Radiohead guitarist takes prize in Radio 3 awards

An award ceremony to recognise achievements in contemporary classical music has been won by an artist best known for indie rock.

Jonny Greenwood, right, the lead guitarist of Radiohead turned classical composer, has confirmed his versatility after being nominated favourite artist in the 4th annual British Composer Awards by Radio 3 listeners. The station chose his work Popcorn Superhet Receiver from nine orchestral works commissioned by the BBC over the past year. The piece was inspired by radio static and the extended, dissonant chords of the Polish composer Penderecki's Threnody for the victims of Hiroshima. "It is a great example of Radio 3's unique cultural patronage" said Roger Wright, controller of Radio 3.

Greenwood, whose younger brother Colin also plays in the band, is the only one classically trained, taking viola lessons as a child. He is seen as the second major influence on songwriting after the frontman Thom Yorke.

In May 2004 he became composer in residence at the BBC, composing several pieces including Smear, Piano for Children and Popcorn Superhet Receiver. Smear premiered in 2004, and in April last year Greenwood premiered his new work commissioned by BBC Radio 3, with music performed live by the BBC Concert Orchestra.

Greenwood is greatly influenced by jazz. He is a big fan of the Mo'Wax label (one-time home of Blackalicious, DJ Krush, DJ Shadow and Dr Octagon). Along with other Radiohead band members he loves the Krautrock band Can and the Polish composer Penderecki. Greenwood and the band are working on another album and recently performed many new songs during a summer 2006 tour. However, no release date has been set.

In addition to guitar he also plays: viola, organ, piano, xylophone, glockenspiel, ondes martenot, banjo and harmonica.

Greenwood was just starting university when 'On A Friday' - Radiohead's initial choice of name - signed a recording contract with EMI in 1991; he abandoned his degree in favour of Radiohead shortly after starting his course. Greenwood's influence on Radiohead's recording and writing can be felt in many songs, taking the traditional lead-guitar role in most pieces, becoming known through the course of Radiohead's career as a contributor to Radiohead's sound.

Other winners in the British Composer Awards included Simon Holt, winner of the orchestral category for Witness to a Snow Miracle, Hugh Wood who won the vocal category for his Song Cycle Set to Texts by Robert Graves; and Judith Bingham winner of the choral category for My Heart Strangely Warm.

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