I remember staying up late one evening in the spring of 2005 to hear the live performance reveal of Coldplay's third studio album, X&Y, on BBC Radio 1. I'd been a fan of their music for a number of years after someone gave me A Rush of Blood to the Head for Christmas, and then Parachutes became my first ever album purchase shortly afterward. I can still recall the excitement I felt when hearing X&Y for the first time; they played Fix You as an encore and I was blown away.

The thing that I love so much about Coldplay's musical offering is the affecting, anthemic sound that has become their hallmark. Whether it's the rousing chorus of Yellow or the distinctive bassline in Paradise, Coldplay are able to make music that retains an anthemic quality whilst developing and evolving over their many years at the top of international popular music.

I don't ever set out to write an anthem per sé (and I'm sure Coldplay don't either) but I do try to develop a sense of size and scale that engulfs the listener. I love it when you're listening to music and it gradually transcends reality, taking you on a journey to a new emotional space.

I think this idea of a musical journey through a single track is one that Coldplay have really honed over recent years; it's a skill we hear clearly in Fix You, starting from that lovely mellow organ, and growing into the famous, epic guitar line; then again more recently in Atlas, following the soft piano opening arpeggios with the huge, reverberant sound of the chorus. They've mastered combining smaller sounds with larger ones to give each track a sense of space and scale.

Part of what makes Atlas so appealing to me - as well as the size of the sound - is the distinctive harmonic progression of the verse and chorus. Atlas has unusually long spaces between cadential resolutions which mean that certain progressions come as a pleasant surprise. While I don't hold harmonic invention as a focus in my work, I still value those small tweaks and reveals that can add freshness and interest to a track.

It's something Coldplay have been doing for years, though, and now have down to a fine art. Compare Atlas to Daylight from the band's second album, and it's easy to hear a sense of harmonic freedom that is less refined than what we're used to in their more recent work. As time goes by, I hope to find a secure stylistic voice that allows for space for invention and innovation. I've said that I don't currently hold it as a focus in what I do, but it's still important to evolve and grow with trends and tastes.

This steady and gradual morphing of my musical and artistic output is one that should continue for as long as I'm working; I don't ever want to become stagnant or stationary, and I want to continue to write music that sounds as anthemic and infectious as I can.

Next in this Inspirations series, I'll be looking at a film composer whose prolific career has seen him win over 100 awards and score more than 150 films since he first achieved fame with The Buggles in 1981.

In the meantime, let's keep writing, keep practising, and keep inspired. Thanks for reading (if you've made it this far), please share this with friends if you've enjoyed what you've read, and hopefully I'll see you in two weeks' time (no post next week as I'm on holiday). 

- JJO

 

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