No surprises, Radiohead rocker a natural at pulling orchestra's strings
Mutual appreciation … Jonny Greenwood, left, with the Australian Chamber Orchestra's Richard Tognetti. Photo: Edwina Pickles
WHEN Radiohead completed an Australian tour in November, their final shows for the year, its guitarist/sound manipulator Jonny Greenwood did not go home to Britain. Instead, he and his young family stayed in Sydney while Greenwood went back indoors, this time with the Australian Chamber Orchestra.
Greenwood, as well as being one of the creative forces in Radiohead, is a fast-rising composer of pieces for orchestra, chamber group and film, and was, in effect, a composer in residence with the ACO for several weeks. In that time, the orchestra and composer workshopped an as yet unnamed Greenwood piece commissioned by the ACO's artistic director, Richard Tognetti.
Why Greenwood, who the more snobbish might describe as ''merely'' a rock musician? Why not? After all, the talent is there in someone who was composer in residence with the BBC Concert Orchestra in 2004-05 and has composed the score for films such as Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master and There Will Be Blood, as well as Norwegian Wood and We Need to Talk About Kevin.
In concert ... Greenwood. Photo: Angela N
''I think the amazing thing about Jonny is he might be a world first [because of] this incredible acumen that he has for being able to write for an orchestra coming from the background of being in a band,'' Tognetti said. ''This is almost a coming-of-age. Since jazz in 1901, there have been a lot of people trying to cross over and write so-called serious music and Jonny comes with all the technical know-how, which is very refreshing.''
This composition, to be premiered in 2014, will not be the first time the ACO has played Greenwood, as the orchestra's general manager, Timothy Calnin, pointed out.
''The ACO had its first encounter with Jonny Greenwood's music in 2010, when we gave the Australian premiere of Popcorn Superhet Receiver on a national tour,'' Calnin said. ''It was very much a mark of Richard's confidence in the piece that he put it on the same program as Schubert's Unfinished Symphony and Brahms [Symphony No.]1. Here was a composer with a strikingly individual voice and real panache in writing for strings - the heart of the ACO.''
Greenwood (who has often said nothing compares with ''all those wooden boxes with the strings strung across them being played by musicians'') confessed that even amid Radiohead's world tour this year, he'd been devoting plenty of attention to the ACO commission.
''I've been spending an awful lot of time in dressing rooms the last six months working on this and trying to imagine [it],'' Greenwood said. ''That's why I turned up with three quarters of it on paper already, because I'd rather make a lot of mistakes and edit away rather than work with a skeleton and add to it.
''The excitement for me is taking away the recording [of the workshops] which I will be listening to pleasantly, complete with all of Richard's jokes and gags.''