Wednesday, May 1, 2013

An interview with Michael Cutting

Please tell us a little about who you are and your background
After studying piano and violin from an early age, I gradually became more interested in composing my own pieces than practicing scales. After discovering The Rite of Spring with my youth orchestra, as well as being introduced to works by Ligeti, Benjamin and Grisey by my hugely encouraging A-Level music teacher, a composer in his own right, I realised this was the kind of music I wanted to write and subsequently applied to the Royal Northern College of Music to study composition. Having completed both my undergraduate and masters at RNCM, I am currently living and working in Manchester whilst undertaking a PhD at Kings College London supervised by George Benjamin. Aside from composing, I direct ACM Ensemble, a new music group currently working in association with Ensemble 10/10.

What/who inspires or motivates you?
Nothing is more inspiring for me than witnessing the performance of a masterpiece by great musicians. One such vivid memory was travelling last minute to Birmingham just to watch BCMG's performance of Gerard Grisey's Quatre Chants pour Franchir le Seuil. Incredible experiences like this inspire me to write and organise more performances of new music.

What is your favourite piece of your own work and why?
Difficult to say, as there are moments in all of my works I am proud of as well as those which could have been more refined. I guess the work which I feel is the most successful is a suite for violin and piano called Winter Visions, in which each movement creates its own distinct musical world but together form a set of complimentary pieces. However, my language has changed so much since then I would probably write something very different now.

How would you describe your style?
I wouldn't say I write in a particular 'style', the word seems contrary to most composers' desire to be innovative and push boundaries. However, some features remain common in all of my works, namely an interest in intricate musical colours, a sense of drama, and a striving for bold and original sounds.

What is your composing routine. When do you like to write?
My routine seems to consist of a lot of sitting, thinking and listening and not much writing! Composing for me is always a challenge, as I am constantly striving to do something new and original in each piece, which requires lots of re-working of material. Ideas are easy to find but it's what you do with them that determines the work's success.

What were the challenges in writing the piece for the New Dots concert?
The combination of flute, clarinet and piano offers lots of possibilities but also numerous limitations, particularly the lack of lower register. It also suggests a specific sound, which although I wanted utilise, hopefully in a slightly more surprising way than expected.

What does the future hold?
It depends what opportunities open up for me. I have numerous works in the pipeline, such as a large theatre work, string quartet, and other ensemble pieces. I look forward to getting stuck into some larger-scale works, having been refined to chamber works in this last year or so. I am also enjoying directing ACM Ensemble, which has some really exciting projects coming up and seems to be gaining recognition for its ambitious programs.

What makes you smile?

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