Interview with PRS short-listed composer Marc Yeats [Part III]

Composition:Today talks to Marc Yeats, recently short-listed for the PRS for Music’s New Music Award

Article by David Bruce for Composition:Today

[Part III]

Marc Yeats

Marc Yeats
© Stampfli & Turci

  • Who has been the greatest influence on your musical style to date and why ?

      That is impossible to say. As I have mentioned previously, I am drawn to experimentalism and also to the English pastoral school – an odd combination! I can however tell you who my musical heroes are. Joseph Haydn, for his fecundity, wit, energy and constantly renewable imagination and inventiveness. Charles Ives for his amazing experimentalism and ability to write music of the greatest expressive power ranging from the most delicate intimacy to near cacophony. He was years ahead of his time and I admire that. And finally Xenakis, for being raw, energised, atavistic, and not afraid to build music inspired by science and other disciplines. For me, he is the most original compositional voice of our time.

      There are of course many other types of music that I love, Birtwistle, Maxwell Davies, Dillon, The Prodigy, to name a few. But to be honest, I listen to very little contemporary music – rightly or wrongly, as I don’t want to be influenced by it. I want my musical ideas to be generated from either within my own work or from external, non-musical inspirations. So I listen to a great deal of music from other eras. But perhaps my most frequently listened to music, purely for self indulgent pleasure remains the work of Vaughan Williams, Bax, Holst, Morean and others.

  • What’s the strangest idea for a piece you’ve ever had ?

      Not very whacky, and probably been done, but not by me! But I have a notion to take a musical strand – a line or instrumental part from each of the, say, ten pieces I have composed recently (those that have the ‘genetic’ connection as described earlier) and, with a little re-organisation, create an ensemble piece that brings them all together simultaneously, at different tempi and without a conductor. I like the thought of reuniting these voices after they have been on their different journeys, brought back together through a family reunion. Like most family reunions, it will be a mixture of fun, tragedy, comedy and argument, and if you’re lucky, a little illumination and beauty, and all this operating with a good-sized dose of serendipity. Now all I need to do is find an ensemble brave enough to take this on!

  • Which work are you most proud of and why ?

    Probably ‘The Round And Square Art of Memory’ for piano and orchestra, commissioned by the BBC Philharmonic, with Kathryn Stott at the piano and Martyn Brabbins conducting. The work was premiered as part of the Piano 2000 Festival at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester. Kathy, Martyn and the BBC Phil pulled out all the stops and gave a stonking performance and for once, the piece got rave reviews in the national press. I love writing for orchestra, it enables me to paint with sound as it offers the widest palette of colours to draw upon. I’m proud of this work because it was big, Martyn described it as ‘epic’, but within its heart their remained an intimacy of communication that would emerge from the very dense and virtuosic orchestral textures. It’s not perfect, and if I were to compose a piece for piano and orchestra again, there would be many things I would do differently – not surprising ten years on, but at least it’s a work I can still listen to and not feel any twinges of embarrassment about!

  • Marc Yeats

    Marc Yeats
    Music score of ‘The Round And Square Art of Memory’ for piano and orchestra
    © Stampfli & Turci

    Marc Yeats

    Marc Yeats
    Music score of ‘The Round And Square Art of Memory’ for piano and orchestra
    © Stampfli & Turci

  • What does the future hold for you?

    We will have to wait and see – fingers crossed for SATSYMPH, of course!

    But closer to earth …

    I have recently become Composer-in-Association with Manchester Pride, which is very exciting.

    This years Festival includes the world première of “schlick’s approximation”, for clarinet, violin & piano, It will be performed on 27th August by the ensemble CHROMA. The performance will be at the Cosmo Rodewald Concert Hall, at Manchester University at 1pm.

    My trio for flute, cello and piano, Strange Geometry, commissioned by Trio IAMA (Greece) is to be premiered in Cyprus (Nicosia / Shoe Factory) on the 10th November 2010 and later performed in Berlin at BKA Theatre on the 7th. December 2010.

    There are a range of other premieres in the pipe-line happening in Switzerland, Germany, Brazil, Taiwan, and Malaysia with ‘orare’ (2009) for bass trombone and piano (dedicated to Dirk Amrein and Jürg Henneberger), and Conversational Geometry (2009) for amplified acoustic guitar, tenor trombone and piano (also dedicated to Dirk Amrein and Jürg Henneberger). Conversational Geometry will be recorded by Swiss Radio on the 17/12/2010 at Gare du Nord, Bahnhof für Neue Musik Schwarzwaldallee Basel, Switzerland.

    Closer to home, October 2010 will see the premiere of ‘rhêma’ (2010) for harpsichord. Commissioned by BBC Radio 3. First performed by Mahan Esfahani, Leeds, October 2010. Subsequent broadcast on BBC Radio 3 scheduled for early 2011 (dedicated to Mahan Esfahani) duration circa 10.5 minutes.

    Later this year the world premiere of ‘shadow, and the moon’ (2009) (flute, clarinet, violin, cello, marimba, piano) commissioned by Kokoro (dedicated to Errollyn Wallen) – duration circa 19 mins. – will take place in Dorset.

    Also to come, itunes and Amazon mp3 will be hosting albums of my work for download.

    There are a number of exciting and innovative collaborative projects that are coming to fruition as well. All in all, a very busy and active year!

    Marc Yeats

    Marc Yeats
    © Stampfli & Turci

    End of Part III

    Part I (click here)

    Part II (click here)

    Interview © David Bruce
    Images © Stampfli & Turci


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