Composer Matches Music To Horse Hooves

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Athletes around the world are preparing for the summer Olympic Games in London, which begin in July. Composer Tom Hunt is at work with members of a British team who compete in dressage, an equestrian sport. Guest host Jacki Lyden speaks to Hunt about how he can slow down or speed up pieces of music, depending on the performance of the horse.

JACKI LYDEN, HOST:

As London prepares for an Olympic influx, the world's athletes are not the only ones limbering up. Composer Tom Hunt is at work with members of a British team who compete in the equestrian sport called dressage. He joins us from the BBC studios in Salford.

Thank you for joining us.

TOM HUNT: Thank you for having me.

LYDEN: The music that you compose for the equestrian competition, tell us how the music and the horse work together.

HUNT: Initially, we have to establish what sort of music the horse can respond to. Or stylistically, if you have a big strong horse, you might want to use a big orchestral arrangement. But if you have a fun horse in which has sort of dainty movements and friendly characteristics, you know, you can go for maybe pop. Basically you can do anything you want.

LYDEN: Let's hear it example of something that's good for a trot versus a gallop.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

HUNT: Here, that's just a straight trot rhythm. That's around 72, 74 beat per minute.

LYDEN: And let's hear it example of something that's good for a freestyle. And that is, of course, one of the - well, if you will, danciest(ph) parts of dressage, where people are composing the horses choreography, and you're composing the music. Could you play something for us from that, please?

HUNT: Yes, I think we have it example from a piece from Mike Eilberg, a British rider. I composed a piece for called "Vanquish."

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC, "VANQUISH")

LYDEN: Wow, I have a lump in my throat and I haven't even seen the horse.

HUNT: So that was walk music, delicate music for walk; nothing too bold, really. Just something to emphasize the elegance, I guess.

LYDEN: And you work with an orchestra?

HUNT: Not work with an orchestra yet, but we record percussive instruments and guitars and things like that.

LYDEN: You think any of the horses have a preference for particular works you've done?

HUNT: Well, I'd like to think that the horses are sort of responding to the music because it's been designed with them in the mind. So, we never compose music that isn't going to suit them.

LYDEN: Boy, it must be a thrill to see that horse performing in the ring to your music.

HUNT: Yeah, when it all comes together, it is a great moment.

LYDEN: Composer Tom Hunt, thank you very much for joining us.

HUNT: Thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

LYDEN: This is NPR news.

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