Composer Des Oliver tells the story of his musical life (and dog!)

Images of composer Des Oliver throughout his life

British contemporary composer Des Oliver has lived his life with a huge love for music, and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra was delighted when Des wrote a brand new piece for our Noisy Kids: Heroes and Villains concert series for little ones!

The new composition, Rascal, which Des explains was actually composed by his naughty dog Peque (pronounced 'Peckie'), not himself, will be premiered at our Noisy Kids concert in Reading on Sunday 13 June 2021.

On the inspiration for Rascal, Des explains (somewhat questionably given we know his dog is the real brains behind the composition):

"I was imagining what it would be like to be her (with her short attention span, hyper-stimulated by everything she sees and smells, low centre of gravity, enhanced auditory and olfactory acuity and distinct colour spectrum/perception). Majestically galloping through our local park, chasing birds and cats, behaving malevolently towards other dogs (as a villain), foraging for treats, not coming when she is called, getting up to general mischief and putting her nose in things she shouldn't!"

If she were able to compose a day-in-the-life self-portrait, this would be it. Perhaps the audience can decide if she is a hero or villain? If I were the curator for this concert, I would place her on stage leadless with the musicians, sit back and watch absolute mayhem ensue..."

Des has delved into his history to tell us all about how and why he started to write music (with Peque, of course)!

Read more below or listen with the audio player to learn more about Des' story:

So Des, when did you know you wanted to be a composer?

I’ve always loved music, even when I was very, very young. My first ever memory was hearing beautiful music playing from a radio inside a shop. I remember hearing it when I was sitting in a pushchair so, I must have been around 2 years old.

Composer Des Oliver as a baby. He is sitting in a baby bouncer chair in a garden.

Although I always loved music, I didn’t always want to be a composer. The first time I saw the dancer, Turbo, with his broom, moonwalking in the movie Breakdance, I thought I wanted to be a dancer.

I remember it really well, because that same year, my little sister was born.

Composer Des Oliver, aged about 7, is on a sofa hugging his baby sister with a huge grin on his face.

During the summer holidays, all my friends from my estate pulled our pocket money together and invaded our local DIY shop to buy a sheet of lino so that we could breakdance in the street. The flat I used to live in overlooked lots of back gardens, and from my living room window, I could see kids in every garden trying to backspin, and moonwalk.

When I was 9 years old I started listening to lots of rap songs, and thought I wanted to be a rapper. I learned all the lyrics printed on the back of record covers, and I started to write songs of my own. I still remember them to this day!

When I was 13, my mum went to the local jumble sale and brought me a cassette tape called An Evening with Tchaikovsky. It cost her 15p!

 An image of Tchaikovsky

I’d never heard anything like it, the sounds were so beautiful, magical, and exciting. 

I would spend hours in my room, waving my hands around, pretending to conduct the orchestra. Shortly afterwards, I decided that I wanted to learn to play the trumpet and piano, and because I enjoyed singing so much I joined the school choir.

An image of Des with eight other teenage boys, all dressed in Black Tie, it is a picture of their choir.

One day, I asked my mum to buy me some manuscript paper, because I wanted to compose something myself. My first ever piece was for French horn and trumpet. After that, I didn’t stop composing!

What does your day-to-day work life look like?

Composers lead very interesting lives. Some days we listen to music, other days we play and sing, some days we go and hear people play our music, and some days we create music from the early hours of the morning until late at night, when everyone else is asleep!

A gif of Des turning pages for the Pianist Nika Shirocorad

I love what I do because, with each new piece I compose, I get to work alongside really interesting and talented people and sometimes I get to make new friends along the way.

All the things I did as a child taught me a lot about music: sometimes music makes me want to dance, other times I want to play and sing, but most of the time, I want to create music of my own.

The four things I love to do (apart from making music):

Playing chess.

Cooking spicy food (and eating it!).

Watching sci-fi movies.

And taking my naughty dog, Peque, for her daily walk!

17. Dogpeque 


To buy tickets for our upcoming Noisy Kids: Heroes and Villains concerts check out the link below:

Noisy Kids

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