interview with Ola Gjeilo


From a interview with the composer of “Sunrise Mass”:

OG: “My later music – even though I’m not that old! – has been increasingly influenced by cinematic music, which is a natural reflection of having always been very fond of film music from when I was very young. So it was just the realisation, “hey, I’m always listening to film music, why doesn’t my music sound more like that?” Especially after I turned 30, this influence started to show up a lot more clearly in my own music. And most of my favorite living composers are film composers; I think some of today’s greatest composers in general are involved in the movie industry…


“…John Williams is in many ways the godfather of today’s film music field, and for good reason: he’s the greatest melodic writer of the past century, for my money. But in my writing I’ve perhaps been even more influenced by composers like Thomas Newman, Dario Marianelli, Alexandre Desplat, James Newton Howard and Howard Shore.



“My father liked to play a lot of things at home; he had a jazz background, but he also loved playing choral music. So I grew up with a lot of that music in the house and I just loved listening to it. Additionally, my first classical composition teacher, Wolfgang Plagge, is a very good choral composer, so that was a natural avenue for me to follow. And I felt it was also a good place to start as it’s a great way to develop good voice leading and other foundational aspects of composition. The combination of choir and orchestra or string orchestra, sometimes with piano as well, is probably my favorite sound world to work with.


“I always think of myself as, and want to be, primarily a ‘populist’ composer. And I mean that in a good way, or I see it as a good thing. I’ve always wanted my music to reach as many people as possible and to hopefully touch as many people as possible. I think that for a few decades that didn’t really seem to be the goal in a lot of classical music. So that’s also part of the reason I think that, for example with the music of [Eric] Whitacre, so many people connect to it: the actual goal is for people to connect to it deeply, in an uplifting, earnest way, without being superficial or sentimental.”