A Young Composer Steps Outside Of Himself (And Into Pop)

Composer Ellis Ludwig-Leone leads the chamber-pop ensemble San Fermin. i i

Composer Ellis Ludwig-Leone leads the chamber-pop ensemble San Fermin. Kyle Dean Reinford/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

itoggle caption Kyle Dean Reinford/Courtesy of the artist
Composer Ellis Ludwig-Leone leads the chamber-pop ensemble San Fermin.

Composer Ellis Ludwig-Leone leads the chamber-pop ensemble San Fermin.

Kyle Dean Reinford/Courtesy of the artist

In an era when an online single or leaked demo can make or break a band, a young New York composer is taking a chance on a full-blown concept album. Ellis Ludwig-Leone is the 24-year-old, classically trained leader of the group San Fermin, whose self-titled debut tells a 17-song love story.

"It's sort of based around the interaction between a male and a female character," Ludwig-Leone says. "The male character is a little more grandiose — sort of a manifestation of a lot of things that I was thinking about around the time when I was writing, when I was 22. ... I had just graduated from college, and it wasn't a given that I was going to be a musician or anything. Everything was sort of up in the air."

However much Ludwig-Leone identified with his fictional leading man, he says he was liberated by imagining the characters' lives as separate from his own.

"I think the big breakthrough for me was actually figuring out that I could write for characters," he says, "because then I could push these aspects of myself in very different ways and imagine these people as if they had made different decisions and explore a much larger range of emotions."

Ellis Ludwig-Leone recently spoke with NPR's Audie Cornish about the self-imposed mountain retreat where he wrote San Fermin and how pop compares to classical music when it comes to channeling emotions. Hear more of their conversation at the audio link.

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