Dominic Murcott, composer

Who or what inspired you to take up composing, and pursue a career in music?

I started drumming when I was 15 as a way of avoiding things in life that bothered me. Along with educating, that was my career for 10 years. At that point a desire to create something of my own gradually took over. I’m not sure why but I’ve always liked making things.

Who or what were the most significant influences on your musical life and career as a composer?

A theatre/performance artist called Gary Stevens was really important to me when I was getting going. He makes works where the storyline exists simply to illustrate an entertaining structure. I’m an expert on the music of Conlon Nancarrow, whose work is also based on interesting structures and that’s had an effect. Beyond that I like bleak novels, tense films and cynical comedy.

What have been the greatest challenges/frustrations of your career so far?

Just keeping going. Like many artists, my audience and influence may always be modest. We need to maintain energy for our own work and enjoy making things that we think are worthwhile.

What are the special challenges/pleasures of working on a commissioned piece?

Someone’s paying for it and they might be disappointed! They may also feel that their money allows them to influence aspects of the work.

What are the special challenges/pleasures of working with particular musicians, singers, ensembles and orchestras?

I have found myself more interested in working with people that I like rather than specific instruments or ensembles. There is more opportunity for a collaborative process, plus I started out playing in bands, and there you always chose members who you think you would get on with. For me its always people first, music second.

Of which works are you most proud?

Ask me twelve years ago and there was just one: Installation for String Quartet which I wrote specially for the greatly missed Elysian Quartet. Now I’ve got about ten that I’m really proud of. The Harmonic Canon has been particularly successful: it won a British Composer Award, has had 11 performances already with more to come, and sounds great on LP!

How would you characterise your compositional language?

Accessible and demanding, entertaining and odd, theatrical and percussive, crunchy and ambient. Sometimes funny.

How do you work?

I make most of my income from running the composition department at Trinity Laban so I have limited composition time. I think about pieces for a long time, plan the structures and context, then write the notes quite quickly. I’m also a sound engineer so I often plan how it will sound live and on recording from the very start.

Who are your favourite musicians/composers?

Conlon Nancarrow, Nobukazu Takemura, Henry Brant, Frank Zappa, James Chance, Roxy Music

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

Spending some good time with people because of music that I have made.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Take yourself and your work very seriously. But sometimes don’t.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

Exactly where I am now, but not having to drive the van and set the gear up myself.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Cooking amazing food for people I love.

What is your most treasured possession?

A picture that my father bought when I was a baby.

What do you enjoy doing most?

Two things. One of them is cooking.

Dominic Murcott’s new LP Harmonic Canon was released via nonclassical 10 May 2019.

Winner of BASCA British Composer Award 2018, Dominic Murcott’s composition features a one half-tonne double bell (created in collaboration with Marcus Vergette), an array of unusual metal percussion and virtuosic instruments.
‘I came up with the idea of a series of 21-minute pieces in conversation with Gabriel Prokofiev,’ says, Dominic. ‘The perfect length for one side of vinyl, it is also a message of intent and a gentle demand for the track-skipping listener.’
Part One is made up of rapid, high energy, virtuosic passages, articulated with the ominous striking of the bell while the second part contrasts with a single resonant tone that evolves and shifts over time. This is part of nonclassical’s new project, the 21 Minutes series.

Dominic Murcott is a composer, percussionist, curator and educator based in London. Much of his work combines acoustic instruments with computers, film and other media. He has a continuing interest in work that is personalised for specific performers and has created acoustic/electronic pieces for trumpeter Noel Langley, percussionist Joby Burgess, clarinetist Joan Enric Lluna, harpist Sioned Williams and the Elysian String Quartet among many others.

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