Commissioned by BBC Radio 3 Matthew’s piece Requiem deconstructs Beethoven along with the instruments of a traditional string quartet. Matthew says:
‘for some time, i’ve been trying to make sense of why we’re not clearer about the recent revolution in music. we used to need musical instruments but now we can make music out of anything. why is it never described as a revolution? it’s a huge shift in the very idea of what music is and what it can be made from. why use a violin when you can use an angle grinder? why use an angle grinder when you can use a branch of sports direct? why use a branch of sports direct when you can use a forest fire in indonesia?
requiem then is a piece that tries to make that shift explicit, from the possibilities of a musical instrument to the possibilities of new textures and timbre afforded to us by microphones and tape. it’s a chance to hear musical instruments in a different way. it is trying to create a moment of punctuation.
it’s definitely not about destroying or belittling the work of beethoven, quite the opposite, but instead about suggesting our potential pallette of noises is so much wider than a violin now that it would be hard to imagine someone like beethoven writing a straight string quartet were he alive today. it’s a requiem for the tools of the past rather than the music of the past.
the instruments themselves that we used to smash up to make the noises were the cheapest ones available. we wanted to use junk shop instruments but the film crew needed more than one of each as backup. in fact, the new instruments are so badly made that they didn’t hold a tune and were virtually unplayable. the instruments then also came to represent a disposable, consumer society where cheapness is a virtue above all else. after all, these instruments aren’t fit for purpose and any person learning to play on them would struggle to create a decent sound and no doubt give up shortly afterwards. fast forward a couple of years and they’ll be in landfill. consequently, and somewhat ironically they became an ideal representation of why playing the violin in the normal way is unlikely to move music along in 2016.
the piece then is about sound, about new ways of listening, about hearing a quartet through new ears, and is a call to arms for myself if nobody else not to squander the revolution we’ve stumbled upon and the new freedoms we’ve inherited.’