Composer Profile: Matthew Kaner

One of the composers who appeared at Sounds New last year, I recently caught up with composer Matthew Kaner, and asked him about what life has had in store since last May.

What have you been up to since your ‘Gauguin Sketches’ appeared at Sounds New last year?

I’ve been very busy since the Sounds New concert! In June, I had a new piece for large ensemble, Fantastical Fragments, premièred in the Aldeburgh Festival, and then quickly boarded a plane the following morning and set off for Tanglewood in Massachusetts to take up a composition fellowship for two months! As part of my fellowship, Gauguin Sketches was given its US première in July in Seiji Ozawa Hall by the New Fromm Players (here’s a live recording of the performance):

While I was out there, I also wrote a few duets (as part of the ‘piece-a-day’ project, a stressful, but ultimately enlightening affair), one of which was really a preparatory study for the next big piece I was about to write, signalling the beginning of an interest in the work of 16th century calligrapher, Johann Hering. You can read a bit about his influence on my most recent works, and listen to the duet here.

Matthew Kaner

Matthew Kaner

Then, when I got back to the UK, I began working in earnest on my new orchestral piece, the Calligrapher’s Manuscript (commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra through their Panufnik Scheme). The piece was completed in February and workshopped by the orchestra under the baton of Francois-Xavier Roth as part of their ‘Futures Week’. The final version will be premièred on 19 September in the Barbican Hall.

What excites you about contemporary music ?

If I’m being honest, contemporary music excites me and, I think, always will because of the strong sense of creativity I inherited from my parents. My father is a furniture-maker and restorer, and he instilled a great love in me, from a very young age, for craftsmanship and the fostering of an ability to work equally well in many different styles. This has translated into an extremely broad range of musical interests for me: I feel that all styles and genres, in their finest manifestations, have something special to offer, and I am therefore always looking to expand my listening list.

There is such diversity in contemporary music today, and we are fortunate enough to live in an era where geography presents no limitations; I can listen to as much North Indian Classical Music as I can Scandinavian contemporary classical music! Someone recently remarked that most of my pieces sound very different from one another; I think this is a reflection of this broadness of influence, and representative of my wish to develop a compositional technique and craft that allows me to evoke and work within as many styles as I can.

My mother, on the other hand, is a visual artist, and her sheer enthusiasm for all forms of art (theatre, music, photography, cuisine etc.) has nurtured in me what could perhaps be described as a ‘need’ to express myself through making things and to explore new ideas whenever and however possible. This means that being a composer, and being able to work with other composers, creative performers and artists is an incredibly thrilling and fulfilling experience for me. I feel very privileged to be able to pursue the things I have always and will continue to enjoy so greatly!

What are you up to at the moment ?

I’m now Composer-in-Association with the Workers Union and am working on a brand new piece for them, which they commissioned with funds from the PRS for Music Foundation as part of their ‘constructing a repertoire’ programme. The new piece will be performed in three different venues across the country in late October-November – full details here.

Follow Matt on Twitter.

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