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The University of Southampton
Humanities Graduate School

Martin Humphries

Martin Humphries is a composer and conductor whose music has been performed in the UK and abroad at events including the Cheltenham Music Festival, the Idstein Jazz Festival (Germany), the symposium 'Stages of Death: Men, Women and Suffering in Opera and Ballet' (Cardiff University), and has been featured three times in Cardiff's longest running chamber concert series at the New Hall, Corbett Road.

Martin Humphries

Martin was the inaugural recipient of the 'Best Student Conductor' award at the National University Brass Band Championships of Great Britain (2013) and recently received a full research scholarship from the Arts and Humanities Research Council to fund PhD research in composition. He has presented academic papers on community music and 21st-Century repertoire for amateurs at the University of York, the University of Birmingham, the RANTS series hosted by the Brunel University Institute of Composing, and at the University of London Institute of Education.

My research project will explore contemporary composition for amateurs and community ensembles. One prominent issue when composing for institutions built on such strong social and cultural heritage (such as the brass band or male voice choir) is the question of authenticity. This is a very loaded term, difficult to define and even more difficult to prove. Through my research I intend to better understand what authenticity has come to mean to composers working both inside and outside of community institutions. Can one compose authentically for a group of shared commonality when not being part of their culture? Can heritage, tradition and the tenets of these movements be learned, or must music for community ensembles be created internally for it to truly be regarded as authentic? It is these and similar concerns which I hope to unravel through my doctoral research.

One of the compositional techniques I will be exploring is the potential of improvisation and aleatoricism in this field. Although widely accepted as a required technique for professional performers, it is still in limited use in amateur settings. I propose an integrated approach, building improvisation into existing community forms and traditions and treating it as an extension of existing technique, rather than as an entirely new musical language. Much of the stigma surrounding composition for amateurs stems from difficulties associated with complex music, but I believe improvisation provides a solution by allowing the production of dense and complex aural landscapes without the need for dense or complex notation.

Key facts

Martin's supervisors are Dr Benjamin Oliver (Southampton), Dr David Beard (Cardiff) and Prof James Saunders (Bath Spa).

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