My good friend Henry Potts has conducted a very fruitful on-line interview here with contemporary composer Colin Riley, whose work drew itself to his attention, in the first instance, via the recent interesting collaboration with pianocircus and drummer Bill Bruford. The following question was one of mine, and the following two if I recall correctly.
On your MySpace page, you describe yourself as a "composer of no fixed indoctrination" and you've talked about using "non-classical" instruments. How do you go about being "of no fixed indoctrination"? Others generally label you as "contemporary classical": is that term still relevant, and how would you situate yourself in relation to it?
CR: Now … how long have you got? ... I feel very much that this is an exciting time for new music and that the meeting up of the worlds of the avant-garde, of rock, pop, electronic, world music etc. has meant that musical aesthetics have been challenged. The commercial world of buying and selling music (whether in traditional record stores or over the internet) still requires categories, but increasingly we are seeing a healthy proliferation of music which is being made where these are largely swept aside. As with many notions of style, we can see that once you travel in one direction far enough you are likely to come back on yourself. If you look at the world of 'free improvising' for instance it can appear very close to the soundworld of complex, heavily-composed avant-garde composition.
The term 'contemporary classical' really does not mean anything now I don't think. The word composer is becoming pretty hard to define as well. I think that many creators of music are quite wary of working outside their comfort zone in terms of how they feel that they will be perceived by say the media. I've long since given up on this whole rat-race. I'm sure some people regard my music as discordant and difficult, whilst others will scorn it as popularist, simplistic and possibly even crowd-pleasing. The only measure I use is that I compose music that I wish to hear.
[Picture: (c) Tim Whitehead]