In conversation with Listen Imagine Compose Primary composer Will Frampton

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Will Frampton is a composer and writer working across acoustic, electronic, and vocal compositional practices. Will’s work has been performed by and commissioned for a range of ensembles including the Orchestra of Opera North, Psappha Ensemble, Berkeley Ensemble and Quatuor Danel. Will’s writing about music has been published by and the British Music Collection. 

Will is one of the composers participating in the Listen Imagine Compose Primary project, collaborating closely with partners from Birmingham City University and Birmingham Contemporary Music Group to develop meaningful and relevant composing activity to better understand children’s progression as composers. The project aims to improve the quality and frequency of composing in primary schools and will be working with schools, teachers and music hubs across Bristol and Birmingham.  

We caught up with Will to learn more about his experiences of teaching composition in schools and the skills he is looking forward to developing through participating in Listen Imagine Compose Primary. 

What have been your experiences of teaching composition in the classroom and what have they taught you? Have these experiences fed back into your wider creative work? 

I have taught composition in colleges and universities to students from a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences. I have often found that composition work can bring out people’s inner life. Learners who may struggle to express themselves in a classroom environment can make music of extraordinary imagination. You learn that there really are as many methods of composition as there are composers and that your job as a teacher is to guide learners to be the best version of themselves that they can possibly be. After teaching composition, I feel inspired to work myself. Looking at another music creators’ work in intimate detail is always fascinating no matter their age or experience. You see ideas that come from an imagination different from your own and it’s exciting to try these ideas out yourself. On a more prosaic level I can’t count the number of times I’ve given a piece of advice whilst thinking in the back of my mind ‘do I actually follow this myself’. The next time I go back to work that advice will inevitably come back to me and this helps keep me grounded in the basic principles that make music exciting to listen to.   

How do you expect Listen Imagine Compose Primary to challenge you as a composer and teacher? 

My Primary teaching experience has so far been limited to individuals or small groups so I’m excited to be in front of a primary classroom. As a composer I often think of my own work in quite technical terms. I see absolutely no reason you can’t introduce these ideas to primary learners, but I think it’s just about getting the language right and using clear examples with universal themes so everyone in the group can follow. I’m also keen to introduce the participants to some music technology, however the challenge of this will be using the available resources carefully in order to make sure everyone can have a hands-on experience of the equipment.    

What aspects of composition are you most excited to introduce the participants to? 

I really can’t think of an aspect that I’m not excited to introduce! It’s always such a thrill to see the pride people feel when they’ve achieved something they didn’t think they could or created something they think is great and this can happen at any stage of the process. I have a personal love of all things music technology so I’m hopeful we can introduce the learners to lots of exciting tools. 

As part of your collaboration with Rhiannon Bedford, your work has explored themes of climate change, shifting relationships with nature and the English pastoral tradition in the context of the recent lockdowns. In what ways do you think that compositional education can allow children to explore social themes and issues in the classroom? 

The forces of the world can feel very abstract for children and adults alike. At times it can feel like politics, or the environment are totally out of our control. I think creating work that responds to social issues can re-establish this control. If you create a piece about climate breakdown for instance you become invested in the issue and there is a sense of ownership over it. In the coming decades it’s going to be more important than ever that younger generations feel that the environment is an issue that they can express their feelings about freely. Beyond this I’m not looking to encourage the participants to become professional music creators – although this would be nice! Through the exploration of music making, I want to help them develop skills of creativity, teamwork, and listening which can in time become an understanding of problem solving, community, and empathy that they can take with them as they find their place within the society.

Learn more about Listen Imagine Compose Primary

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