Clint Mansell: Requiem for a Dream
This film hit me pretty hard, and so did the soundtrack. I saw it when I was 15 or 16 which is perhaps too young – but on the other hand it might have been a good thing because it made me never want to touch drugs. In fact perhaps it should be shown to all teenagers because of that. I was already writing music at that age but at that time I was experimenting with post-prog-rock. But this score got me interested in writing for strings and piano, which I'd not tried before. So it changed my direction, and I began to experiment with that sort of crossover – which is to write pop melodies but use classical instruments to realise them.
Bach: Sinfonia No.4 in D minor, BWV790
This next choice is a little bit obvious, but you can't deny how Bach influences everything. You go to school and you learn harmony, and then you write music based on that harmony, and that whole theory is based on Bach. And if you look at pop music too, it wouldn't be the same without him. At school I loved harmonising Bach chorales, it was my favourite subject. I was the top of the class! When I was writing my first couple of records I was still at school, and most came out of chorale exercises. I would pull a bit out and make a song out of it. I would love to study it all over again, because you learn so much. But my favourite Bach pieces are the Sinfonias, the three-part inventions for keyboard. I like the complicated counterpoint.
Chopin: Nocturne in E minor
I do think the classical music genre can be a little closed off. I don't like the difficult stuff so much, and I am more a fan of harmony-based works than melody-based ones. As soon as classical composers have catchy melodies I don't like them anymore. But despite that, Fryderyk Chopin is a classical composer who is a deep influence on me. Not so much in that he writes for the piano, but in his way with harmony. If you analyse his chord structures, they are very similar to the ones I use in my music, but delivered in a completely different way, of course.
Philip Glass: Metamorphosis One
His music has been a great influence in the way the composition is so minimal and the arrangement has become everything. I particularly like his music for Koyaanisqatsi, but, most of all, his piano Metamorphosis One. There's one particular recording he made live from Manchester a few years ago. I know the joke is that he only writes arpeggios. In fact, have you seen that You Tube video 'How to play piano like Philip Glass'? It's quite funny, the guy just plays the same arpeggios over and over, and it really does sound like Philip Glass...
Nils Frahm: Felt
I'm kind of biased here because he's my best friend. I met him through the music: I was first a fan and then a friend. He is so innovative with the fact that composing isn't only about chords, harmony and melody; it is also about the character of the sound. I think it would be very good for the classical scene if they could get a little more innovative with the recording style. It's always that classic way of recording and it all sounds the same. Nils has been a pioneer in creating a new instrument out of the piano, without doing prepared piano. It's just about where he places the mics. His album Felt is the best example of that, it's basically just an upright piano with the practise pedal down, and the sound is great.
Ólafur Arnalds: For Now I Am Winter
Listen to his new album, out now on Mercury Classics.
Read our feature, The unstoppable rise of Dreamyism.
For information on tour dates, complete discography, to watch the official music videos, video diaries and buy sheet music visit Ólafur Arnalds's website.