Matthew Reid: A Musical Life
- Listen to Berceuse by Sounds from a Box on Spotify
Toronto-based composer/sound designer/actor/writer Matthew Reid has been composing on the piano, and playing around with mathematics and Schönberg's early atonal works "just out of curiosity" as he says. He uses mathematics to create random pitches, which are then quantized digitally and turned into modal scales.
|composer/sound designer/actor/writer Matthew Reid, photo by Lisa Mark|
It sounds impossibly complicated. You can check out the results in the video at the bottom.
His recent piano work, collected in the EP Sounds in a Box, have become enormously popular on streaming services. He's the former music director of Second City, and composer of The Second City Guide to the Symphony & Mass Hysterical.
I asked Matthew a few questions about his work and career.
How/when did you first get into music - did you come from a musical family?
Very musical family. Music teachers and performers abound! My mom still directs choirs from the piano,well into retirement! My uncle was also the Music Director of Second City way back in the late 70s/early 80s so it’s cool to have that “family dynasty” there.
I think I started later than most. I think I was ten and I suddenly got really interested in the idea of writing music, so I figured I should learn to play the piano or guitar or something. That first piece I wrote did not sound as much as Tchaikovsky as I’d hoped. My mom taught piano, so we had plenty of classical sheet music on hand. I had an old graded book from the 30s that I wanted to bash through from page one to the end. Für Elise was considered a grade three piece back then! Soon after, my friends and I were forming little rock bands. We did covers and originals! It wasn’t until I heard the Well Tempered Clavier for the first time when I was 14 or 15 that I decided I wanted to be a composer. I thought fugues were the most fascinating things I’d ever heard! I spent the next five years exclusively focusing on trying to write them. It would be unlocking a secret to the universe!
In 2017, he composed the score for the multi-award winning short Green Lake
Ha ha. Really, I’ve only really “provoked” a few times. Some years ago I “autotuned” John Cage’s 4’33” to a C major chord progression. Recently, as you saw, I pitch-quantized some of Schonberg’s early atonal works to make them sound like Debussy. I was also going to pitch quantize a Boulez piece with a dance club beat under it: Le Marteau, Remastered. Didn’t get around to it yet. There’s obviously a lot of fun to be had with the world of modern music, but little of it came from the inside. But these little teases, I hoped to be musically interesting in their own rights. “You autotuned air??” So, in these cases, it was jokes for a very niche audience that inspired innovation.