Ready Steady Cut has been lucky enough to interview the hugely talented composer of Netflix series Bridgerton, Peter Gregson! A renowned cellist, and composer, his music has featured in a range of shows and films such as Bridgerton, A Little Chaos, Blackbird, and even the video game Boundless.
1) Could you please tell us more about “Mirror, Pause, Breathe”? You have described this EP as “a lullaby of sorts”. What is a good lullaby for you, and what was the concept behind this project?
I think a good lullaby is something that, without being boring, can exist without intriguing the mind into waking up; it’s like a side salad — musically it’s not the main course, but it is there to complement the process of winding down for the day. I have two small children, and the internet is full of white noise and rumbling noises which have never helped my children sleep and I find very distracting… sleep is, clearly, such a personal and private experience — often ritual, or routine based — so when writing music to accompany that, it needs to be done with great sympathy and awareness that it will likely be with the most profound or intense thoughts and emotions of the day.
2) Can you describe the meaning of space in your music? With your latest EP as well as your fifth studio album “Patina” you have emphasized the meaning of space within the piece, but also the physical space, where the music was recorded. Can you please tell us more about it?
My background is as a classical cellist. I’m fascinated by how we, as musicians, respond to different rooms. The same piece of music is played very differently in a reverberant church than it is in your sitting room; the same goes for how music is heard and experienced. Listening in your headphones on a walk is a very different experience to listening to a vinyl on the sofa with a glass of wine… when we write we don’t know where or when it’ll be heard, so I try to make my records the “most” version of themselves so all the ingredients are telling the same story, from the choice of instruments being played to the choice of reverb units, mixing desk, compressors, to the physical room we’re performing in. It’s all painting the same picture.
3) One of your pieces (and my personal favorite of your past releases) “Flow” is inspired by water. How do/did you find the inspiration from seemingly mundane everyday occurrences?
That was commissioned to be the score for a new contemporary dance piece at a wonderful, small venue in West London. The set design was by Tom Dixon and included real flooding water for the Storm section! I think for me, it starts with a long process of really deeply thinking and absorbing the subject matter, whether it’s “dance inspired by water” or “absence” or “overwhelming joy”; inspiration can come from anywhere, visual references are everywhere. I’m very inspired by visuals, I think why I enjoy working in film so much, and spend a long time walking through shops looking at the displays, adverts, the visual language of inviting attention and keeping interest is inspiring to me.
4.) As previously mentioned, “Patina” is your fifth studio album, and therefore, you will have moved a lot of people with your music. Do you have a particular story that sticks out for you?
When I was in the final phase of touring Bach Recomposed, a guy wrote to me on Twitter and told me he had proposed to his partner after a concert of mine at the start of the promo tour in 2018, and then walked down the aisle to the first track on the album a few months later, and was coming to the concert that night, which due to civil ended up being the final recomposed concert I gave! I met them both afterward — of course it’s very flattering and humbling to think your music can mean so much to someone to involve it in their very real life, but it isn’t healthy to fixate on either extreme – you can’t take the positives and ignore the negatives, so I think it’s best to keep your head down and keep writing.
Below is the YouTube video for Peter Gregson’s new track “Breathe”
5.) Working on shows like Bridgerton and The New Pope must have been a huge deal for you. How did you find yourself working on such shows?
Well, Bridgerton featured some of my music in the final episode of the first series — my music is featured in quite a lot of adverts, films, TV shows, etc, and it’s always interesting to see it find meaning in a context totally separate to that which it was originally written, and in the case of Bridgerton and The New Pope, extra joyful because we were hooked on the shows anyway!
6) What challenges/opportunities do you find composing for TV and Film projects?
The music one writes for a film needs to be doing more things than “art music”. Many times that means doing less, but it needs to be sympathetic and relevant to the picture and the story, it’s not the only narrative device as it is in an album, it has to work with the actors, the visuals, the sound effects… it’s always a very delicate balance!
7) Do you take a different approach to your compositions for film/TV show(s) than to your performance pieces? Does that change with the “vibe” of each film/TV show
In some ways, yes, as you’re not The Boss as you are in writing an album. The director, producers, the story itself — they all have demands of the music and often strong emotional responses to how that is achieved. Music is about listening: especially in the highly collaborative film music world!
8) Many would agree that your music was one of the main highlights of Bridgerton. How important do you think music is to a TV/Film production?
Music in film/TV is just another character. You need a deep, interesting, multifaceted character and the right actor to bring that to life on screen — I recently saw, and loved, Belfast. Catriona Balfe was, for me, one of the most interesting and intriguing characters I’ve seen in a film and she brought that to life. Music needs the same depth and complexity, I believe, and then the right musicians to bring that to life.
9) What’s your favorite project that you’ve worked on, and what show/film do you wish you had been able to work on?
The first film I ever scored was Alan Rickman’s A Little Chaos, which definitely stands out for me as an experience I’ll never forget. I learned so much working with Alan and the incredible team around him, and he took a massive chance on me to score that as I had zero public credits to my name at that point (he had heard my music — that ballet, Flow, mentioned above!) only once before asking me to do it. It’s a risk-averse industry, and people don’t go out on a limb all that often… like a pub, you rarely see a sign saying “Wanted: Inexperienced Bar Staff”!
10) What’s the latest film project that you’ve been working on?
I’m making the music for a darkly fascinating documentary at the moment, which makes it enjoyable to be spending time exploring some new synthesizers and playing with my children!
And that’s a wrap for our interview with Peter Gregson! We’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below.