When, at the age of around 13, I first had to begin considering my career choice, it was a difficult decision between chemistry and music, since both had already been serious pursuits for quite a few years. I had started playing the piano at age 6 and felt very much that I wanted to continue making music, including a growing interest in composition. (Although I got grade 8 piano at 15, I was never committed enough to practising to become a great pianist.)
I eventually decided to go for chemistry as a career and hopefully to keep music as my number one hobby. This made sense, since chemistry appeared to offer more secure employment, whereas making a living as a composer could easily become a heavy burden rather than the joy it was meant to be.
As things have turned out, I have indeed made a career from chemistry spanning 25 years in full time employment and another 15 as a self-employed consultant. Predictably, however, I have not been able to give music the attention I would have liked. That is, until fairly recently, as we have now paid off the mortgage and I have started to take an occupational pension. Now I am in the position to use my time on things that have uncertain, and possibly no, earning potential. I only have one life, and it’s up to me to find time for everything that matters to me.
Well, as a composer, what have I written in the last few years, and what am I doing now? In fact, already completed are a string quartet, a trio for cor anglais, violin and piano (recently orchestrated), a suite for solo oboe which was subsequently changed for piano accompaniment, two short duets for violin, with ‘cello and piano respectively, and over 12 orchestral settings of songs – mainly ones we use in church – that I used partly to practise orchestration. In progress I have another quartet (which might even become a violin concerto), a partita for orchestra, and a few more orchestral settings.
Composers I admire include Bartók, Elgar, Prokofiev, Fauré, Ravel, Walton and a few more, and this is the kind of era that tends to come through in my own music – about 1910 to 1940. I don’t hold with serial or twelve-tone music or anything that requires “vertical listening” – for me, the introduction of this was not progress but rather taking something away from the composer’s art and palette in communicating with the audience.
I am going to be spending money as well as time in pursuing composition, through purchase of new computer, software and MIDI keyboard in order to equip me better for the job. Writing this web page is another way of putting a stake in the ground, to declare that I am serious about composition and willing to hear from anyone out there who would like me to write something for them.
Maybe in due course my website will feature Bill Sanderson as a musician with just a page about chemistry. It will take some time to produce enough music to get to that point, just as it did to produce the chemistry. But here goes…