Composers' Days | Southbank SinfoniaBehind-the-scenes of a composer’s score: Stepping into the shoes of Beethoven and Hannah Kendall

Imagine you wake up one day. As you look in the mirror, you see yourself with long, wavy grey hair and a pair of stern-looking eyes staring back. In your right hand, there’s a pencil and in your left a page of manuscript full of musical notes and treble clefs. For one day only, you are in the shoes of Ludwig van Beethoven, one of the most important composers in classical music history.

Everyone has a daily routine in their lives – whether that’s going to school, working 9 to 5, or perhaps voyaging across the Atlantic Ocean like Christopher Colombus! Even if Beethoven’s life didn’t involve a wild journey to the sea, to delve into the creative mind of one of classical music’s most influential figure, and to have the power to create some amazing music is a roller-coaster experience in itself.

“So what was a typical day for Beethoven?”

He was a morning person, waking up at around 6am for his breakfast: a cup of coffee with exactly 60 beans per cup. Charged up for the day, he then sits at his desk and works away on his compositions, taking the odd break or a walk outside (after all, finding time to relax is as important as working hard). After ploughing away for several hours, he has a very early dinner before enjoying the rest of the day with a long walk and spending time at a local pub eating supper and reading the newspaper.

Did you know? – One of Beethoven’s favourite meals was macaroni & cheese!

Beethoven's Day | Southbank Sinfonia

Set the time machine forward about 200 years to today. We as school students, adults and creative thinkers live in a world full of technology: The internet, computers, TV and smartphones! Beethoven had none of these. So how does that affect the way composers of today work or plan out their day? Let’s ask the question:

“What’s a typical day for a composer living today?”

We asked British composer Hannah Kendall what her day usually looks like.

Unlike Beethoven, Hannah prefers waking up late, at around 9am, because she doesn’t find herself to be very creative in the mornings. However, like Beethoven she does enjoy a nice cup of coffee with her breakfast (which is always two hard-boiled eggs and a fruit bar). She doesn’t always write her music in the same place, but instead likes to find the brightest room depending on the time of day. You can find her working in the kitchen, or trying her ideas out in another room with a piano. Then she either has lunch at home, or taking a break spending time with some of the other composers who live nearby (just like Beethoven had close neighbours who were musicians). Another thing that is really important to Hannah is exercise – depending on how energetic she is feeling, she goes out for a walk or run to get her muscles moving and get new ideas flowing through her head. Once she goes back home, she keeps composing until about 7.00pm when it’s time for dinner and a relaxed evening.

Hannah Kendall's Day | Southbank Sinfonia

So what does this all mean? There’s no magic formula every composer can follow, just like there’s no magic spell that works for your favourite football club. Similar patterns and different preferences emerge between composers, but whatever time they wake up, or what they eat, or where they compose, the end result is the same for any composer. They all create music that is true to them and that they are really passionate about.

Find out more about where Hannah Kendall gets her music ideas from and how she composes in our video: