Before attending SEM you studied Music and English at Leeds University. What made you take the decision to join the Complete Music Production course at SEM?
I wanted to become more self-sufficient as a musician. I feel fairly adept at writing and performing – skills that I refined in Leeds – but there was a gap in my knowledge in terms of production. After becoming more interested in electronic music, taking this course seemed like a logical step. Essentially it was a means of acquiring the skillset that I needed to express my ideas.
How would you say studying at SEM differs to your university course?
My course in Leeds was quite formal, and involved a lot of research. Studying Music Production at SEM is far less formal, and far more practical-based. It’s gratifying to get so hands-on with Ableton from the first lesson. There’s a good balance at SEM, I think, of fun and focus.
Who are your musical influences and what type of music are you most passionate about creating?
At the moment I’m writing a lot of Minimalist piano music. This is influenced by the greats of the genre like Philip Glass, Steve Reich and John Adams, but also by more recent contributors like Nils Frahm and Grandbrothers. I’ve been experimenting lately with feeding fairly ‘polite’ Minimalist music through electronic processes in order to create something totally removed from the original material. I like the idea of creating gnarly and aggressive music out of something pretty. Aside from this I’m also a songwriter, and am currently writing music influenced by the likes of Radiohead and Moderat.
“I like the idea of democratising music so that whilst I’m performing, the audience has a say in what comes out of the PA. For example, on Sunday the audience will be given laser pointers which will allow them to control effects in Ableton, whilst I play the piano.”
Do you think working on this commission has altered the way you will write music in the future?
Bringing interactive elements into my music has been a totally new experience for me, and I do think that it’s going to change the way I will write in the immediate future. I find interfacing the physical world with the digital one really interesting, and I’m looking forward to exploring further DIY ways of doing so in my next pieces.
Can you tell us what to expect from your performance on Sunday 8th April?
Hopefully people will find it exciting to control the music from the audience. So much of what comes out of the PA will be dictated by how this particular audience decides to interact with the piece, and I’d like to think that people will get a kick out of that sense of ownership. It should also just be fun engaging with the game-like aspect of it all. And if the audience doesn’t like the music, at least they get to play with lasers, right?
Any more thoughts?
Aside from my own performance on Sunday, Carmel Smickersgill will be performing. She’s also been commissioned by Brighter Sound, and over the past six months we’ve been attending lots of workshops together, as well as going on research trips to places like CTM Festival in Berlin. She is a really talented composer, and on Sunday will be playing as part of a jazz trio. The trio will be using a model of software companies’ data collection habits in order to create their musical material.