Selected Interviews

Analysis: Four Essays



download interview via: Twisting the Arm of Michael Maierhof

published in TEMPO 75 (295) p 85-93

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As part of my research I had the good fortune to meet and interview a diverse array of professionals in the new music field. In total, I talked with thirty composers, conductors, artistic directors, curators, and musicians all throughout Europe in an attempt to gain new and firsthand information on both the artistic and socio-economic motivations for utilizing conductors in new music ensembles.


Below you will first find selected transcripts of interviews with five composers who actively have utilized the (role of) the conductor in their works or dealt with the hierarchy and/or physicality inherent on said role. Below the transcripts, I have presented four essays in which I have systematically coalesced the newly collected source material first into two detectable trends, the instrumentalization and customization of the conductor (the later of which is presented in two essays). I also decided to discuss a trend that appeared in my interviews despite not having intially planned to handle it, namely the cooperative usage of click-tracks and conductors in new music ensembles that perform integrative concerts. 


A full list of those interviewed and transcripts are available at thomas(at)

Michael Maierhof

The German composer Michael Maierhof (1956- ) took a curious and unusual path to becoming a professional composer, performer and concert organiser, one that gives him a unique perspective on the German art music scene. This interview with Maierhof took place on 17 January 2020 in Maierhof’s apartment in Hamburg, Germany and forms part of my research into the artistic and socio-economic motivations that composers and artistic directors employ when utilizing a conductor. The interview explores his personal history, compositional techniques, and perspective on the course of contemporary musical history before going on to consider his views on conductor’s responsibilities and their role in contemporary music.

The Instrumentalised Conductor

This article explores ways in which artistic directors and composers of new music ensembles have developed and redefined the role of the conductor to achieve specific goals and fulfil musical and artistic need. It will explore various manners in which they have instrumentalised the conductor – literally an embodied role – and opened new possibilities for musical expression. The analysis and examples provided will rely for the most part on material gathered during in-depth interviews conducted with artistic directors, composers, conductors and musicians who are professionally active in the new music field in Europe and beyond. The article endeavours to bring into greater detail artistic and socioeconomic motivations for utilising conductors in new music ensembles.

download paper via: The Instrumentalised Conductor

published in TEMPO 75 (297) p 48-60

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Alexander Schubert

The use of electronics and augmentation of musicians is a vital part of Alexander Schubert’s (1979- ) compositional story, language, and oeuvre. We started our conversation by talking about the different aspects of his background and musical upbringing that led to these aesthetic choices. We continued by discussing how he utilized the solo performers, including the conductor in his 'sensor' pieces. And finally, we reviewed Ensemble Decoder's formation, artistic practice, and vision when it comes to employing conductors. 


Our interview took place on the 3rd of March, 2020 via video call. 

download interview via: Absurd, Hollow

Conductor à la Carte

This essay assimilates statements and stories gathered during interviews into coherent and sorted descriptions of the scopes of responsibilities with which a conductor of a new music ensemble may reasonably expect to be confronted. The professional musicians, composers, artistic directors, and conductors I interviewed all described specific and varying expectations for conductors. Those I interviewed also detailed specific motivations for the manner in which they utilize conductors. I examined those expectations and motivations and was able to divide them into two broad, sometimes overlapping categories: artistic and pragmatic. During the transcription and the subsequent analysis of the interviews, it became clear that though the scope of the conductor’s responsibilities is quite broad, conductors were deployed in an à la carte fashion by both composers and artistic directors, as if customized to fit each new situation.

forthcoming publication in Perspectives of New Music

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Jessie Marino

I find the work of Jessie Marino (1984- ) fascinating and was eager to hear her thoughts on her compositions and performance in general. Marino and I had met several times via video calls and had also traded many emails discussing future projects together. However, this would be the first time we had been able to meet face to face. On a late cold evening in November in Berlin, Marino welcomed me into her flat, where we sat down at her kitchen table for a pre-dinner chat. She seemed to literally burst with cool and extravagant stories and ideas. Before I even got a chance to ask her any of my prepared questions, she took us down this fun little rabbit hole where we talked about hyper-modern earbuds and what may be considered anti-social behaviour in the clubs.

The topics we discussed included her compositional history and method as well as her views on how a conductor might and should be utlized. 


This interview took place on the 10th of November, 2019 in Marino's appartement in Berlin.

download interview via: Scaling Musicians

Customized Conductor

As part of my doctoral research, I had the good fortune to interview a diverse array of professionals in the new music field. I talked with thirty artistic directors, composers, conductors, and musicians all active as professionals in the new music scene throughout Europe and abroad to gain new and first-hand information on the artistic and socioeconomic motivations for utilizing conductors. During the interviews and the subsequent analysis thereof, it became clear that artistic directors and composers have not only utilized (the role of) the conductor, but also instrumentalized it to meet their artistic, musical, and programming. In order to better understand how a performing, instrumentalized conductor can better function, I examined the motives the interviewees described and noted content-based decisions as well as pragmatically made choices. These turned out to be non-mutually exclusive categories as some motivations, and the resulting instrumentalization, are the products of both artistic and pragmatic intention. In this essay I will first describe the passive expectations of the conductor as well as observations made on their current utilization. I will then examine the motives behind the active instrumentalization of the conductor. And finally, towards the end of the paper, I will detail certain motivations that the interviewees described for not employing a conductor.

forthcoming publication in Musica & Figura no. 8

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Michael Beil

During a dinner break from an intense production meeting for a new piece, composer Michael Beil (1963- ) took the time to sit down with me and chat about his personal compositional history and then answer some of my questions about his thoughts and experiences with conductors. Michael and I first met in 2013 on a production for Nadar ensemble at the Acht Brücken Festival in Cologne, Germany. I was new with the ensemble and we were at the festival to, amongst other premieres, tackle Beil’s newest piece, Exit to Enter (2013). The work is for six musicians, conductor, tape, lights, and live-processed video. I played the lights while my colleagues performed the musical and dramatic part of the piece. In Exit to Enter, the musicians are recorded live performing small actions that are then played back as life-sized avatars throughout the piece. Our conversation over dinner in Antwerp began by talking first about this piece. That soon led to a brief look at what might be coming next. In all, we discussed his personal history, compositional techniques, and perspective on the course of contemporary musical history. We also went deep into his views on the conductor’s responsibilities and their role in contemporary music.


This interview took place on the 19th of October, 2019 in De Singel in Antwerp, Belgium

download interview via: Bad Harmonics

This essay will examine the manner in which composers and artistic directors have used conductors and click-tracks within the context of new music ensembles performing integrative concerts. The analyses and examples provided will rely for the most part on material gathered during in-depth interviews that I conducted with artistic directors, composers, conductors, and musicians, all of whom are professionally active in the new music field in Europe (and beyond). I will examine the application of both click-tracks and conductors and demonstrate that their implementation represents an active choice made by either the composer and/or artistic directors. both click-tracks and conductors are viewed by the interviewees as potential tools with somewhat overlapping possibilities and capacities and their presence is no secondary phenomenon of the music. They become instead a means for the above actors to meet their objectives, be they artistic, pragmatic, technical, or otherwise.

download paper via: Tools of the Trade

published in Interdiciplinary Studies in Musicology 20, 2020

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Tools of the Trade

Wim Henderickx

It is hard to express in words how enthusiastic Wim Henderickx (1962- ) is and gripping a conversation with him can be. I first met Henderickx when I was a student in his music analysis course at the Royal Conservatoire in Antwerp, Belgium where the works of the early twentieth century suddenly came to life before our eyes. Though he is probably best known as a composer, he has stayed very active on the professional scene as a percussionist and conductor as well. I was especially eager to talk to him about how he juggles those responsibilities and if he has seen one role influence the other.


I interviewed Henderickx on the 22nd of January, 2020 in his home in Antwerp, Belgium.

download interview via: A Freer Kind of Conductor