AFTER Radiohead completed a year-long world tour in Melbourne in November, guitarist/sound manipulator Jonny Greenwood didn't go home to England. Instead, he and his young family stayed in Sydney while Greenwood went back to work, this time with the Australian Chamber Orchestra.
Greenwood - who as well as being one of the creative forces in Radiohead is also a fast-rising composer of pieces for orchestra, chamber group and film - was in effect a composer in residence with the ACO for several weeks.
In that time the orchestra and composer workshopped an as-yet-unnamed Greenwood piece commissioned by the ACO's artistic director, Richard Tognetti.
Why Greenwood, who the more snobbish might describe as ''merely'' a rock musician? Why not, responded Tognetti, who has little doubt the Englishman is no musical dilettante, declaring that ''Jonny's technical skills … are up there with any other composer I've worked with'' and that the art of commissioning was ''identifying someone with a genius, like Jonny, but making sure we have the right circumstances''. After all, the talent is there in someone who was composer in residence with the BBC Concert Orchestra in 2004-05 and has composed the score for films such as Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master and There Will Be Blood, Norwegian Wood and We Need to Talk About Kevin.
''I think the amazing thing about Jonny is he might be a world first [because of] this incredible acumen that he has for being able to write for an orchestra coming from the background of being in a band,'' Tognetti said.
''This is almost a coming of age. Since jazz in 1901 there have been a lot of people trying to cross over and write so-called serious music and Jonny comes with all the technical know-how, which is very refreshing.''
The composition, to be premiered in 2014, will not be the first time the ACO has played Greenwood, as the orchestra's general manager, Timothy Calnin, pointed out. ''The ACO had its first encounter with Jonny Greenwood's music in 2010 when we gave the Australian premiere of Popcorn Superhet Receiver on a national tour,'' Calnin said.
''It was very much a mark of Richard's confidence in the piece that he put it on the same program as Schubert's unfinished symphony and Brahms … Here was a composer with a strikingly individual voice and real panache in writing for strings - the heart of the ACO.''
The excitement about the collaboration was not just on the Australian side.
''I like having people to report to and work with,'' says Greenwood. ''When I got the first [2004 artist in residence] job at the BBC [Concert] Orchestra, the first thing I did was have a printout of all the names, ostensibly so that I knew how many players there were for each instrument, but I started getting obsessed with the names and the thought that these people weren't just presets on a keyboard. It's fun to be in a team, and it makes it easier.''
Teamwork is more than just polite talk in this case, because between the end of Radiohead's world tour and his pre-Christmas departure to India and then home to England, Greenwood spent several weeks in intense workshops with the ACO. What Tognetti calls ''every composer's dream to have access to live musicians'' during composition was a rare chance for composer and orchestra to bat ideas back and forth.
The result sees Greenwood heading home with rehearsal recordings, an annotated score with notes from each player and fresh ideas on how to approach the composition, which is to become part of the ACO's touring repertoire.
''The workshops have been a whole series of finding things that can't be done and ways it can be improved and explanations of what would make it better,'' says Greenwood.
''How else am I going to learn this stuff?''
Greenwood says even amid Radiohead's world tour, he was devoting plenty of attention to the ACO commission. ''I've been spending an awful lot of time in dressing rooms the last six months working on this and trying to imagine [it],'' he says.
''That's why I turned up with three-quarters of it on paper already, because I'd rather make a lot of mistakes and edit away rather than work with a skeleton and add to it.
''The excitement for me is taking away the recording [of the workshops], which I will be listening to pleasantly, complete with all of Richard's jokes and gags.''
deity amongst mortals tbh. if he doesn't get an Oscar nom for his score for The Master i will lose my shit.