Skip to main navigation Skip to main content
The University of Southampton

University lecturer instrumental in creating COVID lockdown compositions

Published: 16 April 2020
Dr Matthew Shlomowitz
Dr Matthew Shlomowitz is writing 'Music for Cohabiters' during the COVID-19 global lockdown.

As the COVID-19 lockdown continues in the UK, a musical composer and lecturer from the University of Southampton has found a novel way to engage people with his craft.

Over the last couple of weeks, Dr Matthew Shlomowitz has written bespoke compositions for families and flatmates around the world who share his passion for music. The requests come to Matthew via Twitter with an explanation of how many people are involved, what instruments they have available at home – from recorders to full-size pianos – as well the musical abilities of those involved, regardless of age. Matthew’s compositions can be experienced via the ‘ Music for Cohabiters’ website created by his eldest daughter.

“We see all over the place that the lock down is leading both to social kindness and new forms of creative projects that make sense at this time,” explained Matthew who is Associate Professor of Composition in Music at Southampton. “As people have time and are looking to keep busy in a nice and meaningful way, I am also thinking a lot about how the pieces can be challenging for the musicians in a way that can be realistically achieved.

“I have been delighted with all the requests, getting more than I expected,” he continued. “Getting the video performances is the best part!”

Originally, Matthew began writing for his own family when it occurred to him that other cohabiters might appreciate a piece of their own to rehearse and perform. Amongst the 19 pieces he’s composed to date, he’s found what he describes as “fun and touching requests”.

“I’ve been contacted by a mother who wanted a very hard duo for her sons, playing bassoon and trombone, to keep them busy,” he enthused. “I’ve also done a piece for violin, viola, cello, piano and actor, and a piece for a professional cellist and her boyfriend - a beginner pianist who she is teaching – so the compositions are quite different and varied.”

One of his more thought-provoking requests came from two professional recorder players in Amsterdam and their daughter, Bodil, who just turned two years old. “The challenge was how to find a way for Bodil to be part of the performance given her lack of conventional musical ability and the unlikely hood that she would stick to the 'script',” said Matthew, “but I think I found a nice way for Bodil to do more than simply participate, but really express herself! I can't wait to get the video of that one.”

Whilst Matthew’s larger-scale professional compositions take longer, he’s averaging one composition per day for his lockdown creations with some pieces taking around just a few hours to complete.

“Most days I write one composition in the morning in around 4 hours – one piece took two hours and another took 10 hours so in that sense, it is different to my normal composition,”. “It’s also different in the sense that the pieces I am writing for people at home are often for children and I want the kids to enjoy them so I am composing in styles I wouldn't usually, although I always try to tweak those styles in my way.”

Just prior to starting his daily compositions, Matthew finished a large-scale composition which is why he has the time and inclination to throw himself into writing lots of short pieces. In the coming weeks, Matthew will turn to teaching composition online when the University’s Summer Term begins as a virtual experience for himself and his students. “It’s actually not that different than the Twitter exercise I’m doing as the students send me their work and I give them comments by email or verbally on a video chat. The one essay module I teach, on music and subculture, with 30 students, is going to be a bigger challenge when we get back into the term.”

Matthew’s compositions can be experienced via the ‘ Music for Cohabiters’ website created by his eldest daughter.

Visit Matthew's Twitter site to request your own composition.

Privacy Settings