BBC Music Magazine
Born in London in 1986, Daniel Kidane studied at the Royal Northern College of Music and in St Petersburg. He’s written pieces for ensembles including the BBC Philharmonic and his Dream Song was commissioned for the reopening of the Queen Elizabeth Hall. His piece Woke will be premiered at the Last Night of the Proms.
Woke is a play on words. It’s the first piece at the Last Night of the Proms. The idea is to wake up the audience, but it’s also an Afro-american word that was coined to reflect awareness of social inequalities. Someone who is ‘woke’ is aware of these issues. I don’t necessarily want to get political, but it’s about being aware of what’s driving everyone apart. At the end of the day, we’re all here to help each other out. When I was a kid, I sang in the premiere of Mark-anthony Turnage’s The Silver Tassie. I was in the English National Opera’s children’s chorus, and that was my first experience of new music. When I was studying at the Royal Northern College of Music years later, Turnage came for a festival of his music. I went up to him with my programme from The Silver Tassie and asked him to sign it. He did. And now I know him. It’s a weird world.
My music melds cultures. My father is from Eritrea and my mother is from the far east of Russia. They met at university in
Moscow in the late 1970s. My dad was an exchange student, as at the time Eritrea was part of Ethiopia which had just announced itself as a communist state. My rhythmical sense comes from my father’s side and my harmonic sense from my mother’s, while my love of contemporary music comes from the UK.
My colleagues inspire me. I look to my peers to see how they are living and creating music. I’m a fan of Stravinsky, Ligeti, Oliver Knussen and all those sorts of composers, but it’s nice to take inspiration from the people around me: Hannah Kendall, Laura Bowler, Gavin Higgins, Mark Simpson – people like that. We’re all in it together, in a way. My dream project would be to write an opera. I don’t want to rush into it. I’m looking for a librettist who I resonate with.
I’m not one for mythical subjects and I think it’s important for a composer to speak to their era. I would like to explore things that are close to my own heart, perhaps cultural identity.