Michael Spencer

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Michael Spencer is a Scottish composer born in Belshill, Lanarkshire in 1975 and is now based in Leeds. He started composing at a young age and went on to study Music and Scottish Literature at Glasgow University, where he studied composition with Graham Hair, followed by a Masters and PhD in Manchester University, studying with Geoff Poole and John Casken. Spencer also received regular private lessons from James Dillon [1], a composer who Spencer has a research interest in; indeed, he has written two articles on his music, 'Re-Placing the Dialectic: Notions of Compositional Procedure in James Dillon's German Tryptych' published in British postgraduate musicology online [2] and 'Dillon’s L’évolution du vol: an evolution of stylistics or a flight from National identity?' which is due to be published in the journal Musica Scotica. In 2003 he received a stipend to attend the Summer Course at Academie Schloss Solitude where he met other important teachers: Chaya Czernowin, Steve Takasugi and Richard Barrett.

Spencer is currently the Composition lecturer at the University of Leeds, where he also teaches the post-1900 Aesthetics and Criticism course. He has several PhD students in both composition and contemporary musicology as well as being a co-supervisor for performers.

Spencer's compositions and research stem from his interests in improvisation, contemporary notation issues, microtonal tuning systems and music post-1945, particularly that of Ferneyhough, Dillon, Feldman, Lachenmann and Maxwell Davies. He has a keen interest in aesthetics and the philosophy of New Music, along with semiotic analysis. His music has been performed at festivals and events worldwide, including Instal 2002 (Glasgow), Maxis 2003 Festival (Leeds), Darmstädter Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik, 2004, International Trumpet Guild Conference, Rowan University, New Jersey, 2006. His piano solo piece The Eemis Stane - Homage to K.S. Sorabji is available on a CD collection of new piano music recorded by Aleks Szram on fonorum label, 2005. Toxic Knuckle Bones, a chamber ensemble piece was performed by the BBC Philharmonic under James MacMillan on Radio 3’s ‘Hear and Now’ programme in 2001. Other groups who have performed Spencer's music include ROUT, SurPlus and FOCAM along with renowned soloists such as Ian Pace and Richard Casey.

One ongoing project Spencer is working on is his cycle Message from Aiwass a series of pieces currently numbering around 9, which explore the idea of fragmentation and use musical quotations from the music of Antoine Brumel [3]. Spencer is keen to explore the idea of a cycle and how each of the pieces in this cycle can relate and interlink with each other. It is difficult to pinpoint a specific stylistic aspect of Spencer's work though it arguably shows some influence of Dillon in certain pieces; however, these pieces usually have some formal element that makes the music distinct from his teacher's sound. The music comes from an interest in the instruments themselves, and in some cases in the location in which they are to be performed, and often from his interest in philosophy, microtones and fragmentation.

List of works:

Si vous êtes pris dans le rêve de l’autre, vous êtez foutu (7 Percussionists) 2008

Ophelia Fragments (Flute, Clarinet, Percussion, Mezzo-soprano, Violin) 2008

Message from Aiwass VII (Micro-tonal Trumpet, Percussion, Live Electroncis) 2007-08

Delire (String Quartet) 2006

If this be my fate (Trombone, Percussion) 2006

Dyptique (SATB Choir) 2005

The Lynx Arc (Improvising saxophone soloist and ensemble) 2003-06

Strike softly, away from body (Soprano Saxophone, Electric Guitar, Hammond Organ, Electric Violin, Double Bass, Live Electronics) - Commissioned by [rout] and BMIC Cutting Edge

I built my dreams around you (Solo Bass Flute) 2004

Message from Aiwass II (Violoncello, Piano, Percussion) 2003

same ground, once more stirring under our feet– Homage to Foucault (Flute, Violin, Percussion, Accordion, live electronics, 2 LP Players, Video Projection) 2003

You Took My Dreams From Me, When I First Found You (Solo Violin) 2002

Sotto Voce (Solo Organ) 2002

Une nuit noire, par un calme (24 Voices) 2002

Message From Aiwass (frammenti neri) (Two Pianos) 2002

é quella sì lontana (Chamber ensemble – 20 players) 2001 [rev. 2002]

la mer allée avec le soleil (Violin, Piano, Percussion) 2001

The Eemis Stane – Homage to Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji (Solo Piano) 2001

The Song Mickey Heard at the Bottom of his Pint in the Zodiac Bar (Wind Orchestra) 2001

Toxic Knuckle Bones (Chamber Ensemble) 2000

Pendule (… de Foucalt) (Horn, Violin, Piano) 2000 … las Redes de Piedra (Alto Saxophone and Orchestra) 1999 - Commissioned by The Kelvin Ensemble

DO NOT MACHINE (Percussion Duo) 1999

In te si posa nostra ignuda natura (Oboe solo) 1998-99

Über Die Grenzen Des All … (Piccolo/Alto Flute, Clarinet, Alto Saxophone, Tuba, Piano/Harpsichord, Violin, Viola) 1998


Leeds University Staff page[www.leeds.ac.uk/music/ms]

Scottish Music Centre page[4]