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Faculty of Music



Cambridge for me was the adventure of a lifetime, musically, intellectually, and personally. The breadth of music-making in and around the University was dazzling; I could hear Renaissance polyphony at a chapel service and walk down a flight of steps directly into an EDM set. And I found the Tripos genuinely thrilling, especially supervisions in small groups. I loved getting down to the nuts and bolts in papers like Fugue, and I equally loved Analysis, where I learned how to listen more carefully, or maybe I should say how to observe my own listening, how to catch myself in the act of listening. But perhaps the most important thing was that I really forged some of the best and most lasting friendships of my life. 

It would be hard to overstate how much those experiences have shaped my subsequent career. The skills in harmony and counterpoint that I learned at Cambridge are the bedrock of my technique as a composer, and the analytical and ethnomusicological skills I learned are really at the heart of all the research I do when trying to understand a new musical style — for instance, when trying to mimic Soviet music for the movie The Death of Stalin. My friends went on to live such varied lives, many ending up in far-flung places, and through them I'm always learning new things. That's enormously valuable to me, and I just don't know if I'd have those kinds of relationships if it hadn't been for Cambridge.


Christopher Willis is a composer working primarily in film and television. After earning an MA and a musicology PhD at Cambridge, he relocated to California, where he now lives. He is best known for his collaborations with writer-director Armando Iannucci, including the multiple Emmy Award-winning HBO sitcom Veep, and the films The Death of Stalin and The Personal History of David Copperfield. Other credits include Schmigadoon! for Apple TV+, and Charlie Brooker's interactive cartoon Cat Burglar. He has also worked extensively with Disney; his music for the much-loved Mickey Mouse cartoon shorts has earned him two Emmy nominations and five Annie Awards.