Known for their eccentric compositions, high-quality performances and friendly nature, Platform 4 – consisting of Tom James, Tom Owen, Chris Noble and Jenny Jackson – are a collective of some of Sheffield’s finest contemporary composers. Ahead of the premiere of their newest commission with Passepartout Duo, we spoke to this creative quartet to find out how they’ve approached their latest work.

How did this project come about?

[Chris] Well, it was a set of emails saying that there’s a pianist and percussionist coming to Sheffield, and they’d really like some composers to write music for them.

[Tom J] So they’re touring all over Europe. They’re based in Berlin. There’s Chris, who’s the percussionist, and then there’s Nicoletta, who’s the pianist, and they met in America. Now they’re doing a massive European tour, where they can meet new composers and play original works. Essentially, they’re hooking up with composers, workshopping with them, going away again to another country to do the same thing, then they’ll return and do a concert of the new works.

Have all of you composed something for them or have you written one large piece together?

[Tom J] We’re in the second half of their concert. The first half is four pieces that they’ve had written for them on their travels, and then the other half is four new works by each of us. I’ve written for vibraphone, piano and tape.

[Tom O] I‘ve also written for vibraphone, piano and tape, although the compositions are very different.

[Chris] I’ve reworked a piece that I originally wrote for guitar, violin and cello. It’s about constellations and it’s very sparkly. It’s for vibes, piano and hand percussion now.

[Jenny] They’re bringing what percussion they can, but they have a MIDI drum pad which I’m using for my composition. It hooks up to a computer program and when you hit it, it triggers off some pre-recorded sounds. My piece is based off of playing along with the recording, and never knowing which instrumentalist is actually playing.

How did you choose which percussion instruments to use for the project?

[Tom J] We literally put our hands up in a cafe and the most popular instruments won.

[Jenny] We wanted to make it as easy as possible for both us and the performers.

Have you got any more commissions coming up this year?

[Chris] We’ve been asked to compose a ten-minute suite of music for Ensemble 360 for their May festival. Jenny has written a work for solo flute, then Tom [Owen] has taken inspiration from this and composed the next section for flute and bassoon. Then I composed the next section for flute, bassoon and horn.

[Tom J] And then it’s handed over to me. I’ll be writing for flute, bassoon, horn and clarinet. So it’s a kind of cumulative suite.

[Tom O] We’ve never composed something like this before. We usually write in isolation, but here we have taken from each other to create something that hangs together.

Platform 4’s new music for piano and percussion duo Passepartout is performed on Friday 20 April at Upper Chapel. Tickets are available on the door.

platform4composers.co.uk

Alex Burns