What drew you to a career in music?

The biggest influence on me aiming at becoming a musician was Bob Reid, Head of Music at Knightswood Secondary, who died earlier this year, just before the lockdown.  He combined knowledge and enthusiasm with enormous practical skill.  Not just as a keyboard player, although he could sight-read,transpose, harmonise, switch styles without a blink!  He also orchestrated all the school shows (including West Side Story!) for the school orchestra players and any FP’s on hand.  So we had to learn how to copy parts, making them legible, but also sometimes work off the piano copy e.g. transposing horn parts from bass clef chords  – up a fifth and on to treble clef.  His trick was to make you think this was just normal (sol-fa helps….).


How would you describe your work?

That’s a cruel question – it’s like “which hostage to fortune would you prefer?”….

I try to write the kind of music I have always liked – well-defined gestures, non-traditional tonality, metrical organization as a base for rhythmic freedom and primary tone-colours. As well as Scottish traditional music, I listen to a wide range of ethnic music – I like its directness, earthy colours and rhythmic élan. Also important is jazz – not only for the spirit of improvisation, but for the brooding lyricism of Gil Evans, or the intellectual fervour of John Coltrane.  The cool self-criticism of Miles Davis is still an ambition, still something to strive towards.


I am not interested in private, coded messages nor in obvious propaganda, but I do hope that my music can play some part on the side of common humanity against the cynics, sell-outs, exploiters, racists and other enemies of culture.


What positive and negative aspects have you found lockdown has had on your work?

No positive aspects at all.  I am dismayed and distressed by the effects of this situation on the whole music profession and especially on my colleagues who have had their main sources of income abruptly interrupted.  I’m in the last few months of an academic career, so I’ve been cushioned economically, but I share in what I sense is a kind of lethargy, a lack of daily structure and enlivening human connection.

Eolas nan Ribheid – BBC Interview

Find out more about the clarinet concertino Eolas nan Ribheid, written for clarinettist Yann Ghiro and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and premiered in 2017.

Watch here

Sarah Watts performs Ruadh, uaine, dà fhilleadh

This piece is included in the collection Ten Wee Drams for solo bass clarinet.

This, and many of William’s other works are available to buy from the SMC shop.

Apologies, we are unable to fulfil orders for physical items. In the meantime, you may purchase downloads.