MAY 2016

Matthew Welch

39, New York

  • Blarvuster plays High Street (Live at The Stone) 04:46
  • Sudamala, for Highland Bagpipe and Orchestra 10:42
  • Traversing Mad - Hatten 04:35
  • The Favrile Opalescence, for Highland bagpipe and percussion ensemble 13:16
  • Duo - El 02:55
  • Ritual Fall 04:10
  • Blues For Seraut 04:27
  • [ - (+ / -)] 05:34
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Tell us about yourself!

I am a composer and performer living in New York City. I play the Highland pipes, saxophone and many of the percussion instruments of Indonesian gamelan. I grew up a piper and made it as far as winning the World Pipe Band Championship with Simon Fraser University PB. I loved improvising and writing piping tunes in my youth, but started composing experimental classical music seriously as an undergraduate at Simon Fraser University. This music lead me to New York, an incubator for Avant Garde music and arts. Along side my compositional activity in NYC, I also studied the gamelan traditions of Java and Bali, and furthered academic studies at Wesleyan and Yale Universities. Living in Queens I compose mostly opera now, but perform in a wide variety of contexts, and pipe quite a bit!

How does your music impact & inspire your life?

My life is completely immersed in music, and has been for quite some time. If I'm not playing or composing or improvising, I'm thinking about, reading about and listening to music. I teach some too, and produce and conduct concerts. I think music is one of the greatest sources of wonder, a mystery to which we joyously submit to and reenergize with. It helps form our identity and brings like-minded people together to form deep bonds. I want every day of mine to be a musical day. I squeeze in a skateboard ride here and there.

How easily does the compositional side of your creativity sit with the performance aspect?

Composing and performing feed each other. Improvising is a wonderful way to fuse them. In learning to play a musical tradition, one can enter and eventually understand the structure of the music. I've explored many traditions, and they all can serve as inspiration for new musical structures and scenarios. I also like to be involved in performance as the natural endpoint of composing - eventually it has to be performed and heard - so here I perform in my own pieces on pipes and other instruments, or conduct an ensemble in a larger piece of mine. It is easy to feel stuck in musical development, and in this way, I have tried vigorously to keep my musical role in a near kaleidoscopic dynamic change in order to capture some of that essence in the overall work itself. My band Blarvuster is where I can compose, perform, improvise, lead a group and appeal to listeners of traditional, jazz, popular, and classical (old and new) music. Here I have the most fun.

What are your musical goals? Where do you see yourself in five years time?

My involvement in composing and producing contemporary opera will undoubtedly continue and grow. I am currently composing an opera about part of my family's internment in a Japanese concentration camp in Manila, Philippines, during WWII, and to mount this work fully-staged is my main goal in the next five years. I will most likely remain urban as that is where newer forms of classical music thrive. As far as bagpipes are concerned, I look forward to their steady presence in my music and life. I will probably retire from competitive piping by then as the goals of free-lance inventive musicianship and the goals of competing in traditional music performance are often at odds with each other. However, I aim to ramp up more solo repertoire and performances thereof, and continue to compose myself into various concerti and unprecedented musical situations. Though my instrument of choice is thought to come from the past and from a specific culture, it's sound and under-explored potential in the music of today and tomorrow is my most crucial focal point.

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