The London Symphony Orchestra Jerwood Composer focuses on cross-arts collaboration, finding inspiration in the ways communities rub up against each other and stitching narratives together from what she overhears.
A few years ago, the PRS Foundation’s China Residency programme caught her imagination – having always wanted to travel the country and explore the culture, it ticked all the boxes.
Fast forward to 2018, and Jasmin is preparing to take part in the programme, travelling to Lanzhou later this year for a six-week stint of musical exploration.
We caught up with her ahead of the trip to learn about her musical beginnings and find out what she’s got in store for Lanzhou…
What’s the first instrument you got hold of?
A tiny little Casio keyboard. Still love those retro beats and rhythm presets!
When did you discover you wanted to make a career out of composing?
I decided I wanted to give composition a go pretty late in my musical life, during my time at Manchester University. The city has such a vibe across music and the arts, I started thinking, ‘Wouldn't it be great to create my own sound and my own work?’
Who or what has influenced you most along the way?
What drives me is how music connects people and places. There are a lot of different musical influences in my life - I’m sure that’s true for most people. I’m classically trained but I wouldn’t say I’m a strictly classical musician. Listening to all the music I enjoy and discovering exciting new sounds is the foundation of why I love music so much.
How would you describe your sound?
Seeking, expansive, theatrical, exposed.
You’re an LSO Jerwood Composer – what’s that experience been like so far and what have you learned from it?
The LSO Jerwood Composer Scheme is nothing short of amazing. Not only do you get to create new music with some of the world’s top musicians and artists, you get to produce and programme your own concerts. It’s teaching composers to be entrepreneurs, to carve out our own identity and make our own way into the industry.
I’ve met some phenomenal musicians, as well as poets, dancers and filmmakers. Cross-genre and cross-arts collaboration is my thing, and the LSO Jerwood Composer residency has given me the platform to push those partnerships to new heights.
Shameless plug: my next LSO Jerwood gig is on Saturday 6 October, featuring some incredible dancers and music spanning contemporary, ambient house and electronica. Come check it out!
What prompted to you apply for the PRS Foundation China residency?
I'd read about the residency a few years ago and the range of musicians it supports. I have always wanted to travel to China with a purpose and explore the culture and country. A large reason for that is my dual heritage. My father is English and my mother is Malaysian-Chinese. My family are originally from Hai Nan, in southern China. Although the sounds of my mixed heritage might not always be obviously present in my music, cultural exchange is ingrained in the way I process ideas, so this residency seemed the perfect opportunity for me, both personally and professionally.
How do you feel about your upcoming visit to Lanzhou?
I'm buzzing. I can't wait to get there, get stuck in, meet the local musicians and artists, discover some favourite hangouts, try all the food! I'm not sure what the final inspirations and challenges will be, but I think that this discovery will be the best part of my time there.
What are you hoping to get out of it?
I'm hoping to find some new inspirations for vocal sounds and expression. My aim is to write a new song cycle which will be heavily influenced by the languages and diverse range of dialects of the community in Lanzhou and Northwest China. As a composer I have always sought out projects with a collaborative angle, so I'm really excited to check out the poetry and local folk music scene.
Are you doing any advance preparation?
I need to brush up on my Mandarin! I used to speak it with my grandmother before she passed away, but I'm a little rusty now. I’m also reading up on the area; Lanzhou has a rich history so there’s a lot to discover about the culture there. Other than that, I think over preparing might make the experience overly academic. I think a little adventure is needed.
What advice do you have for emerging composers just starting out?
Be confident in your sound and developing your voice, using whatever influences drive you. Don't worry about what other people think. There’ll be times when it’s tough, but it’s worth all the hard work you put in.
What’s the last great piece of music you heard?
Hmm, can I have two answers? Anna Meredith's Five Telegrams was one of the best openings of the Proms I’ve ever heard. The visual installation by 59 Productions was stunning too.
Also, I've recently discovered Oliver Coates’ album Upstepping, fusing elements of house, techno and electronics to create dance tracks made up almost entirely of manipulated sounds from his cello. It’s a favourite of mine at the moment.
Jasmin Kent Rodgman's next LSO Jerwood Composer + Concert event takes place on Saturday (6 October) at LSO St Luke's, London.