary? 

GB: He’s a little bit older than me, Olly is. Well he seemed quite a lot older than me when we were young. He’s about eight years older than me but we’ve been great friends since the end of the 1970s and really, very great friends. I’m so lucky. He’s been a wonderful friend to me musically, a wonderful friend altogether, plus we laugh an awful lot. We speak fairly frequently and he’s the funniest person that I know. 

BE: You wouldn’t guess that

GB: You wouldn’t guess that? Oh heavens I went out to dinner with him a couple of nights ago and the jokes he was telling, I could not begin the first line. Anyway, but we’re very, very great friends. Apart from being a magnificent composer he’s also a magnificent conductor. So I’m delighted that with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Singers and Iestyn Davies he’ll be giving the UK premiere of this piece.

BE: What conversations do you have about the music?

GB: When we’re talking on the phone sometimes suddenly the conversation gets very intense and extremely serious and I can have some real nuts and bolts conversations with him about any element of music. 

BE: Let’s talk a little bit more about the actual piece itself. Where did the piece come from, how did this begin?

GB: Many things. Many divergent things, too many things maybe to mention. But one of the inspirations was the idea of writing a work for countertenor and female chorus in which the sound of eight solo singers would as it were, surround and encase the sound of the countertenor. Quite similar registers, very similar registers but so different in timbre and sound, and expression as well. That’s one thing. Then the poetry that I’ve chosen comes from two sources, in fact it comes from three sources. The primary source, what the countertenor sings, are 11th century Hebrew poems from Andalusia. This very little known poetry’s been translated in a large volume, called in fact Dream of the Poem by the American poet Peter Cole, who was very helpful indeed to me whilst writing this piece, giving me advice about the background to the poetry. So that’s what the countertenor sings and it’s secular poetry, very beautiful. The chorus sings poetry also from Andalusia, from Grenada. But it’s 20th century. It’s Lorca, and it’s a specific cycle of poems which was inspired by 8th/9th century Andalusian-Arabic poetry, which is the case with the Jewish poetry also, from the 11th century. So in a way there’s a hidden source to all the poems which is Arabic poetry from the extraordinary civilisation in Andalusia of the 9th/10th century, then there’s this Hebrew poetry translated into English and there’s Spanish poetry in Spanish. Beyond that, I’d have to read you the poetry. The subject matters are varied but there’s quite a lot of remuneration about the passage of time and mortality I suppose. But it’s diverse as well.

BE: Let’s take a pause there and catch up with countertenor Iestyn Davies, who will further unravel the mysteries of Dream of the Song, though at this point the finished work has just arrived in the post.

Iestyn Davies: The first time I encountered George’s music as a sort of countertenor soloist was Written on Skin really. I was sent to George’s house and, essentially to go and sing to him, because at the time he was I think at the end of writing the piece and it had been commissioned amongst various houses but especially by Aix-en-Provence where it was premiered and the cast was set in stone, he knew who he was writing it for. However this piece was going to do quite an elongated tour around Europe so I was mooted to replace the countertenor Bejun Mehta at certain stages. So George, he’d heard me on the radio actually and he’d not put the name to the face or the face to the name, I went and sang to him. That was it, then he briefly explained what the piece was about and he gave me a copy of his Into the Little Hill on CD and sent me off. Then I went to the premiere at Aix to watch and I can’t remember ever seeing anything that I wasn’t so struck by. I remember at the end of the, when the second curtain comes down, just the power of the music. You could feel the united breath of the audience being expelled as the curtain went down, it was really, really moving. The primary impact was so strong that I knew that this was a good move to be part of it.

BE: Is he a composer who writes strongly for the voice?

ID: I think everybody you speak to who was involved with Written on Skin would agree certainly that he is one of the most sing-able of composers. And that’s not to say that it’s primary colours and the kind of music that people would be able to necessarily listen to first time, but I think that it’s very apparent to the audience that the singers don’t go through any discomfort. George gets the lyricism of a human voice and also, he writes very well for countertenor in particular, the way he wrote for Bejun in the bottom of the range as well which is something that I really appreciated. Also the way that the voice is set against or set amongst the texture of the orchestra, it’s different from say, Handel, where you feel like you’re sitting on the surface at the top, you’re the tune. You feel like you’re in amongst the tapestry of sound in George’s thing and you’re not fighting against the sound either. It’s very much a chamber feel to it, even though the orchestral palette is quite big in Written on Skin.

BE: I thought it might be nice – I know you’re at the Barbican quite a lot, but one of the recent experiences was for Nico Muhly’s Sentences, both composers now writing and writing very well for the countertenor. But interesting to maybe ask how they differ?

ID: Well I think they differ just simply as composers in the sound world they inhabit, it’s very obvious that they come from different schools. However I think where they’re similar is that, like you said, they do write very well for the person in question, in particular for me with Nico. He is perhaps more forgiving but you can contact him during the writing process and he will send you excerpts and say ‘how will you like this?’, whereas I know for a fact that George is very much, the way he can concentrate on his work and let it come from his pen is by almost closing his self off in a monastic existence I think. I know from even having conversations with him about the new work, he has very specific times of the day in which he’s available to talk, which I quite like because it’s so easy to contact people these days with mobile phones that you take it for granted that they’re going to answer. In fact just before I started this interview I was having a text with him and I find myself very apologetically saying ‘sorry for disturbing you’ because have I just interrupted this aria and now he’s just going to have to throw it in the bin and I can imagine that happening. But George has conducted a lot of his work and when you get to sing his work for the first or second time with him, you find out things which you may not do correctly, whether it’s rhythmic things or dynamic things and he will say ‘no please will you do this, because’, underlining it all is because I spent four years in a dark room writing it but the great thing is that he says, ‘because I want you to’ let’s say, ‘these triplets need to be very, very in time or very, very metric, because if they’re not then you won’t sound sarcastic and that’s my point’. That’s a gift that we don’t get with singing any music by dead composers, the very reason, I’d love to have Handel say ‘look, the reason I wrote this is very specific, because I want you to sound melancholic’ or whatever it is, we don’t get that. It makes you look back at the music you sing a lot of the time, Mozart, Handel or Gluck, and re-evaluate what we think is authentic and how we approach authentic historical practice. 

BE: When you were approached to be in the concert, how was it explained to you?

ID: Well in very basic terms it was a song cycle for countertenor and orchestra with a female chorus and that’s as much as I got. To be honest, that’s as much as you need when you’re asked to do the premiere of a George Benjamin work, albeit the British premiere. So I was completely flattered to be asked.

BE: OK. Then maybe the next stage is you get a score in the post, is that right?

ID: The next stage exactly is, I got the score, I’m holding it now, in various stages actually. To start with I had a perusal score, which I’ve got here. In the front they have ‘Property of Faber Music’ then it says ‘Manufactured on 18th March 2015’. Then I look at the vocal score and it says ‘Manufactured on ‘7th May 2015’, so there’s obviously little corrections and various things, maybe to do with the laying out of the score actually rather than the notes, but I’m a sort of Grade 8 standard pianist who didn’t do anything but learn the pieces for the exams, so I’m not the world’s greatest sight-reader, however it doesn’t take long to decipher this sort of music. I’ve got the, the vocal score is always reduced to a piano score so it makes it slightly easier and I was sent a recording of the premiere which speeds everything up by a million. It’s funny, it’s like looking at a map. You see straightaway it’s by George Benjamin, I don’t know what it is, but there’s something. Even the first page is very reminiscent of the opening sequence of Written on Skin. Time suddenly stops and the singer comes in. I think that’s it, it’s a full stop or a coda and saying ‘right here we go, this is the singer, he’s entered’.

BE: I was looking at some of the reviews of the first performance and there was a great thing where someone described it as the idea of looking at water and the reflections of sunlight on water. I’m excited just from that description of what it possibly could sound like.

ID: Yeah it does have that quality a lot of the time. The illusions to moonlight, there’s a lot of moonlight in it. But I like that translucent reflection of water, it’s very much the thing. In fact, that rings a bell for one of the movements where I was trying to learn it on the piano, playing the piano score, it’s very percussive, you can hear all the strings. On the recording you can’t see the conductor you just listen and I thought ‘I can’t tell where the beat is’ because of the way in which the strings are coming out of each other did feel like it was rippling. It’s so nice, it links back to 18th-century music. The score is simply transmitting what the composer has in his head. The quickest way to transmit what they want performed. Isn’t that amazing, for the composer to sit there and have that? Something that, pressing on genius, composers such as George have. 

BE: A lot of work that you do in your career, there are aspects of acting. When you have a work like this, where the poetry is key, do you feel that you’re, for a better turn of phrase, a storyteller or someone who has a message or an idea to get across?

ID: I think that’s a nice way to think about it but certainly the place that starts is looking at the poetry and looking at the text and putting yourself perhaps in some sort of imaginary scene for each song. Obviously I can never get away from the acting side of it because I enjoy performing so there’s always going to be a bit of me in there. I think that’s true of all actors actually in general, that people say ‘so and so is a wonderful actor’ but actually there’s quite a lot of them in that thing which is the thing that etches them out from somebody else. I just worked with Mark Rylance who everybody is raving about, he’s just a wonderful performer on stage, such good timing and spontaneity, but when you work with him and you know him and you see him in the dressing room, it’s not to devalue what he does but there’s so much of Mark in his performance or certainly so much of his performance in Mark, I’m not sure which way round it is. And I tend to think that’s a bit like singing really, because singing is so personal to, it’s not like a violin where you can switch off at the end of the day and put it in a cupboard, you do sleep with your instrument in your body and you wake up in the morning and it’s there. When it comes to performing George’s songs, we succumb to colds and all those kinds of things, which sometimes people enjoy your performance so much more, it certainly comes across, when you’re on the edge and you don’t have much voice because you’re feeling a bit ill and you give something completely different in the performance which you think is a dreadful performance and everyone says ‘that was really, really alive’ and you think ‘yes, because I gave everything because I had nothing’. But hopefully, fingers crossed none of that will occur, none of those things. I’ve been falling over a lot recently but I’ll try not to again.

BE: Back to the composer George Benjamin, and I asked him about the intimate lunchtime concert of his chamber works, Lunchtime with George.

I believe this is kind of a relaxed affair.

GB: Not for the viola players. They’re playing my piece Viola Viola which I think is really the hardest viola duet ever written in any case. It’s really hard. And apparently the Mahler Chamber Orchestra viola players are going to do it off by heart which has only been done by one pair of players before. It really is very hard and there’s no cellos or violins to hide behind in the piece so it’s a very, very hard piece. I hope it will sound good in the [LSO] St Luke’s acoustic because it needs a generous acoustic because the idea of the piece is that there are two violas on the platform but if you were to close your eyes you might think there were five and a half. What else is being played? A young and very talented composer-pianist called George King is playing my piano piece Shadow Lines, which is, I’ve written about five pieces for the piano and this is the one that I prefer. I wrote it in 2001/2, initially for my great friend Pierre-Laurent Aimard. George has recorded it in fact, on CD, I didn’t work with him on it at all. The recording is good, so I was very happy that he was able to come along and join us.

And then there’s a very early piece of mine Flight for solo flute, played by the Mahler Chamber Orchestra’s sensational first flautist. And there’s my little transcription of Purcell, I think, one of my favourite fantasias, initially for viola de gambas but I transcribed it for a rather curious group – celesta, clarinet, violin and cello. And then I think finally there’s my transcription of a couple of, well a canon and fugue from The Art of Fugue from Bach, for a slightly larger group. And there will be some conversation.

BE: These seem to be pieces that you’re particularly proud of, if I had to link them together.
GB: Maybe, Viola Viola and Shadow Lines are amongst my better. I haven’t written really enough chamber music you know, and I wish that I had written more. And I hope that I will write more in the future, although I’ve got the opera bug rather badly.

BE: I interviewed Philip Glass and he described opera as the ultimate composer’s device, the ultimate thing they can do. Would you agree with that point of view?

GB: Well it is an extraordinary and thrilling form, one I wanted to attack for many, many years and was unable to until I met Martin Crimp, the British playwright who has had a transformative effect on my work. I’m starting my third opera at the moment and it’s a monumental challenge to deal with something so huge, so many notes across a really large span of time.

BE: It must be very hard to let your music go.

GB: Yes it’s very hard. When you think, with quite a degree of precision, I’ve been locked inside a head for two or three years, but equally there’s nothing more thrilling than seeing it coming to life. And what’s wonderful about opera as opposed to doing concerts is that the preparations take more than two or three months. So you have rehearsals with just the music and singers and piano, then you add a little bit of direction and more and more direction and then comes some staging and then comes the stage itself with the set and the lighting and then comes the orchestra alone, and then the orchestra with the singers and then everything put together. And it’s the most thrilling journey. I was very fortunate that in Aix we had the most fantastic cast for whom I’d designed the work, and the most fantastic orchestra, the incomparable Mahler Chamber Orchestra for whom I wrote the music with their sound in my head. Also a fantastic experience. I’m also overjoyed that at least three of the original cast will be singing it in the Barbican, including Barbara Hannigan and Christopher Perves.

BE: Was it an actual decision to conduct? Because I imagine if I’d done all that work I would not necessarily want all the responsibility on the night to bring it to life.

GB: Well with my first stage piece Into the Little Hill I deliberately didn’t conduct the premiere. That was done by my friend Franck Ollu with the Ensemble Modern in Paris. With this one, there was one conductor I went to to ask if he would do it, because this is someone who’s been, perhaps I won’t name him, but very important to me over the last 30 years and he’d been trying to get me to write an opera ever since I was about 25. So I felt in a way that now at last I’d done it that it belonged to him, but sadly he wasn’t free. He just absolutely could not do it. Then there was some deliberation, there was one other person I thought of as well but then with the Director of the Aix Fesitival, Bernard Foccroulle, we discussed it and then the feeling was ‘well it might be interesting if George does it himself’. So I did it and yeah, it’s a huge weight of responsibility, can you imagine? What harm was a conductor going to do to me as a composer within 90 minutes? But at the same time, we're surrounded by these wonderful musicians in the pit and on the stage and they support, I felt such support from them. So in the end I think it worked out.

BE: Let’s move to Martin Crimp. The story of this opera, I was reading the synopsis, it’s incredible. I suppose the best way of describing it is maybe a very gory fairy-tale. Maybe tell me a bit more about how you came to the subject matter and then how the working relationship worked.

GB: The subject matter, well there’s two things to say about that. The only requests from Bernard Foccroulle, a man I’d known and liked enormously for over 20 years, he’d been asking me to write an opera for that long. The only thing he asked for Aix-en-Provence was, gently asked, please if you could set it here or this terrain I’d appreciate that. So Martin and I immediately began to search for stories to do with Provence. Now the history of Provence and particularly the age of the troubadours is immensely, immensely rich. Fortunately Martin’s oldest daughter Catherine was studying at Cambridge at the time, and she was studying something to do with medieval poetry I think. She went to her professor to say ‘my dad would like to know, do you have any stories from medieval Provence that could be good for an opera?’ and he provided her with five or six stories very kindly and she then showed them to her father and there was this one, called ‘Le cœur mangé’ – ‘The Eaten Heart’ – and Martin was enthralled by it immediately. He showed it to me and, it’s only five pages long, I was enthralled by it. I was enthralled by the fact that it’s so simple, so dramatic but its conclusion is quite extraordinary. Extraordinary for an author to come up with something like this today and therefore it was decided very quickly. As for the collaboration between Martin and me, well in the first thing we did, Into the Little Hill, which was testing terrain for us, he wrote the text and then I composed it. And while he was writing his bit I didn’t say very much, and I didn’t talk too much when I was writing the piece. We talked enormously before he started the text on choosing the subject matter, The Pied Piper of Hamlin, the style, the aesthetic and the dramatic style used, but once confidence had really shown itself between us, we collaborated more closely on Written on Skin, so we talked enormously about all manner of things to do with the nature and style of the work and then he would go into perdure and disappear for almost a year to write the text, and then he’d hand it over to me. What he does is so perfect, I asked to change nothing really.

BE: We’ve mentioned at the heart of these three concerts, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. You talked about understanding and admiring their sound. For you, what is their sound?

GB: The first time I heard the Mahler Chamber Orchestra was when the beginnings of the project in Aix started getting underway and the Festival invited both Martin and me to hear Pierre Boulez’s performance of Patrice Chéreau’s direction of the [From the] House of the Dead of Janáček, which was magnificent. I can still hear the freshness, the articulation, the beauty of sound of what was coming from the pit for that performance. Then I conducted them in Lucerne a year or two later, I did a programme that ended with Schumann’s Second Symphony, a piece that I love and their playing is just a dream. Their sense of ensemble, they’re much easier to conduct than many orchestras because their ensemble is so tight that a lot of the time they don’t need you. It feels like some sort of golden aeolian harp in a way. That was all the contact that we had before I started writing the opera, but those particular qualities were in my mind whilst I was writing the piece, as were the individual qualities of the singers for whom I designed the opera as well. So I wasn’t writing in abstract, I was writing for a specific sound. I tend to start pieces very slowly and then write at enormous pace towards the end. With Written on Skin, the first scene I remember took me six months to write. The last six scenes, fully orchestrated, took me four months to write. So the acceleration is gradual but once it gets going is enormous towards the end. It’s possible, it would be nice just to be a note-producing machine, not machine but entity, when it flows and it goes even smoothly and it goes fast and you’re flowing with it. With Written on Skin I finished it on my 52nd birthday, on the day and I was intending to do it. When I say finished I wrote the last note, literally the last note. I’ve only got one period of a few weeks of distraction next year, away from my new opera, and this is the final thing in a very short period so it’s very important for me and I’m very greatly looking forward to it.

BE: Both George and Iestyn are artists and people brimming with creativity and focus. Both extremely generous with their time and answering my questions. I’m Ben Eshmade, thanks for listening to this archive edition of Nothing Concrete, the Barbican podcast, here to inspire more people to discover and love the arts with weekly episodes of archive finds and themed series. 

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