Yale University School of Music
New Haven, CT
D.M.A., Music Composition
Yale University School of Music
New Haven, CT
M.M.A., Music Composition
Thesis: A New Compleat Theory for the Highland Bagpipe
M.A., Music Composition
Simon Fraser University
Vancouver, BC, Canada
B.F.A., Music Composition and Interdisciplinary Contemporary Art
Aaron Jay Kernis - Yale School of Music
Martin Bresnick - Yale School of Music
David Lang - Yale School of Music
Christopher Theofanidis - Yale School of Music
Anthony Braxton - Wesleyan University
Alvin Lucier - Wesleyan University
Rodney Sharman - Simon Fraser University
Barry Truax - Simon Fraser University
Field Study of Modern and Traditional Philippine Music
in-field studies of both Manila-based hybrid classical music and Cordillera-based gong, bamboo and vocal traditions.
Counterpoint and Harmony
Extensive private training with Paul Caputo in counterpoint and harmony
Field Study in Bali
with I Gusti Ngurah Rai, I Made Subandi, I Gusti Sudarta, Dewa Wayan Rai, I Made Heboh, Agus Teja Sentosa, I Made Sudirana
Ostrava New Music Days
masterclasses with Louis Andriessen, Christian Wolff, Jean-Yves Bosseur, Maria de Alvear, Zolt Nagy
Studies with Highland Bagpipe gold medalists
Colin MacLellan, Michael Cusack, P/M Iain MacLellan BEM, James MacIntosh MBE, Jack Lee, P/M Angus J. MacLellan, Andrew Wright
The Finger Lock, Kotekan Records 101
Final Answer, (with San francisco Girls Chorus), Orange Mountain Music 126
Blarvuster, Tzadik #8077
Luminosity, Porter Records #4037
Bhima Swarga, Tzadik DVD #3007
Dream Tigers, Tzadik Records #8015
Hag at the Churn, NewSonic #33
Ceol Nua, Leo Records #336
Additional Performance Discography
John Zorn, There Is No More Firmament, Tzadik 8352
Conductor for In Excelsis and Antiphonal Fanfare, conducting the American Brass Quintet and the Practical Trumpet Society.
Anthony Braxton. Trillium E, NBH 901
Assistant conductor for 4 Act opera, assistant producer
Julia Wolfe. Dark Full Ride, Cantaloupe CA21058
Performance LAD for 9 bagpipers (overdubbed)
Alvin Lucier. Ever Present, Mode #178
Performance of Lucier’s Piper
David Watson. Fingering an Idea, XI Records #132
Performance of Dexter.
Anthony Braxton. Composition No. 247, Leo Records LR306
Anthony Braxton: 10 Solo Bagpipe Compositions, Parallactic #36
SELECTED AWARDS AND HONORS
Asian Cultural Council Fellowship for research in the Philippines
Friedmann/ Yale School of Music Best Dissertation Prize
Twice nominated for the Herbert Alpert Award
Carson McCullers Center, Columbus State University Composer In Residence
Roulette/Jerome Commission for Blarvuster and Borges and the Other
Commission from the Jerome Foundation for Ethos Percussion Group
Roulette/Jerome Foundation Commission for Blarvuster
Guest Curator, The Stone, NYC
1999, 2001, 2011
World Pipe Band Championships, Glasgow, Scotland
SELECTED INTERPRETERS AND COMMISSIONS
San Francisco Girls Chorus Commission
Music at the Anthology (MATA) Festival Commission
Kubrik Quartet via the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival
Ethos Percussion Group, a Jerome Foundation commission
Dither Electric Guitar Quartet, Odd Appetite Duo
Columbus State University Percussion Ensemble
SELECTED RECENT PERFORMANCES
And Here We Are, a 2-act shadow puppetry opera, National Sawdust, NYC.
Level, a chamber opera, at Symphony Space, NYC.
Featured composer in Jazzwerkstatt , Bern Switzerland
Salute on the Birth of Rory Mor, commissioned and performed by the San Francisco Girls Chorus
Comala’s Song, performed by Oslo’s Ensemble neoN, MATA Festival, NYC
Blarvuster at Celtic Connections Music Festival, Glasgow, Scotland
Composer Retrospective Residency at The Stone, NYC, 11 concerts performed from December 8th-13th, featuring ensembles: Cantata Profana, Suzana Bartal, The Library of Babel, Clocks in Motion Percussion Quartet, Dan Friel, Blarvuster, Mantra Percussion and Gamelan Dharma Swara.
Loch Fyne Variations, performed by Clocks in Motion, Heartland Marimba Festival
And Here We Are, an opera in progress, performed by Blarvuster, produced by Experiments in Opera, performed at Roulette, NYC
SISYPHUS, a collaborative one-act opera, produced by Experiments in Opera, performed at Abrons Art Center, NYC
The Finger Lock, performed by Blarvuster, New Music Gathering, San Francisco
Barbarella, a video opera, presented by Experiments in Opera and Abrons Art Center, NYC
Blarvuster premieres The Finger Lock, at the Switchboard Music Festival, San Francisco
The Mutt, a radio opera, performed with Dither, presented by Experiments in Opera, Q2 Radio and Abrons Art Center, NYC
We Love You Madly, for Ensemble Proton, presented by Jazzwerkstatt Bern, Swizerland
ReAnimator Requiem, a choral opera and requiem, presented by Experiments in Opera, NYC
The Three Truths, a robot opera, presented by American Composers Alliance, Symphony Space, NYC
The Favrile Opalescence, a concerto for bagpipes and percussion ensemble, commissioned and presented by The Schwob School of Music, Columbus State University, Columbus, GA
Borges and The Other, a two-act opera, performed by Blarvuster, presented by Experiments in Opera at Roulette, NYC
On Early and Late Feldman, DRAM
Exclusive score publishing with American Composers Alliance
Crossover Melodies, from Arcana II, Hips Road, New York
SELECTED CONDUCTING/ENSEMBLE DIRECTING
conducting Blarvuster and Mantra in the premiere of And Here We Are
San Francisco Girls Chorus, workshop in world music, extended techniques and improvisation, Healdsburg, CA
Musical Direction for Julia Wolfe’s LAD, Jacaranda Music, Los Angeles
SISYPHUS, conducted by Matthew Welch, Abrons Art Center, NYC
John Zorn’s brass music with the American Brass Quintet and The Practical Trumpet Society, NYC
A Chorus of All Souls concert by Experiments in Opera, conducting my choral opera ReAnimator Requiem and Jason Cady’s choral opera Nostalgia Kills You, NYC
Zephyrus Project Orchestra and RiteNow project co-producer, New Haven, CT
Assistant conductor of Tri-Centric Orchestra for Anthony Braxton’s four-act opera, Trillium E, New Haven, CT
Musical Director for premiere of Julia Wolfe’s LAD for nine bagpipes, Bang on a Can Marathon, NYC
Co-conductor for the premiere of Anthony Braxton’s #19 for 100 Tubas at the Bang on a Can Marathon, NYC
Pipe Major and Primary Instructor for Robert Malcolm Memorial Pipe Band, Stone of Destiny Pipe Band, FFM Pipe Band, New York Metro Pipe Band, and New York Metro JR Youth Program
And Here We Are, a shadow puppetry opera in 2 Acts, 90 minutes. Premiered by Blarvuster and Mantra Percussion with the composer conducting at National Sawdust, NYC, May 6, 2018. Produced by Experiments in Opera
Level, a chamber opera for mezzo-soprano, tenor, flute, piano, cello, bass and percussion, 10 minutes. Symphony Space May 5-6, 2017.
Salute on the Birth of Rory Mor, for San Francisco Girls Chorus, 6 minutes. Premiere to be held December 19 at Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco
Comala’s Song, a mono-drama for soprano and septet, 17 minutes. Premiered April 12, Scandinavia House, NYC, for Ensemble neoN and Ultima Festival (Oslo) and MATA
Dhammapada Cantata, For mezzo-soprano, baritone and sextet, 11 minutes. Commissioned by Cantata Profana
SISYPHUS, an opera in one act. Composed in collaboration with Experiments in Opera. Soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, cello, vibraphone and contrabass, 70 minutes. Premiered February 13 at Abrons Art Center, NYC
Barbarella, a film trailer opera, for mezzo-soprano, narrator, video and electronics. Produced by the composer and Experiments in Opera, premiered May 2 and 3, NYC
The Mutt, a radio opera for voice, 2 electric guitars and electronics, 13 minutes. An opera as imaginary interview documentary about the master skateboarder Rodney Mullen. Premiered by Experiments in Opera, Feb 28.
ReAnimator Requiem, for choir (ssaattbb), electric guitar, bass guitar and drums, 30 minutes. Premiered November 2 at Abrons Art Center NYC, produced by Experiments in Opera, with the composer conducting
The Three Truths, a Robot Micro-Opera, 12 minutes. Premiered as an Experiments in Opera production with Hotel Elefant performing, Anne Rhodes and Jeffrey Gavett soloists, Paolo Bortolameolli conducting, Actors Fund Center, NYC, Feb 9
Borges and the Other, a 2-act opera with text by the composer and adapted from Jorge Luis Borges for an expanded version of Blarvuster: 2 mezzo-soprani, tenor and baritone, SATB chorus, flute, viola, 2 electric guitars, piano, bass guitar, vibraphone, drum set, 85 minutes. The opera can be divided into subsets, each of the 2 acts and the choral tableaux may be performed separately or in small combinations, in order to form a shorter opera. First premiered 2007 (act two scenes), and with a full premiere May 11, 2012. Performed by Blarvuster at Roulette (NYC) with the composer conducting. Borges and the Other has received funding from the Jerome Foundation via Roulette, and segments have been performed at Roulette, The Stone, Le Poisson Rouge, and Rider University.
“We Love You Madly”, for chamber orchestra (flute/picc, clarinet, Lupophon, Kontraforte, trumpet, trombone, tuba, harp, piano, violin, vc, drum set), 14 minutes. Premiered at and commissioned by the Jazzwerkstatt, Bern Switzerland with the composer conducting guest soloists and Ensemble Proton, February 16.
Ritual Fall, for bagpipe and orchestra (of variable size). Premiered November 17 with the composer as soloist, Paolo Bortolameolli conducting the Zephrus Project Orchestra.
Sudamala, for Highland Bagpipe and Orchestra, 11 minutes.. Premiered by Yale Philharmonia, composer as soloist, Jonathan Brandini conducting, New Haven, CT, Dec. 6
The Favrile Opalescence, a concerto for Solo Highland Bagpipe and Percussion Sextet, 13 minutes. Premiered and commissioned by Columbia State University Percussion Ensemble, Paul Vaillancourt directing, composer as soloist, October
from Orbis Tertius, for Highland Bagpipe and Brass Septet (picc trumpet, 3 tpt, tbne, bs tbne, tba), 8 minutes. Premiered by the composer and the Yale Philharmonia, Paolo Bortolameolli conducting, New Haven, CT, Feb 2
The Mosaic of Iridescence,. For Blarvuster: Bagpipe/alto sax/voice, flute/piccolo, viola, electric guitar, bass guitar and drum kit, 45-75 minutes. Premiered by Blarvuster at The Stone, NYC, February 23, 2010. Re-orchestrated for Ensemble Proton, Bern, Switzerland, and premiered Feb 16, 2014
The Sound of the Waves Against Castle Duntroon, for bagpipes and percussion quartet, 10 minutes. Commissioned by Clocks in Motion, and premiered December 10 at The Stone, NYC.
12 Etudes for Piano, for Suzana Bartal, 30 minutes, December 8 at The Stone, NYC
Lumba-Lumba Hijau, for bass clarinet and 5-octave marimba, 7 minutes, commissioned and premiered by Transient Canvas, September 12
Beriberi Blues, for two acting percussionists, 2 glockenspiels and two Filipino bamboo buzzers (Balimbing), 10-12 minutes. Commissioned by Radical 2 percussion duo
Cumha Na Marbh - Requiem aeternam dona eis (Sting Quartet #2) for violin, violin, viola and cello, 2013, 13 minutes. Premiered at Norfolk, CT July 27, commissioned by Astrid Baumgardner and premiered by the Kubrik Quartet
Lagu Campur Dua, for 7-tone Balinese gamelan gender wayang (or two marimbas), 8 minutes. Premiered by the composer and Gamelan Wira Surya of Wesleyan University as part of New Music New Haven at Yale University, New Haven, CT, March 1
"...for fear that my shadow may enter the world...", (new expanded version), for flute/piccolo, violin, cello and percussion (triangle and glockenspiel), 7 minutes. Premiered by The Cadillac Moon Ensemble at Issue Project Room, June 17
Melos Senis, for bagpipe and brass quartet (picc trpt, trpt, tbne, tba), 4 minutes. Premiered by the composer and musicians in NYC, March 12
Loch Fyne Variations, for percussion quartet (glockenspiel, xylophone, vibraphone and marimba), 10 minutes. Commissioned by Ethos Percussion with funds from the Jerome Foundation. Premiered by Ethos Percussion, NYC, April 15
The Secret Labyrith of Ts'ui Pen, for clarinet, percussion (vb/mar), piano, violin and cello, 7 minutes. Commissioned and performed by The Transit Quintet, Nov. 14
Variasi Ombak, for flute, viola, harp and two percussion (vibraphone and marimba/crotales), 10 minutes. Commissioned and premiered by Percussia with the composer conducting Sept. 6
Colloquy of the Birds, for bagpipe and electric guitar quartet, 10 minutes. Commissioned by Dither Quartet, Premiered by the composer and Dither Quartet May 4
Ulrikke, for cello and percussion (vb, xyl, gong), 10 minutes. Commissioned and premiered by Odd Appetite with funds from Music At The Anthology Jan. 25
The House of Asterion, for piano and violin ad libitum, 7 minutes. Premiered by Emily Manzo (solo piano version) Oct. 26 (ad libitum performed also in July as version for electric guitar)
Siubhal Turnlar, for string quartet, 2004, 25 minutes. Premiered by the Flux Quartet (premiere June 20, 2005). (featured on Matthew Welch CD Dream Tigers on Tzadik Records 8015, 2005)
Bagpipes, Blarvuster, Gamelan, and Other Works
The Finger Lock, for Blarvuster, bagpipe/sax/voice with electric guitar, bass guitar and drumset, 30 minutes. Commissioned by and premiered at the Switchboard Music Festival, San Francisco, CA, April 12
The Mosaic of Iridescence, for Blarvuster, Bagpipe/alto sax/voice, flute/piccolo, viola, electric guitar, bass guitar and drum kit, 45-75 minutes. Premiered by Blarvuster at The Stone, NYC, February 23. Reorchestrated for Ensemble Proton, Bern CH, and premiered Feb 16, 2014
Blind Piper's Obstinacy #2 - The Unjust Incarceration, for Blarvuster, Bagpipe/alto sax, flute/piccolo, viola, electric guitar, bass guitar and drum kit, flexible duration of 30-60 minutes. Commissioned by RPI-EMPAC, premiered by the composer and Blarvuster April 25
Bhima Swarga, for Balinese Gamelan Semara Dana, electronics and saxophone (in collaboration with video and electronics on the part of Ikue Mori), 40 minutes, performed 2006, 2007, 2008, 2015 by Ikue Mori, Welch and Gamelan Dharmaswara. Premiered July 1, 2006. (Collaboration released on Tzadik DVD edition #3007, 2007)
Blind Piper's Obstinacy, for bagpipe, electric guitar, bass guitar and drum kit (open to additional instrumentation), flexible duration of 30-60 minutes. Premiered and performed by Blarvuster
Blarvuster Songbook, a collection of 10 compositions for the composer's ensemble Blarvuster (bagpipes/soprano sax/vocals, flutes, viola, electric guitar, electric bass, drum kit/glockenspiel), 45 minutes. Premiered and performed by Blarvuster. Titles include: High Street, Song 1, Song 2, Bottums Up, Gorgamor the Giant Gecko, Pak Gusti Aji (all available on the Tzadik release Matthew Welch: Blarvuster, Tzadik 8077), Jigs and Academic Quadrangle
“Bountiful and heartfelt creativity”
“The ensemble’s border-busting music is original and catchy. . . Blarvuster is worth sticking around for.”
– The New York Times
“Ultra-refined, globally sourced chamber music, exquisitely ethereal, made up of delicate, transparent textures that hum with expressive tension. If Mr. Welch were a chef, he’d be the kind who pushes the boundaries of molecular gastronomy, transforming earthy ingredients into translucent beads of pure flavor.”
– The New York Times
“Blarvuster is a characteristic leap of the imagination… makes you truly believe that whole Celto-Indo funk fusion tradition has been around for years.”
– Wire Magazine
“leaps vast geographical distances, imagining statistically implausible musical melting pots that sound utterly natural”
– Time Out New York
“Unsure whether I was enthralled or traumatised, I’ve sought out Blarvuster’s music since, and it’s kept me coming back for more. Matthew Welch’s singular experiments remind me of when I first heard Martyn Bennett try out something new and daring. Blarvuster is just as exciting, just as daring.”
– Folk Radio UK
“Welch found a path to something I never thought I’d hear: the bagpipe as a lyric instrument, capable of poetic expression as well as martial aggressiveness. Welch showed how its challenges — when faced with imagination, physical strength and mental concentration – can be transcended.”
– San Diego Union-Tribune
“Welch’s music is stirring, urgent and pulsating… with a strong sense of place, built on solid musical values.”
“Among Welch’s performing virtues I would include stamina—he played for over an hour and a half without a break—as well as technical and interpretive prowess that tamed an unyielding instrument to his will. If there were skeptics in the audience, I am willing to bet they were won over by his commanding performance.”
– San Diego Story
“some serious bagpipe wizardry… as far as I can tell, Matt Welch must be the Eddie Van Halen of the bagpipes.”
– Pop Matters
And Here We Are: Voice vs Volume
by John Hohmann
May 10, 2018
Welch’s music is stirring, urgent and pulsating. He has imbued his jazzy score with a perfect degree of exoticism that grows from memory rather than harsh reality. This is a sophisticated composition with a strong sense of place, built on solid musical values.
Riveting instrumental work: The musicians were consistently magnificent. Ben Holmes on trumpet was especially notable. His stolid presence, which would have, inadvertently, been center stage had there been a conventional stage, grounded the evening. With flawless technique, he employed several mandrels to produce steady, penetrating and remarkably diverse sound. Joe Bergman, Chris Graham, Mark Utley and Joe Tucker on percussion and drums provided rhythmic support and crucial atmospheric detail. Ian Riggs was solid on bass guitar with foreboding but forward moving playing.
And Here We Are points to the value of organizations like Experiments In Opera. This appears to be a work that is finding its way, or perhaps forging its own path, in the genre. It wholly deserves the opportunity to evolve that EIO has provided. There is abundant merit to the composition… this is an experiment that could occupy a place of note in opera’s future.
Review: Final Answer
by Donald Rosenberg
“Most of the works on the newest release from the San Francisco Girls Chorus are receiving their first recordings, which brings up a pertinent question: will this music ever sound any more vital or affecting? The bagpipes that catapult Matthew Welch’s Salute on the Birth of Rory Mor are played by the composer in a work of bountiful and heartfelt creativity.”
San Diego Union-Tribune
From marches to lullabies, bagpiper Matthew Welch energizes Fresh Sound series with virtuosic panache
September 17, 2017
“As he moved into non-traditional works, his own compositions as well as music by minimalist Philip Glass and jazz legend Anthony Braxton, Welch found a path to something I never thought I’d hear: the bagpipe as a lyric instrument, capable of poetic expression as well as martial aggressiveness.”
July 16, 2017
“Level, by Matthew Welch was a humorous tale of male neurosis . . . Musically, I found this to be the most successful of all six operas. Welch employed wonderful effects. His glissandi passages gave a strong dizzying sense of vertigo, and his chord choices were beautiful.”
The New York Times
by Vivien Schweitzer
June 22, 2016
“During concerts in outdoor spaces, music often has to compete with urban din. But all extraneous noise was blocked by the loud, joyous sounds produced by a small procession of Highland bagpipers and bass woodwinds holding court in Long Island City.”
“The piece they played, “Windchime,” was the brainchild of three composer-performers, including the bagpiper Matthew Welch. After filing into Court Square together, the musicians dispersed throughout the small park, playing notes arranged to coincide with areas of the space. At various points, the trills, tremolos, dynamic swells and flickers of melody that emerged over the steady drone of the bagpipes meshed into colorful surges that did indeed evoke wind chimes. At the conclusion of the work, watched by construction and office workers lunching in the park, the participants gathered by the fountain to play “Amazing Grace.”
by Porter Anderson
April 19, 2016
“An avant-garde bagpiper may not be the guy you expect to meet, even here at our eclectic Music for Writers. But last week, that’s exactly who MATA Festival audiences in New York heard from.
Matthew Welch’s MATA-commissioned Comala’s Song was given its World Premiere on Tuesday, and he improvised with fellow MATA-commissionee Helen Papaioannou and ICE’s Ryan Muncy in the MATA Funhouse program on Thursday.
Notice one of the areas in which Welch is a lot like many of our #MusicForWriters composers: he’s a performer, too. This latter-day resurgence of performing composers on the contemporary classical scene is one of the most intriguing elements of the widening story we focus on in these interviews…”
The New York Times
by Anthony Tommasini
April 13, 2016
The American Matthew Welch’s “Comala’s Song,” a monodrama for soprano (here the sweet-voiced Silje Aker Johnsen) and seven instruments (conducted by Magnus Loddgard), tells a Gaelic myth in appealing music of lapping figures, sensual harmonies and delicate vocal lines.
Folk Radio UK
by Neil Mcfadyen
February 5, 2016
“Blarvuster insinuate their way into the general sound then open their funk machine wide. And the fun really begins. The music moves in peaks and troughs throughout their 30 minute exploration. Minimalist Phillip Glass-like cadences traversing a spectrum that ranges from a throaty rumble to primal scream, in a performance that exhibits a startling range…”
“Unsure whether I was enthralled or traumatised, I’ve sought out Blarvuster’s music since, and it’s kept me coming back for more. Despite the ever changing menu available to those who feast on the delights Celtic Connections offers, I’ve thought about it, listened to more, and find Matthew Welch’s singular experiments remind me of when I first heard Martyn Bennett try out something new and daring. Blarvuster isn’t an attempt to continue in the same vein, or to emulate Martyn’s work; but it’s just as exciting, just as daring.” -Neil Mcfadyen
Matthew Welch Music: Three Residency Concerts
by Jean Ballard Terepka
December 18, 2015
“Sustained deep thinking about the paradoxes and paradigms of music as a form of human inquiry across time and culture enrich his work. Welch’s compositions are also radically hospitable: they invite listeners into ideas and speculations, travels, excursions and immersions…”
“Welch’s music is unexpected. It lives in a vibrant place that is formal and informal, cerebral and funky, demanding, exacting, tender, sentimental, grand and full of bravura, humble and down to earth. No wonder musicians of all sorts enjoy working with him. And, no doubt, as Welch continues to bring his many projects to fruition, bigger audiences will begin enjoying Welch’s first-rate music, too.” -Jean Ballard Terepka
The New York Times
Review: Matthew Welch Offers Ethereal Chamber Music At The Stone
by Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim
December 9, 2015
“Much of the resulting chamber music is exquisitely ethereal, made up of delicate, transparent textures that hum with expressive tension. If Mr. Welch were a chef, he’d be the kind who pushes the boundaries of molecular gastronomy, transforming earthy ingredients into translucent beads of pure flavor.”
“The audience was spellbound.”
“I found myself wishing for more of his ultra-refined, globally sourced chamber music.” -Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim
by Roark Littlefield
February 16, 2015
"Sisyphus is at times witty, comical and poignant."
"The score, for vibraphone, cello, contrabass and modular synthesizer, is enchanting and often quite gripping.”
"All of the elements come together at that moment to produce a beautiful combination of image and sound."
"All of the singing is first-rate...It is a solid cast of talented performers."
"...certainly a daring experiment for three talented composers. Fortunately it is also a highly interesting one to experience.”
San Francisco City Center
by Michael Strickland
January 17, 2015
"Blarvuster, led by composer/performer Matthew Welch on sax, bagpipes and vocals above, with the wildly energetic Will Northlich-Redmond on electric guitar, Jordan Glenn on drums, and Aaron Germain on bass below. They played a long piece called The Finger Lock that was loud, jazzy, and thoroughly entertaining, particularly when Welch vocalized in some unknown language and then trooped around the auditorium playing his bagpipe while the band rocked out onstage.”
“14 Artists Who Are Transforming The Future Of Opera”
by Priscilla Frank
August 20, 2014
“Although The Met may not be tapping into today's boldest operatic experiments, that's not to say they're not out there. The artists below are some of our favorite opera innovators, toying with non-linear narratives, unusual instruments and new media, to name a few. Some take inspiration from subject matter we'd never expect to see on an opera stage, from gentrification to bad shroom trips to Milli Vanilli. There are singers, directors, composers and those who roam the spaces in between. Before you claim opera is dead, take a look at some of the most avant-garde players in the game today.”
“Welch is a composer known for his works with solo instruments, chambers and non-western instruments. He's also the co-founder of Experiments in Opera and has been been dubbed "the Eddie Van Halen of the bagpipes." His original opera, "Borges and the Other," features adapted stories by Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges performed by two tenors and a seven-piece band. In the opera Borges, in a dream state, encounters himself at a different age in life.” -Priscilla Frank
The Wall Street Journal
“Waves of Opera Exploration: Audio-Only Operas Explore Stamp Collecting, Skateboarding and More,”
by Pia Catton,
February 27, 2014
“The skateboarding piece, titled "The Mutt," is "in the style of an interview given by one person," said Mr. Welch. The central character is inspired by Rodney Mullen, a skateboarding legend and a godfather of the sport, surrounded by two electric guitars and skateboarding sound effects.
If the nine-minute piece pushes the boundaries of the medium, that is part of the point.
"Can we call it opera?" asks Mr. Welch. "The lack of visuals was the inspiration for the instrumental writing."
"They are exploring what opera means” -Pia Catton
New York Times
“An Operatic Monster Mash: Experiments in Opera Presents ‘Chorus of All Souls’,”
by Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim
November 4, 2013
“Mr. Welch’s “ReAnimator Requiem” blends the Latin Mass for the dead with references to H. P. Lovecraft’s short story “Herbert West - Reanimator” (later turned into a horror film), about a scientist who breathes life into corpses and body parts. Over an instrumental ensemble of electric guitars and drums, the story is told entirely by a chorus of medical students surrounding a sheet-covered corpse. The music had a jaunty drive…” -Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim
New Music Box
“Matthew Welch: Finding Ground in the Uncommon,”
by Frank J. Oteri
June 13, 2012
Most music nowadays is some kind of cultural hybrid, but rarely is someone as all over the map as Matthew Welch. Welch’s music is the by-product of an unlikely blend—Indonesian gamelan, Scottish bagpipes, and indie rock. While these types of music might initially seem completely unrelated, Welch has found his compositional voice in their common ground.
If you analyze each of these musical traditions, you will find connections. For example, gamelan music and rock rely heavily on repetition and infectious rhythmic cycles. Music traditionally played on pipes or by gamelan is frequently pentatonic. Pipes and rock can both be deafeningly loud. But the arrival at such a synthesis is nevertheless an unusual destination, especially since the sources are so geographically scattered. Yet to hear Welch describe the origins of his one-of-a-kind journey, it almost comes across as an all-American coming of age story. Well, sort of:
“When I became aware that I wanted to be a musician and gravitated toward something slightly different, pop was the accessible model. I got really into They Might Be Giants as a kid and that inspired me to pick up the accordion. But it wasn’t as pungent as I thought it would be, and within a year I was on pipes. […] I grew up in a pretty small town in the panhandle of Florida and there happened to be an Irish pub there that sponsored a pipe band; it was basically me and a bunch of old pipers that they would teach for free. Me and my family would go to the mall on Saturday afternoon and they’d drop me off for a piping lesson.”
Gamelan entered his life somewhat later, also through serendipity. The large classroom where Welch studied music as an undergrad at Vancouver’s Simon Fraser University had a gamelan stored in the corner, which distracted him during his lessons and made him eager to experiment with it. Over time this curiosity became a way for Welch to explore counterpoint, something he was unable to do with bagpipes since they can only play a constant drone underneath whatever melody is played on them. Eventually he went to Bali, bringing his pipes along to jam with local musicians there, and it all clicked for him.
To create opportunities for these disparate musical languages to converse with each other, Welch, like so many musicians before him, formed his own group. But even among the myriad composer-led performance vehicles scattered across our landscape, Welch’s idiosyncratic combination of bagpipes, flute, viola, keyboards, electric guitars, bass, and drums stands out. Equal parts rock band and contemporary music ensemble, it even has an extremely unusual name—Blarvuster. Says Welch:
“Ten years ago it seemed that I wanted to have this esoteric name that sounded like a Scandinavian metal band, but Blarvuster is the name of a tune from the most ancient bagpipe music called pibroch. This was the oldest tune that I could find in the printed repertoire and curiously it was very minimalist; it seems like it could have been a Steve Reich piece.”
While Blarvuster remains his primary compositional outlet, Welch has also composed over 70 works for all sorts of combinations, including a particularly gorgeous Southeast Asian-inspired string quartet called Siubhal Turnlar (performed by the Flux Quartet on a composer portrait CD called Dream Tigers that was released by John Zorn’s Tzadik label in 2005). His recent opera, Borges and the Other, which was staged last month in Brooklyn at Roulette as part of the series “Experiments in Opera” and which features an expanded version of Blarvuster, remains his largest work to date and provides perhaps the most elaborate showcase for Welch’s unique compositional vocabulary. To create such a score for a story involving Argentina’s celebrated modernist writer, rather than, say, experimenting with tango, seems much more inventive though somehow counterintuitive. Welch, however, claims that he was infatuated with Borges’s writing long before he started blending these different musical genres and that Borges ultimately “inspired this crazy magical combination.”
“Crazy magical” is a good way of putting it. As musical barriers continue to erode and omnivorous polystylism has become commonplace, Welch’s juxtapositions are still a little bit further outside the norm and the audience response to his sonic amalgamation over the past decade remains somewhere between bewilderment and surprise.
“I’ve had piping friends come to my shows and they were like, “O.K. That was really strange.” Some of my gamelan friends are not quite into the bagpipes. And the rockers are like, “This is really heady music.”
By seamlessly weaving together musical threads that seem like they shouldn’t fit together but resoundingly do, Welch has forged a highly personal sound world that offers challenges and rewards for open-minded listeners.
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Matthew Welch is a composer of innovative opera and genre-resisting concert music. Named one of “14 artists changing the future of opera,” by Huffington Post, and regarded as “a composer possessed of both rich imagination and the skill to bring his fancies to life” (Time Out NYC), Matthew’s musical adventures and collaborative spirit have brought him to work with some of today’s most noted musical personalities: Anthony Braxton, Martin Bresnick, Aaron Jay Kernis, David Lang, Alvin Lucier, Ikue Mori, Zeena Parkins, Julia Wolfe, and John Zorn. Mixing his backgrounds in bagpipes, gamelan, experimental, classical, rock and improvised music, Welch’s compositional sound is worldly and eclectic in material, yet personal and seamless in style.
Praised by the New York Times as “exquisitely ethereal” and “border-busting; catchy,” Matthew’s music has been performed in the US, Canada, South America, Europe and Asia. Matthew holds degrees in Music Composition from Yale, Wesleyan and Simon Fraser Universities, and as a bagpiper, he has won three World Pipe Band Championship titles. His ensemble, Blarvuster, has been based in New York City since 2002. Welch co-founded Experiments in Opera in 2011.
In 2018, Matthew’s 2-Act shadow puppetry opera, And Here We Are, premiered to a sold-out audience at National Sawdust (NYC). Also in 2018, Matthew launched his music label Kotekan Records, documenting his various musical creativity. In 2017 Matthew was awarded a fellowship from the Asian Cultural Council to explore traditional music and culture in the Philippines. In 2016 Matthew Welch was commissioned to compose for San Francisco Girls Chorus and the MATA Festival with Ensemble NeoN (Oslo), with respective premieres at Davies Symphony Hall (SF) and Scandanavia House (NYC). In December 2015 his residency at The Stone (NYC) featured 11 consecutive concerts of his multifarious music.
His music has been commissioned and performed by: Flux Quartet, Ethos Percussion, UMUU Orchestra (Helsinki), Quartet Metadata, Clocks in Motion, Cantata Profana, Suzana Bartal, Ensemble Proton (Bern, Switzerland), Transient Canvas, Gamelan Dharma Swara, SEM ensemble, Ostravska Banda (CZ), Janacek Conservatory Orchestra (CZ), and Dither Electric Guitar Quartet. Venues and presenters include: Merkin Hall, Jazzwerkstatt Bern (2011, 2012, 2014, 2017), Tulkinnanvaraista Concert Series (Helsinki), Bucknell University (2017), Merkin Hall (2016), Symphony Space (2011, 2012, 2017), The Stone (Residency 12.2015), New Music Gathering (’15, ’16), Ultima Festival (Oslo), Festival Gong: Bali Arts Festival (PKB 2010), Abrons Art Center, Q2 (WNYC, NPR) and Ostrava New Music Days (2001, 2005). His third album, Dream Tigers (Tzadik, 2005), containing his critically lauded string quartet, Siubhal Turnlar, made both Time Out New York’s classical and non-classical top-ten CD lists for the year 2005.
Blarvuster, a unique hybrid ensemble dedicated to Welch’s music, has performed at notable venues and festivals including: National Sawdust, Celtic Connections (Glasgow 2016), Roulette, Le Poisson Rouge, EMPAC, Western Front (Vancouver), Switchboard Festival (SF 2014), Tonic, Issue Project Room and CBGB’s. Blarvuster has performed for audiences of all walks: listeners of Classical, Rock, Jazz, Experimental, Celtic and World Music have all found something inspiring in it. Blarvuster’s unique line-up and infectious repertoire make its sound like no other.
As Co-Founder and former Artistic Director of Experiments in Opera, Welch commissioned and produced innovative opera in captivatingly inventive programs that feature bold new concepts in opera in a multitude of performance situations and media forms.
PHOTOS FOR PRESS
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