Featured Composer: Matthew Finch
One thing that Grand Valley State University does not lack in is student collaborations. From student led side projects, chamber groups, and discussions on music, GVSU has a community that often isn't observed beyond the cluster of practice rooms and large ensemble concerts. One student who has invested a lot of time and energy into collaborating is this week's featured artist, Matthew Finch. Matthew Finch is a GVSU student that will instantly leave an impression upon first meeting him. His cheerful disposition is only matched by his passion for creating music. He wears a variety of hats as a musician, including working in electronic and acoustic mediums, on the electric bass, and as a composer and ensemble leader. Pulling from a variety of influences in New Music and ambient electronic music, the different avenues in which he operates serve to highlight his overall talents as a musician.
Currently, Finch is a graduating senior at GVSU, with a focus in composition. This focus has led him to work with other student composers and willing performers to premiere a variety of works, including pieces performed at the GVSU Student Composer Competition and at the recurring "Die Bibliomusik" series held at GVSU's Mary Idema Pew Library. Each work draws from a minimalist background, connecting ideas in layers that are slowly constructing the overall work during the course of the performance. I myself have played works by him for solo piano and electronics and with GVSU's New Music Ensemble at these types of events. While the ensemble now can guess which pieces he wrote for the "mystery" minute-long pieces for this year's composer competition when reading through the scores, it is only because he has developed a strong compositional voice as a student. Currently, he is planning on performances of his acoustic and electronic works for his senior project recital, and part of the performance includes the "Fragile Thought Ensemble," a collective of students performing his latest and longest work "Fragile Thought."
The ensemble contains several players: myself on piano, Julia Gjebic (English horn), Kevin Flynn (cello), Richie Arndorfer (oboe), Bailey Groendyke (vibraphone), and Krista Visnovsky (violin). Many of these players are pulled from active participants in the GVSU New Music Ensemble, with Arndorfer being another active composer/performer and Groendyke providing additional percussion on certain NME performances. The piece is a great example of Finch's writing style, playing around with elements of minimalism and including cell-based motifs for the majority of the players. The piece revolves around the rhythmic interplay between the percussion and the piano, as they serve as a grounding of the pulse. This pairing also deals with a drawn out syncopation in a mixed-meter motif, acting as a strong rhtyhmic engine moving the piece towards the end. One could say he has drafted his own version of a "rhythmic crescendo," as the winds and strings move from out-of-time to grounded in the meter and back out, capsizing the foundation left in the piano and vibraphone to close the piece.
The idea for the music comes from focusing on fragility, specifically viewing how firm/solid items fracture and break over time. These concepts were then honed into textures that form a sonic shape, showing a clear movement from the more amorphous state, to solid, to the fracturing of that solid. The amorphous textures are created through the cell-based material heard in the winds and strings. These cells are small musical expressions meant to be played out of time and interpreted by the performer, outlining a more malleable sound moving with the piano, which serves as a sort of sonic anchor for the overall harmonic and rhythmic progression. The strings, winds, and marimba eventually arrive in rhythmic step with the piano, with a large poly-rhythmic figure played between the piano and marimba to the end, even as the other instruments gradually dissolve back into their "liquid" state.
When Finch isn't composing or facilitating performances his work, he can be seen working on M.O.T.H, a project steeped in ambient textures and generating sonic environments. Rooted in his layering and delaying of electric guitar and bass with effect/looping pedals, the project began around he end of his high school years and really coming to fruition during his studies at GVSU. His desire to collaborate through playing the electric bass expands beyond the bandstand to include the audience members in the show environment. Their recently debut on "slashsound" invites the listener on a journey rich with variety in the listening experience. "slashsound is proud to present our first worldwide release, 3 Vignettes, by Grand Rapids-based melodic noise project, M.O.T.H. specializing in longform pieces with organic, gradual development, M.O.T.H's gleaming timbral spectrums, poetic spoken-word discourses, and synesthetic sonic landscapes make for a truly surreal listen." Drawing from the improvisatory natures of jazz and New Music within the "atmosphere of the classical idiom," Finch creates a harmonious, glowing, constant texture that is geared towards being inclusive and inviting others to a discussion.
He is very deliberate in execution, carefully choosing each sound to place in the larger narrative found in the album. The focus of the album is commenting on the capitalist nature of the music industry, specifically geared towards how it forces most artists into a mold in order to achieve any success. While observers may first read this description as a brazen anthem spat forth from a punk band's front man, it is instead Finch's continued interest in being inclusive by inviting the listener into a discussion. His music is subtle yet highly creative, and if you need firsthand proof you can find him at Grand Rapids Brewing Company for their "Studio Night," where he creates a space for bar patrons and artists alike to inhabit with his music on Mondays.
I definitely encourage you to expand your musical palette and check out some of the projects that he is involved with. Below you will find links to his artist page, his debut album through SlashSound, and to dates where he will be performing or leading performances of his works. Matthew Finch is also an active participant at the UICA's bi-monthly open projector nights by contributing his own personal films and providing the scoring to other films.
Check out his projects:
Debut Album: https://m-o-t-h.bandcamp.com/album/3-vignettes