Philip Sheppard (musician)

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Philip Sheppard
Philip Sheppard.jpg
Philip Sheppard
Background information
Genres Soundtrack, classical, rock
Occupation(s) Composer, cellist
Instruments cello, electric cello, conductor
Labels Blue Snow, Universal, BMG Zomba
Associated acts Unkle, Juliette Binoche, Akram Khan

Philip Sheppard is a composer, virtuoso cellist and a pioneer of the electric cello. He is a professor at the Royal Academy of Music and has composed extensively for film, television and theatre. He has collaborated with major figures in pop music, has produced soundtracks for the BBC and for films. He recorded arrangements of all the world's 205 national anthems for the 2012 Olympics.[1]


Sheppard trained in Cello and Composition at the Royal Academy of Music, during which time he specialised in contemporary music. He worked closely with Hans Werner Henze, Sir Michael Tippett and Luciano Berio during this time as a founder member of the Kreutzer String Quartet. Whilst a student, Sheppard made weekly appearances at the Spitz nightclub, playing entirely improvised concerts, sometimes featuring his Piano Quintet – formed with Keith Tippett. He collaborated with pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, who encouraged him to move away from a conventional musical environment, and pursue his composition. He went on to pioneer electro-acoustic improvisation joining the Smith Quartet and appearing regularly with the London Sinfonietta. After completing a fellowship, he was made a professor at the Royal Academy of Music where he is now a senior lecturer.


His early solo albums, 'The Glass Cathedral' and 'The Diver in the Crypt', featured new compositions devised for site-specific performances. The albums received rave reviews on release and are regularly played on Radio 3. The tracks feature a specially commissioned electric cello that has become a cornerstone of many of Sheppard's compositions. The albums attracted the attention of Scott Walker, who invited him to play at his Southbank Centre Meltdown Festival. They collaborated again on Pulp's album 'We Love Life' with Jarvis Cocker and after that on Walker's critically acclaimed album 'The Drift'. He has also arranged songs for Jarvis Cocker's solo album 'Jarvis', David Bowie and Suzanne Vega.

Sheppard regularly collaborates with James Lavelle and UNKLE. They have recently written and produced the forthcoming album 'End Titles....Stories for Film' (with Gavin Clark, Josh Homme, Chris Goss and Pablo Clements) following the success of the recent album 'War Stories'.

Film soundtracks[edit]

His first orchestral soundtrack was commissioned for the documentary feature, In the Shadow of the Moon, which won major awards at the Boulder, Florida, Indianapolis and Sedona film festivals, as well as the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival. The soundtrack was released on the Lakeshore records imprint.
His next major commission was the soundtrack for 'Sergio' directed by Greg Barker which premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.
Together with members of UNKLE he arranged and performed solo cello on the remix of The X-Files theme music for the end titles of the 2008 film 'X-Files I Want to Believe'.
In 2011 his album Cloud Songs was used to make the film First Orbit which combined new footage of the Earth shot from the International Space Station, with Yuri Gagarin's original voice recordings to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the flight of Vostok 1.

Olympic Games[edit]

Sheppard wrote and produced music for the Olympic Handover Ceremony, at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. This marks the point when the Olympic flag passes to London in preparation for the 2012 games. The sequence begins with the orchestral work 'This is London' performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, and leads to an arrangement of 'Whole Lotta Love' (by Led Zeppelin) performed by Jimmy Page, Leona Lewis and the London Symphony orchestra. This version of the song was co-produced by Steve Robson, Jimmy Page, Sheppard and Leona Lewis.

Sheppard was also commissioned to arrange and direct the British National Anthem for this event.

Other film scores[edit]

On 12 April 2011, First Orbit, a real-time recreation of Yuri Gagarin's pioneering first orbit, shot entirely in space from on board the International Space Station, used Sheppard's original composition. Sheppard composed the music for the documentary film 1971, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on 18 April 2014, and the 2015 documentary The Fear of 13.

Television scores and productions[edit]

Sheppard has produced the music for two recent BBC TV live events; The Manchester Passion and The Liverpool Nativity. These have won numerous awards, including the BBC award for Best Music Production of the Year, which was awarded to Sheppard, together with the writer Stephen Powell.

Sheppard has completed a suite for piano, strings and electronics that forms the soundtrack for Robert Winston's new series, 'Superdoctors', due to be shown on BBC1 in the autumn.

Sheppard also wrote a set of pieces for Viol Consort, to be recorded on location, that will form the soundtrack for Dr David Starkey's forthcoming series on Henry VIII on Channel Four. It also featured Scottish singer Dot Allison.

Sheppard wrote the music for the 2014 BBC series Human Universe presented by Brian Cox.

Dance works[edit]

Sheppard has had a long and fruitful professional relationship with Akram Khan. He first joined Akram as an improvising cellist in the Kathak projects 'Third Catalogue' and 'Ronin', collaborating with Hanif Kureishi and the AK Company for 'The God of Small Tales'. In 2006, Sheppard was commissioned to write 'Sacred Monsters' for Akram Khan and Sylvie Guillem. He toured with the production until the summer of 2007, his final performance being at the Herod Atticus theatre in the shadow of the Parthenon. In 2008 he was commissioned to compose the score for a new Khan collaboration; this time featuring Juliette Binoche. The production, In-I, staged at the National Theatre in London featured design by Anish Kapoor.

Books by Philip Sheppard[edit]

Sheppard, Philip. 2008. Music Makes Your Child Smarter: How Music Helps Every Child's Development. (ISBN 0825673313 ISBN 978-0825673313). Schirmer Trade Books.


  1. ^ Sweeting, Adam (17 May 2011). "Philip Sheppard: Around the world in 200 tunes". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 7 August 2012. 

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