Composer Spotlight Q&A: Cameron Duff

Cameron Duff is an emerging musician and composer based in Glasgow, Scotland. Now working as a professional freelancer, Cameron is engaged in several eclectic projects across Glasgow and Scotland more broadly, including Jazz/Swing (The Stone Combo/Various Quartets), Ceilidh and Trad music (Ceithir Ceol), to Rock/Indie (Tibetan Miracle Seeds) and multiple sessions beyond.

Cameron recently took part in our annual development opportunity for composers' in association with Any Enemy composing a piece of music which was premiered at soundfestival 2022. 

What stage are you at in your career right now? 

I’m a recent graduate of the University of Glasgow, and currently exploring options for writing, performing and sharing my music in the real world beyond the academic bubble.

When and what made you decide to pursue composition as a career?

I’ve always been into improvisational composition as such from a younger age on the drums, making up music as I went along. Sitting down to focus on a composer’s view of this art during University really made an impact on the way I thought about making music. It’s a different type of process that is much less instantaneous from brain to production of the sound, but one I enjoy the consideration of; I like the overview of the whole picture composition gives me, and I’ve enjoyed refining my practice over time and seeing growth.

Tell us about a favourite piece of music that you have written.

I wrote a piece in my final year of studying called Oradour-sur-Galane, about the Nazi massacre of the villagers there in 1944. In retrospect, I think it came together quite nicely and I’m pleased with the overall sound and narrative it ended up telling. I’ve had trouble being content with my output in the past and I think it was the first ‘mature’ piece I ever successfully wrote.

Which composer (dead or alive) has most inspired you and why? 

I have a few across my various disciplines: I think I’m stuck between Mahler on the classical front for the sheer depth and transcendent beauty his music represents to me, and Gil Evans on the jazz front. His use of arrangement and harmony in a big-band/jazz orchestra setting is something I tirelessly come back to study, there’s just so much in his writing.

What do you do to take your mind off composing?

I’ve been particularly enjoying photography as a hobby over the last year: granted there’s elements of composition in that too! I think getting out and about, shooting landscapes, travelling, mastering the camera as a conduit for creativity, these all help me decompress but also feed back into my base of inspiration for writing pieces.

If you could describe your work in three words, what would they be? 

Dense, tense and self-reflective.

What music have you been listening to lately that you would recommend to others? (include links if available)

I’ve been really appreciating Bob Brookmeyer’s work, particularly with the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra: this album and the richness of his writing and arrangement for big band instrumentation 

I’ve also been back listening to John Adams’ Shaker Loops – I love his work and I’ve been listening to him on drives around the country which has been a dramatic soundtrack to my travels. Would definitely recommend.