Composer Q&A: Ailie Robertson



What was your first musical memory? 

Singing ‘Miss Polly had a dolly’ at nursery

What was your route into composing? 

It was a bit round-about. I had composed a bit at school, but didn’t really start seriously until I was in my late 20’s. 

Which composer do you wish you could have met – or could meet if they are still alive? 


What would you ask them? 

Everything he knew about rhythm.

What music do you like to listen to – that’s not work related?

Ooh, a big mix from folk to pop to jazz. 

If you weren’t a musician, what might you have become?

A geneticist.

What do you like to do when you’re not composing? 

Read, go hiking, dance, socialise

What do you wish you’d known about composing when you were 18 years old? 

To stop worrying about what I ‘should’ write and just write what I wanted to hear

Computer or manuscript? 

Manuscript for sketches, then computer

Where do you get inspiration from?

Everything – books, history, landscape, art, the news…

What do you do when you’re stuck in a compositional rut? 

Go for a long walk or drive on my own

What are the most useful aspects of musical theory to understand or learn to help with composition? 

Basic structural analysis goes a long way.

Are there any exercises that you can recommend to develop understanding of theory and harmony?

There are a tonne of good books out there that it’s worth working through. 

What are your 5 top tips for young composers?

  1. Stay curious
  2. Everything is a potential inspiration
  3. Be nice to people! 
  4. The musicians are your friends – ask them for advice
  5. Remember players aren’t computers! 
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Tuesday 18 June, 7.15pm