Since graduating from Leeds Conservatoire in 2008, Matt has built a varied career as a performer and composer as well as continuing his studies in Manchester and London. Recently nominated for a British Composers Award, Matt has a unique approach to composition, designing works that channel free improvisation. This individuality is reflected in his successes, having also recently secured funding from Arts Council England for his group, Ensemble Entropy. 


What attracted you to Leeds and studying music at Leeds Conservatoire; what sets Leeds apart as a conservatoire?

The excellent contact time, expert tuition in specific disciplines and the practical opportunities.

Just over a year ago I was lucky enough to work with college’s New Music Collective writing them Beneath the Horizon for 14 amplified players. What struck me was the driving standard of the classical students in their technique and musicality, which in my view is a direct reflection of the staff working there. To have working musicians of such high calibre bringing their wealth of knowledge to Leeds Conservatoire is invaluable.

But what really impressed me during my visit was the encouragement of cross discipline working! This is so important for developing rounded, knowledgeable musicians who are open minded. I often feel that conservatoires tend to keep course disciplines separate but at Leeds Conservatoire the cross-discipline focus is really important, preparing confident musicians ready for the professional world.

Tell us about your current doctoral study at Brunel University London?

My research at Brunel is centered on creating performance materials for free improvisers. I have loved free improvisation ever since I was introduced to it by Dave Kane who led a module on it at Leeds Conservatoire! Since then it has grown in importance and taken over in the way I create.

At Brunel I’ve been exploring varied ways of scoring and notating, developing my own approach which allows me to provide materials that musicians will connect with through their personal involvement and influence, interpreting my work.

You lead Ensemble Entropy. What is your approach to writing for the group and how do you balance the relationship between composed contemporary music and free improvisation?

I try to do a lot of listening research, attending my performer’s concerts and listening to recordings.  Whilst writing stuff for them to improvise with I like to get a good idea of their playing so that I can create something they will engage with. There are no time signatures or barlines in sight… I aim to design material that will channel free improvisation.

With time my scores have become more and more open. In a broad sense I provide breadcrumbs for musicians to follow but leave them to create much of the content. These scores are probably best described as language scores.  I like to think of it as ‘living music’ that is always changing.

What can we expect if we’re going to listen to your music; what are your big influences?

 Hopefully you would hear the performers creating and imparting their own ideas as individuals and as a collective, plus a broader thematic guide I might have in mind.

Big influences. People such as Paul Dunmall, Barry Guy, Marilyn Crispell and Matthew Bourne are improvisers and composers I constantly listen to, but the list goes on and on from classical / contemporary music to jazz and free jazz.

You were nominated for a British Composers Award in November for your extended work RITUALS. This is an amazing recognition of your talent - what do you attribute to the nomination?

The amazing creativity, flair and dexterity from each player in ensemble. The trust they have in me to create material and lead them in performance is mind-blowing!

 The work itself is presented on two A3 landscape panels and lasts approximately 45mins written for Orchestra Entropy the large version of my group made up of 10 improvisers. The panels include a big graphic for them to journey through inspired by the work of Polish artist Jan Tarasin, a sub-piece with hybrid notation and a text score, through to collective open scored sections.

 Can you give us an insight into your involvement with LSO Soundhub and performing RITUALS with Orchestra Entropy?

Based at LSO St Luke’s London, Soundhub is a fantastic emerging composers’ scheme. Selected “Members” get to develop and present new work with players from the LSO across a year. I’m an associate and Soundhub provides us with fantastic resources such as free access to rehearsal spaces at St Luke’s and talks on professional development. I was lucky enough to be offered the opportunity to have a piece recorded by the expert LSO in-house sound team in St Luke’s beautiful Jerwood Hall!

 On the day we spent a good hour setting up and relearning the piece together and then it was time. ONE take! There is no exact or precise way to perform my work… Each performance is unique and valid… The feel and intensity of the performance interests me. Thus no editing required! I’m currently talking to some labels - hopefully it’ll be out later in the year.

You’ve got some really interesting gigs coming up with avant-garde mezzo-soprano Loré Lixenberg as a featured guest alongside Leeds Conservatoire tutor Mark Sanders - what is the collaborative process like and how does working with a variety of featured artists shape the direction of Ensemble Entropy?

Yes I’m really looking forward to our next set of gigs in Cambridge and at the legendary Café OTO in Dalston, London. I love to invite guests to join EE from differing backgrounds and disciplines so to have Loré on board is amazing. The big challenge will be to let go of the conventions that come with voice i.e. text setting. I don't plan to set any specific text for Loré but have some ideas around redacting text from pages of a book and using that as the background to create a score upon. I’ve known Mark for a number of years and think he is perhaps one of the most creative musicians out there today: it’ll be great to have him join us again.

 What advice would you give to a prospective student wanting to study classical?

Listen. Do. Experiment. Question. Repeat.

Click here to follow what Matt is up to via his twitter.

Learn more about our BA (Hons) Music (Classical)– here.

Have a look at Ensemble Entropy's Kickstart fundraiser here and view the details of their upcoming concerts here.

Find out more about what our successful graduates have been up to in our Alumni Profiles

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