Classical Graduate Nominated for Ivors Composer Awards

By Dav Williams


Matt London has been nominated for The Ivors Composer Awards, under the category ‘Jazz Composition for Small Ensemble’, for his composition – elemental utterances.

The work features an abstract score for improvisers and was devised for vocalist Loré Lixenberg, Mark Sanders and Ensemble Entropy. The orchestration comprises of alto flute, tenor saxophone, violin, double bass, drums and voice. The piece was performed twice last year, at Listen Cambridge and at Café Oto, funded by Arts Council England.

Previously shortlisted for a BASCA British Composer Award in 2018 (the previous name of this particular awards programme), Matt has a unique approach to composition, creating works that channel free improvisation. Matt has been influenced by the language score approach of Wadada Leo Smith and Anthony Braxton. He is perhaps most well-known for his work with Ensemble Entropy - a new music ensemble which explores the porous boundaries between composed contemporary music and free improvisation.

The Ivors Composer Awards celebrate the best new work created by UK composers working in the field of classical, jazz and sound art. This year’s awards will champion those compositions that received a UK premiere performance, either live or via broadcast between the 1 April 2019 and the 31 March 2020.

The winners will be announced on Tuesday 1 December as part of a two-hour ceremony on BBC Radio 3, presented by Kate Molleson and Tom Service.

How does it feel to have been nominated for The Ivors Composer Awards 2020?

This is the second time I’ve been nominated (the last time was in 2018 for my work ‘Rituals’) — both times have been surprising to me as my work/creative practice is not particularly bound to the conventions associated with jazz or classical music. This is especially the case with ‘elemental utterances’ as I continue to reduce traditional composer intention from the way I work.

Tell us about your composition – ‘elemental utterances’. What was the creative process behind the work?

I was able to produce what I call an abstract langua​ge score that contained four musical characters for the ensemble to explore and develop beyond the page. To encourage this creative ownership I use both abstract and instructive graphics, plus small elements of hybrid notations to construct each character with a broad identity so that the performers / improvisers are required to come up with much of the content along their own musical sensibilities. My performing materials certainly don’t look like traditional scores!

In essence these four points of material are really just starting points for the ensemble to improvise and expand upon that eventually depart leading naturally into free improvisation. Having worked with Loré and Mark before I knew I had the creative freedom and opportunity to let the ensemble really explore and improvise collectively.

In many ways is see myself more as an instigator than a composer when it comes to this piece. Which is something that applies more generally to my creative practice as it continues to develop and evolve.

Elemental Utterances

You’ve been nominated under the category ‘Jazz Composition for Small Ensemble’. To what extent do you feel your music constitutes as ‘Jazz’?

Well that’s a funny one. I wouldn’t describe my music as jazz at all… there are no time signatures, bar lines, keys, or chord sequences in sight! As hinted above my music is all about the creativity of others through improvisation. I’m interested in hearing their creative voices (as opposed to having a single overarching viewpoint) to enrich the music and take it to new places I never envisaged. It is a collaborative experience. Consequently, every performance is different as it is about collective creativity that happens in the moment. And not about trying to recreate something from the past.

By Dav Williams

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