Martin Suckling was born in Glasgow in 1981. After spending his teenage years performing in the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and in ceilidh bands around Scotland, Suckling studied music at Clare College Cambridge and King’s College London.  He was a Paul Mellon Fellow at Yale University from 2003-5, undertook doctoral research at the Royal Academy of Music, and subsequently became a Stipendiary Lecturer in Music at Somerville College, Oxford.  His teachers include George Benjamin, Robin Holloway, Paul Patterson, Martin Bresnick, Ezra Laderman, and Simon Bainbridge.  He has benefited from residencies at the Royal Shakespeare Company, Aldeburgh Festival, Aspen, and IRCAM, and has won numerous awards including the 2008 Royal Philharmonic Society Composition Prize and a Philip Leverhulme Prize.  He is Senior Lecturer in Composition at the University of York.

 

What drew you to a career in music?

It is what I always wanted to do. I’m sorry that’s such a dull / stereotypical answer, but it’s true. I don’t think I ever really considered anything else. 

How would you describe your work?

I confess I generally try not to! I’d rather people listened; facetiously I might suggest that if I could describe it in words I wouldn’t bother writing the notes. But when I’m pressed, rather than describe the music, I attempt to say what is important to me in new music: joy in the sound as sound; joy in the sound as physical act; a richness, a multivalency; a seeking-to-communicate, inviting people in; unpredictability. . .
 
More prosaically: I’m still fascinated in the effects generated by meaningfully-arranged sequences of pitch and pitch-combinations (ie: harmonic progressions; melodies). I like microtones too, very much, though I think it’s easy to get diverted into pointless rabbit-holes of competing ‘only true intonation system’ polemics. 

What positive and negative aspects have you found lockdown has had on your work?

For some time I’ve wanted to make a piece specifically for online viewing.  I think there’s a really close relationship between the site of a performance and the type of musical experience that is most effective in it, and far too often music experienced online is just a filmed version of a live concert – in other words something designed for a different sort of venue.  I’ve felt this even more intensely during lockdown: so many wonderful performances have been made available for viewing online, and while this is great it has also underlined for me that what I really miss in live performance is that aspect of being there, of connecting with people in a room. You can’t do this online (or not in the same way – I’m not going to get into the potential merits or otherwise of livechat on youtube videos) but there are lots of things you can do online which you can’t ‘in real life’. One of these is to use the potential for interactivity, for the user having some control over what they are experiencing. The musical possibilities (and challenges!) are also rather different to what is available in a live setting. Without lockdown this would probably have remained a thought bubbling in the back of my head for some time, but the situation made it an urgent idea. Happily Scottish Ensemble arranged a collaboration with Scottish Dance Theatre and over a number of Zoom calls and a gloriously messy Padlet, Jonathan Morton (violin), Joan Clevillé (choreography), Joao Castro (dance), Genevieve Reeves (cinematography) and I made these bones, this flesh, this skin, the process of which has been one of the warmest, most joyful creative experiences of my life.
 
Negatively: I teach at the University of York, a job which I love and am hugely privileged to have; but the admin this virus has generated, the endless admin! (A colleague likes to refer to it as the ‘magic porridge pot’. I’m not a huge fan of porridge.) In practical terms, things I had hoped to be writing I have not been writing.

 

these bones, this flesh, this skin, Martin’s collaboration with the Scottish Ensemble and the Scottish Dance Theatre goes live on Wednesday 5th August 2020.

Watch here

 

Martin’s work is published by Faber Music, and you can see the collection on their website.

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