Anna Meredith DJs Your Next Dinner Party/Obstacle Course

The composer blends orchestral tunes with ‘80s synth for a motivating playlist featuring tunes from Philip Glass, Go West and more.

Scottish composer Anna Meredith’s background is in classical music, but she’s acclaimed for her jubilant synth pop. The Guardian says her work, “conjures images of a jetpack through the northern lights.”

Anna’s latest album “Varmints” just won Scotland’s Album of the Year Award and she’s touring the U.K. now. Here’s she is with a playlist for the next time you liven up your dinner party with a little “American Ninja Warrior” inspiration.


Philip Glass — “Mad Rush”

The first track at my dinner party would be Philip Glass’ “Mad Rush” and this very special version of it played by the organist, James McVinnie.

What’s amazing about this Philip Glass track is the sense of structure, I think. It feels to me like you kind of walk into different rooms and you start off with these beautiful peaceful cords that move back and forth, and then suddenly… the floor drops out from underneath you and you’re in a completely different space, everything’s moving twice as fast. You have these little glitching, little patterns running backwards and forwards.

What I really like about this track is you have to accept that you can’t predict the structure. There’re not signs that tell you, “We’re building up here,” or, “We’re reducing here,” or, “We’re slowing down.” He basically is in the driving seat and you’ve just got to go along for the ride.

If you’re anything like me and my friends, you’re probably running late. And so, you’ve probably burst into this party and what’s nice about this bit of music is it will hopefully chime in with relaxing you, but also making you — in your frantic rush — feel right at home.

Emily Hall – “Sonnet”

My second song is called “Sonnet” and it’s written by my friend, a composer called Emily Hall. It’s sung here by folk singer called Olivia Chaney who has just the most amazing voice.

Have a listen out for very sparse bits of cello, some very gentle electronics, and also the amazing sound of the musical soul, which you hear this kind of very high almost whining texture in the background.

There’s nothing I like more than hanging out with friends, especially my musician friends. They all really inspire each other. Emily’s always been kind of an amazing inspiration to me and knowing where to strip things back and how to leave the most beautiful bones of a piece of music behind, which just speak and have such power almost because they are so brave and so exposed.

Go West – “We Close Our Eyes”

So, at some point in my party, I would love to play Go West’s “We Close Our Eyes.”

So this track is from the mid-80s and it has brilliant ’80s beats, amazing ’80s synths, but for me, it evokes a very, very particular purpose. I teach a bunch of teenage composers. And, at some point during the course, everyone’s been working really hard.

I think everyone needs a bit of light relief so I send them all out of the room and I basically spend a whole day making this really fiendish obstacle course of things you got to hop over, climb under, bob for apples, chuck stuff in the bin, they have to get blindfolded. And I like to blare “We Close Our Eyes” at them as they sprint about.

And I think there’s a bit of a big kid kind of hiding in all of us. So at the end of this party, I think I’d like to fling open a surprise door and reveal a giant obstacle course that I’ve set up. Blow everyone’s minds. What’s more fun than an obstacle course? Nothing.

Anna Meredith – “Scrimshaw”

So, after my obstacle course, I think everyone’s going to be a bit wired and maybe up for a bit of a dance. I’d like to play my track, “Scrimshaw.”

When I play this track live, I’m doing it with my band, and this track just builds and builds. It starts with just the cello’s and the synths and then more, and more instruments come in. And by the end, we always call that moment the “Carnivale!” Which isn’t really anything, it’s just somehow become the name of that section, and we all bail, “Carnivale!”