Composer

FOR CLIVE BARKER

Dominick Tyler

Matthew Lee Knowles is a prolific composer, poet, pianist, performer and teacher based in London, who had the honour and pleasure of teaching alongside Michael Finnissy at a CoMA Summer Course a few years ago.  Looking back over recent compositions, it seems they could have been written by several people, as they cover some ground, from highly conceptual instructional music, quizzical and direct to complex and virtuosic work, specific and scattered, with graphic notation along the way, through durations of a few minutes to several hours, for solo instruments and large ensembles.  Compositional methodologies range from Cageian chance operations to hexachordal rotational transpositional arrays, collage, quotation and homage.  Interests include sequence, repetition, allusion, exact and crippled symmetry, theme and variation, duration, freedom, subtle and blasé theatre, silence, extreme editing, superimposition, impossibility, endurance, pointlessness, ridiculousness, mathematics, mesostics, codes, authority, the everyday, newspapers, cosmology, physics and generally just being an experimentalist.  His works have been heard in concert halls, on TV and radio and he has performed, among other things, Satie’s Vexations, Ligeti’s Poeme Symphonique, Stockhausen’s gruelling Goldstaub (BBC/Sonic Arts Network), Cage’s demanding 45′ For A Speaker (Stoke Newington Contemporary Music Festival, 2012) and Lecture on Nothing on several occasions and in Sardinia with Neil Luck, a unique eighty-minute work for two performers and tape, in a field of twenty microphones (Critics, Academics, Geeks, Miniere Sonore, 2009).  Matthew wrote and performed live, the music for a video by Brandon Labelle, (Cloudy, Wilton’s Music Hall, 2009), which incorporated both classical and rock for solo piano.  He has written several theatre scores (the first when he was seventeen), including Inherit The Wind, The Winter’s Tale and The Gut Girls, the latter which he also performed live at the piano.  Since 2007, Matthew has engineered small and large scale happenings [more details], the most prominent featuring over a hundred performers lasting three hours (The Nothing and the Nothingness, Louise T. Blouin Institute, 2008).  Other happening locations have included; a cemetery, a field, a library, a street and a concert hall stage.   Ejected Material (Jerwood Room, Oxford University, 2010), was a collaboration with George Chambers, leading to an exhibition featuring instructions tied to balloons, thousands of chads (leftovers from hole-punchers), fans and burnt scores in jars.  six_events (2008), sixty_six_events (2010, a collaboration with Andy Ingamells) and 666_events (2012) were global happenings encouraging people to interpret instructions and record their performances.  Each event produced performances in dozens of countries across the world and the final event in the series, 6666_events took place in June 2014.  Matthew has written two opera libretti including the libretto for squib-box’s first opera, Shadow Prophets, which was premièred in Sardinia in 2011. He has written several hundred poems ranging from single sentences to forty-thousand word epics, which he sees, mainly, as extreme edits of the work of others.  Alongside these works, there are also several hundred instructional scores, straddling the gamut of possibilities from the absurd to the mundane.  Several pieces have been published in part and in full in magazines and Matthew regularly reads at poetry events. Improving The Remarkable (2009) was written specifically for a public art development in central London and the text has been permanently installed on huge vanes attached to a new building.  Matthew was chosen from a selection of globally prominent and established artists due to his connection between poetry and music. Other creations include a play (Kidnapped, 2010), a Beginners Guide To Music (2011), more than five hundred paintings and small sculptures and several limited edition booklets.  At the end of 2009, INTO Magazine published an article entitled Making Things Happen, in which Matthew discussed how he works and gave advice to other composers/artists. Spokenwordmusic was released on the Squib-Box label in 2012.  In 2015 Matthew wrote a 2,000 word joke and recited it from memory (Weisslich, curated by Louis d’Heudieres)

In November 2014, after nearly three years of writing, Matthew completed his 140 Spectacles for clarinet, piano and silent orchestra, a five and a half hour work, with an accompanying 3000 word essay.  A few months later, an opera, A Catatonic Romance, with a libretto by Lucy Hutchinson, was completed, after almost a decade in the planning.  It is set on a deathly drop, near a pleasant amble and concerns Milly and Winston, who, defeated and desperate, contemplate their bitter ends, but they are not alone as there are those who have their ways to defend; Life with her pet lizard and Death with his limitless cunning. But the question that begs to be solved: Will Milly and Winston one day eat pie together?  Another opera followed in 2021, Dialogue Between a Priest and a Dying Man.  Around fifty pieces have been written for specific people with their names in the title and many others carry dedications.  Matthew has also made hundreds of electronic works, especially exploring the idea of phasing.  At the start of 2021 Matthew finished a four year project, turning a novel into music resulting in a final single-movement work lasting 26 hours over more than a thousand pages called For Clive Barker – this work now stands as the longest single-movement non-repeating piano composition ever written.  A collection of thirty songs was written in April which will be recorded this year.  In February the incomparable pianist Kate Ledger premiered For Alan Turing playing for seven hours without a break and the success of this was commented on by many prominent composers and performers leading to the discussion of releasing an album of solo piano music in 2021 – more details will follow on this incredibly exciting prospect!

Matthew’s first album of his songs “This is a Warning and a Threat” recorded by Sarah Parkin and Dominic Irving is now available on Bandcamp by clicking here. Sarah and Dominic also recorded Invisible Heart which can be found here.

Kate Ledger will be recording an album of Matthew’s piano music after running a successful Kickstarter campaign in September, this album will be called For and will go public in January 2022.

Remixing pop songs has become a pleasurable side hobby and these can be heard here:

Below is an extract of For Alan Turing, an epic several hour long composition for solo piano, which has been premièred in part at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and Cambridge University to celebrate Turing’s centenary and it was commented on by someone who had known Turing that when he heard my music he could hear Turing speak.

This piece has now been premiered in full by pianist Kate Ledger and you can watch/listen by clicking HERE!

 

List of Works

The following list omits wholly graphically notated or
spoken word scores and is not comprehensive.
[starred pieces have been performed]
[Title links to a score]

[R links to a recording]

Contact me at matthew[{at}]matthewleeknowles to talk
about performances or just to ask questions about
any of these pieces or for commissions

Pre 2004

  • Nocturnal Fantasie in Db Major [solo piano]
  • String Quartet in C# minor
  • Brass Quartet
  • A Message from Tenerife in 12 parts [tenor horn]
  • Le Sonate Ombragé [solo piano]
  • Waltz in D Major [solo piano]
  • Wyrd Sisters [theatre score]
  • Two Contrasting Confusions [solo piano]
  • A Nocturne in E [solo piano]
  • Theme + Variation on Dido/Eminem [solo piano]
  • Fantasie [solo piano]
Soundcloud