Name: Vince Pope
Nationality: British
Occupation: Composer, pianist
Recent Release: Having developed a style reminiscent of Olafur Arnalds and Max Richter, Vince Pope is now preparing for the release of his third full-length album. Together Apart is out October 7th 2022 via Manners McDade. It features collaborations with Lambert, Sophie Hutchings, Stefano Guzzetti, Tom Ashbrook and more.
Recommendations: Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid, by Douglas Hofstadter; Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - Robert Pirsig

[Read our Lambert interview]
[Read our Sophie Hutchings interview]
[Read our Olafur Arnalds interview]
[Read our Max Richter interview]
[Read our feature about Max Richter's Four Seasons]

If you enjoyed this interview with Vince Pope and would like to find out more about his music including his film and soundtrack work, visit his official website. He is also on Instagram, twitter, and Soundcloud.

When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?  

I started learning piano from the age of around 6. All my three older brothers played, encouraged by my dad who was a jazz band leader.

But it wasn’t until I was about 13 that I went to a concert and heard my brother play Rachmaninov piano concerto number 3 that I realised I would make music my life, either playing or composing.

I then started going to the local library taking out as many records as I could listen to to find out what more I would enjoy

When I listen to music, I see shapes, objects and colours. What happens in your body when you're listening and how does it influence your approach to creativity?

I feel emotion - be it happiness or sadness - never had fear or anger yet - but I feel those emotions deeply and in a moving way.

I have alway listened intently to instrumental music and have found that even now when my family might know every lyric to a particular thing I rarely remember the works - it is a melody or harmony that I feel the most.

How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?

I have spent a number of my adult years creating music for other people and trying to achieve some idea of what they have in mind for a particular project. It is relatively recently that I have returned to creating music purely and simply for myself in the hope that others might be moved by it.

And now when I write I feel pretty free to explore and be open to where my music will take me. It's a nice place to be to not have to consider commercial or other interests. And that's something that hasn’t always been the case.

Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.

I guess my identity is first and foremost as someone whose life has been a series of influences - cultural, ethnic, moral, emotional and all those things go into what emotionally forms me.

I don't try and do our create anything other than what I would like to listen to - what moves me and then hopefully others.

What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?

I think the keys thing is to follow my own instincts. Hopefully I try and challenge myself but that isn’t a must.

I often compose music or try ideas that eventually are left on the cutting room floor so to speak. It's normal I guess but the last album that I had got 18 tracks to a state of completion and I felt only 12 or 13 where good enough to make it on to the final recording.

I just try to be truthful to my own belief in what I am doing. don't force, just enjoy the process and believe in It's validity.

How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?

No I don't see the act of creation as being able to conciously achieve those things. Of course if something becomes timeless then it's only time itself that has allowed that to happen. It's the listeners who decides whether something will stand the test of time or want to be listened to by people yet to come.

Every one of us has the gift of originality - well unless you’re going out of your way to copy something or someone else.

As for perfection - it's a pointless pursuit if you are a creative person - I have no idea why pursuit of that would even figure in the act of composition or creation.

Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?

The two things that have been a constant in my life are my piano and then probably my computer. As someone who didn’t go to study music at university (my dad made me do a “proper” degree - maths) so the computer is where I can transcribe my ideas and organise them.

I have moved more to scoring stuff out over the years but of course with a computer that can act as an arranging scoring and performance tool all in one.

Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.

Alway breakfast, as much as I would like to miss it - I find tea and toast a must. Dogs are let out the fed and walked - how far is depending on my amount of sleep. I work in my studio at hope so after that it's upstairs with my tea and start composing producing - I tend to work pretty normal hours with a coffee break around 10:30am and then work through the afternoon.

If it’s a good week I will get some afternoon exercise, gym or tennis. If I am busy then I’ll work into the evening. At the moment things are very busy so my social media stuff has to fit in around my day.

Practising the piano is an early evening event. TV in the evening and a book at bedtime.

Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?

So for my latest album Together Apart I have been writing music that comes directly from ideas I have worked up on my trusty Yamaha grand piano.

I devilled this into a riff and then play with orchestration and melodic ideas - I will then let these ideas sit for some time coming back to them and seeing which I like and am prepared to take forward and develop and which leave me cold.

With a particular piece called “Visions” I decided that the orchestral parts where ready and went to the stage of recording - but even then I might decide that recording wasn’t the right step - I simply let the music develop it's own momentum and it then usually has a way of also telling me when it's finished.

I tend to mix as I go along - I like to be able to hear it in a decent fashion all the way along.

How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?

Music has always been the soundtrack to my life - I listen to certain things at certain moments and have music that reminds me very intensely of things I have been through in my life. I'm not sure if that is everyones experience of music but for those that it is, I guess music plays a deep and meaningful role.

But I guess there also those for whom music isn’t integral to them. Is that simple upbringing and experience? I don't know but I think if you let it. music and music making can be about as profound an emotional experience as almost anything.

Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?

I'm not sure it helps my understanding of big events in my life but I do think it can help to deal with them. I'm sure we have all had those sad moments when all we want to listen to is something sad to go with that feeling.  Almost to intensify that feeling to be there with us.

On the other hand sometimes I have wanted the music to help me stick two fingers to those moments of desperation. Who knows ?

How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?

Science simply orders and records life and everything in a way that is understandable and useable, predictable and useful. Music is one such thing. So we understand now why the note A is A - the number of vibrations per second etc. So to me the question is strange - the connection between the two is that science helps us to understand how we arrive at sound - how we hear it through out auditory canal etc.

On another level we say music moves us emotionally - that clearly is something that science can't easily quantify - that might be a yet of course - perhaps the scientist who read this will disagree. Is it simply that music teaches us there are still things that science hasn’t yet answered?

Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?

Hmm - well a cousin of mine tried to compare his hobby of tinkering with cars to mine. He said I was lucky that I made money from my hobby - and with all due respect to him I explained that perhaps that creating a beautiful painting or writing a record that millions have listened to - that is indelibly printed on a generations minds - is slightly different to fixing a gasket.  

I guess the more mundane things in life, important though they are, don't touch us in the emotional way that great art does. And I am not up there with the great artist by any means but I think there is a difference. I love a great cup of coffee with the best of them but no one spends thousands of solitary hours trying to create something beautiful and never before heard or seen.

I think it's important to appreciate that not everyone who spends thousand of hours in this way creates something great or worthwhile. But we try and we are devoted. It's also important to give that striving - that hard graft - some worth, especially in this moment where you can be a tiktok star in the blink of an eye.

Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?

Well we are perfectly attuned to pick up these vibrations because we created music to be appreciated by those same ears that listen to them. Does that make sense?

I guess what I am trying too say is that if we have made a horrible noise on that first vibration string we wouldn’t have bothered. But instead we liked it - kept perfecting it - until you can have 40 players all in time and beautifully in tune making those vibrations together.

Thousands of years of perfecting is what you get when you listen to something that seems simple.