Graduate of the Month: Tim Cooper

Graduate of the Month: Tim Cooper

Published: 02/05/2016

Tim Cooper is graduate of the MMus Composition programme and now lectures in the RCS School of Music, whilst also working towards a PhD exploring the composition and recording of music for instruments/voices and electronics.

Tim has participated in every Plug festival since 2007. As we celebrate 10 years of this special contemporary music festival, we speak with Tim to talk about Plug past and present.

Tell us why the Plug Festival is an important event?

All kinds of reasons! Every year Plug grows in confidence and our students’ work really feeds off that. I remember my early Plug works and they seem so tentative and timid when I think about the amazingly creative pieces that students have made recently. Regularly students perform in their own works as DJs or in some kind of theatrical element and they do so with absolute confidence in what they are trying to achieve.

Plug will be an artistic necessity for as long as our composers continue to produce such interesting work. New music doesn’t deserve a platform by virtue of being new. The composers do an amazing job of advocating the performance of new music through the quality of their work.

On an educational level, it is so important for the students to hear their work. Plug is such a privilege. Hopefully without sounding too much like an old man, back in my day it was a big deal to write for Plug I remember the composers excitedly talking about who they were composing for. It was still so new and such a big shift from new music activity prior to 2006.

There’s always been an element of risk with Plug, the composers really push boundaries and that’s part of what makes it exciting. The opportunity to hear your own music allows a composer to develop much more quickly. The rehearsal process is important too, composers need to learn how to communicate with musicians (and how not too I learnt that one the hard way!) and Plug is a big part of that for our Composition students.

What’s been your favourite Plug memory of the past decade?

It’s impossible to pick a favourite Plug memory, so I’m not going to pretend to try!

Working with J. Simon van der Walt on his music theatre piece The Other, Other Hand was amazing. He spent 12 months developing a 90-minute work and the performers had the best time collaborating with him. We did two performances and my dad liked it so much we managed to sneak him a ticket for the second (sold out) night!

Performing in my first year in a pitch black Stevenson Hall in a piece called Electric Coal Mine for euphonium and electronics was very cool! The piece played on the mining background of the euphonium and I played it in Plug 1 that year. Colin Broom’s 2015 piece Pictures of an Electronic Life, Alasdair Spratt’s Piano Concerto and John de Simone’s Symphony were also big highlights for me.

On a personal note, working with Jonathan Morton on the premiere of my piece for violin and electronics was great. Jonathan is a performer I deeply admire and suddenly I was composing a piece for him. He performed the piece beautifully and was really generous in his time and effort.

I also remember very fondly the social side of my early involvement in Plug. Late nights in the CCA talking about new music really brought the Composition department together and there was (and is) an amazing sense of community, particularly around the festival.

Tell us about your involvement with this year’s Plug Festival?

Diana Salazar, Alistair MacDonald and I are looking after the live sound for Plug 1 and the late night electroacoustic event. And for the first time in a while I think I’ll be able to listen to lots of the concerts without worrying about the next gig as the concerts involving live sound are all at the start of the festival. I can’t wait to hear what the students have been up to without worrying if we have enough microphone leads, it’ll be a total luxury, and my principle involvement will be as a Plug fan. Perfect!


Photograph by Robert Cooper

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