Musique Nouvelles publication

According to you, what is "contemporary music" ?

Labels for creative art forms can be distractingly misleading at times and 'contemporary music' has the notion of been caught in a certain place, almost awkwardly, nudging towards academia and a use of more notational composition. I would like to feel that any music we perform, compose, experience today is a form of contemporary music, echoing our time and age.

Do you think there is a “contemporary sensibility” ?

I think there's an inescapable desire to connect with the past and the future, acknowledging whether openingly or not these historical references. I would like to feel that my peer group and those of artists I admire look towards the future, not the past, in greater value though.

Does it mean something to you and how would you describe your role in “contemporary music” ?

I tend to play a role that slips between very different approaches, sometimes collaborating with an ensemble of musicians, sometimes reworking the past, sometimes installing sound works in museums, sometime developing projects with commercial companies. I am drawn to projects that open out to new audiences and challenge myself in many ways, so my role in contemporary music is one that is playful, inventive and only characteristic by way of the fact that one never knows what the final results might be!

You work both with electronic instrument and classical musicians (as the cellist and composerJean-Paul Dessy). How would you define your aesthetic process ?

I use new technologies aligned with more traditional instruments to create works that search for a poignancy and emotional response to the world around us. I have an almost restless desire to search for the extraordinary in the ordinary, the colour in the darkness, the sound in the silence, to create works that move people in surprisingly encounters and ways.

Musician and writer, do you think music needs words ?

Words and the human voice can create emotional attachments that electronic sound for example seems to fail often to do so I tend to use language in another way. I don't tend to use librettos (so far) or follow the usual patterns of illustrating and colouring music in this way, but language has an inherent power that connects to composition but can equally offer a world far outside of sound.

In the middle of modernity (fashion, a minimum of efforts to decode, rapidity, spectacular, etc.), do you think writing music nowadays has a meaning ? And what does it mean to you ?

I feel that sound is a language and can travel globally to more places than many other art forms. It can make connections between people that politics, religions and other forms cannot. Music and sound have an incredible ability to conjure up memories, possibilities, futures, pasts, all in one moment. It can offer a place to slow down, to think, to contemplate, as much as encourage, inspire and develop.

According to you, does music need an utopia to exist ?

Well, this is a big question. An earthly paradise, an ideal society is only imaginary. Each of us subscribes to a different notion of this projected perfect place, this utopia, this sensibility, and understanding. Today our societies may differ but we maneuver between ideas of the present, the past and the future. For some the past is unimportant, the future just vague and unpredictable so they focus on the present, whilst others recognize tradition as essential, so the past takes precedent in relation to family, traditionalism and ancestry, and in so doing simply maintain the present in respect. People that listen to music and people that create music work within these concepts inevitably. I don't believe we need any kind of utopia in this way, but it can offer a picture of a place to move towards philosophically, to consider placing the emphasis on the future and changes in values and the desirable development in economic and social scales beyond us.

As a composer and musician, do you pursue a quest ?

I search for possibilities with myself, with my creative endeavours, and in so doing produce a field of work and ideas that hopefully moves, intrigues and inspires people. I feel as if I'm still out there searching for myself though, it's a longer quest than I could ever have imagined.

How did you come to composition ?

It simply happened. Sound always appealed to me from the earliest age, playing with tape recorders at around 8 years old, playing the piano when I was 9-10, and so on. In contrast to sports and other such activities I was always drawn, and still am, to the wonder of sound around us in the world.

What makes you compose a new work ? An abstract idea, a sensation, a feeling … ?

I only wish I had time to simply sit down and write for the sake of writing, but much of my life is spent meeting deadlines, following up on projects, chasing my own tail. At those impossible to imagine junctures of some peace and calm I tend to compose new works purely by chance, when the whim takes me.

Music... why ?

I suppose why not? Music as opposed to...cookery? (I'm a terrible cook), or football? (I'm not so keen on games) or politics? (I don't have the stamina)

If you had to rescue one musical work on an hypothetical ark, which one would you choose in musical history ?

Faure's requiem - an exquisite work that I first heard aged around 13 on a cassette tape from the local library and I've kept until this day.