Composer Spotlight Q&A: Thomas Metcalf

Thomas Metcalf is a Scottish composer and researcher based in Edinburgh. His music explores the generation of musical material through non-musical phenomena, with an increasing focus on hybrid notations and gestural rhetoric.

Thomas recently took part in our annual development opportunity for composers' in association with Red Note Ensemble composing a piece of music for voice and viola which was premiered at soundfestival 2022. 

What stage are you at in your career right now?

My career involves both academic research and composition, and I am currently on my first postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Edinburgh, researching the connections between photography and 20th-century music: 

Tell us about a favourite piece of music that you have written.

A piece that I particularly enjoyed writing was LIVING SENSE DATUM for large choir, a commission as part of the Young Composers Scheme for the National Youth Choir of Great Britain. The highly collaborative approach to workshopping, rehearsal, and recording allowed me to be conceptually bolder than I have been in the past; in a way it’s a piece I’ve wanted to write for some time, exploring graphic notations for large ensemble, and this was an ideal opportunity. 

It's due for release on NMC Recordings in January 2023, alongside another work H(AI)KU and 6 other works from the Young Composers.

What are your compositional aspirations?

To write music worth listening to.

Which composer has most inspired you and why?

Cornelius Cardew (1936-1981). I researched Cardew for my doctorate and subsequently for further work. I find his biography interesting in of itself, but the ways in which this affected his music, particularly in notation and (in)determinacy, has had value to me as a composer for several years. His trajectory from modernist, to experimentalist, to propagandist – with compositions that reflect this – is quite unique. 

1. Three Winter Potatoes (1961-1965)

2. Consciously (compilation album mostly from the 1970s)

What would you consider to be a dream commission?

Anything for a large ensemble: the bigger the better!

If you could describe your work in three words, what would they be?

Not too sure.

What music have you been listening to lately that you would recommend to others?

  1. String Quartet No. 4 ,Pascal Dusapin (1997)

2. Ipsa Dixit (2010-2016), Kate Soper

3. Raw Data Feel (2022), Everything Everything

Listen and follow on Twitter  Website