(1968 - )
In a short space of time Matthew Hindson (b. Wollongong, 1968) has emerged as the leading Australian composer of his generation. Performed by all the major orchestras of his native country, his music is now finding a global audience.
The effect of his invigorating soundworld is immediate and direct. It provokes strong reactions, frequently causing divisions between audience reaction and critical opinion. The music often displays influences of popular music styles within a classical music context, and, as a result, musical elements such as driving repeated rhythms and loud dynamic levels are typically found in many of his compositions. The clue is invariably in the title, with works such as Speed (1997), Rave-Elation (2002), Headbanger (2003), RPM (2003), Rush (1999) and Homage to Metallica delivering a high-octane experience that often leaves audiences and players alike in a state of joyous exhilaration.
It’s not all up-tempo virtuosity, though. His slow music stays long in the memory, often drawing on harmonies and lyricism derived from popular culture. The slow movements of both the Violin Concerto (2001) and In Memoriam: Amplified Cello Concerto (2000) are the emotional cores of both pieces, whilst ‘Spirit Song’ from A Symphony of Modern Objects offers a take on New Age music that, whilst tongue-in-cheek, remains a haunting and evocative experience and one that pays homage to Hindson’s teacher, Peter Sculthorpe through its use of bird song.
Hindson has had particular success in attracting young audiences to classical music, and to the concert hall. Youth orchestras worldwide have succumbed to his music’s verve and the messages and fan mail on his website and MySpace pages are testament to the broad and refreshing appeal of his musical language. Professional orchestras have also found that his music makes a fascinating and successful ingredient for education and family events and workshops. The London Philharmonic Orchestra have performed several of his short orchestral pieces in this context and, in March 2009, premiered Dangerous Creatures (2008), an orchestral work commissioned by them for their sell-out FunHarmonics series family concerts in the Royal Festival Hall.
Indeed, as a former music teacher and head of strings at one of Australia’s leading private schools, Hindson is a staunch believer in the educational value of music. A number of his works have emanated from educational situations, and have won him young audiences as a result. In 2005 he even produced his own CD-ROM as a resource for string teachers, which met with immediate success.
Hindson’s music is a natural for dance, too. In May 2002, the Sydney Dance Company toured Australia to much acclaim with a new 90-minute production, Ellipse, choreographed by their Artistic Director, Graeme Murphy, and danced entirely to Hindson’s concert music. Playing to packed houses it broke box-office records for the company. In 2004 they then toured it throughout the USA to further acclaim. In January of that year his music was the subject of a full-evening dance presentation (with live orchestra) given by Ballett Schindowski in Gelsenkirchen (Germany), whilst the San Francisco Ballet danced to two of his string orchestra works in April 2007 with choreography by the Canadian, Matjash Mrojewski. In the UK, Channel 4 TV’s Ballet Boyz (aka George Piper Dances) danced to his Plastic Jubilation in London’s Roundhouse (2002). In September 2009 Birmingham Royal Ballet unveiled a new 30-minute orchestral ballet, E=mc2, commissioned and choreographed for them by their Artistic Director, David Bintley. It was lauded by the dance press with Hindson's score garnering particular praise. The production won the prestigious South Bank Show Award for Dance in January 2010. Bintley subsequently commissioned a second orchestral ballet, Faster, premiered by BRB to much acclaim in 2012.
Hindson has been the subject of a number of festival portraits, not least at the 2003 Vale of Glamorgan Festival (UK) where 14 of his works were performed, including a whole concert of works for string orchestra in the hangar of Cardiff Airport, another example of his music transcending traditional concert models. Such is his commitment to new music that, inspired by the Vale of Glamorgan model on his flight home he founded the Aurora Festival, a platform for contemporary music in western Sydney and the only new music festival in that city. In its inaugural year, the festival won the award for Most Outstanding Contribution by an Organisation in the 2007 Classical Music Awards, and in the subsequent Queen’s Birthday Honours, Hindson was also awarded an AM (a Member of the General Division of the Order of Australia), “for service to the arts as a leading Australian composer and teacher of music, and through the wide promotion of musical works to new audiences.”
The outright virtuosity of his music lends itself perfectly to the concerto vehicle and he has attracted the attention of some of the finest performers of today, not least Canadian virtuoso Lara St John, who released the premiere recording of his Violin Concerto with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in 2008 (on the Ancalagon label), and flautist Marina Piccinini who launched his House Music for flute and orchestra (commissioned for her) in thrilling style with the London Philharmonic Orchestra in 2006. In Memoriam was a huge hit in Sydney Opera House and cries out for a commercial recording. More recently, Hindson has collaborated with the renowned didjeridu player William Barton, with whom he co-wrote Kalkadungu (2007), in which Barton appears playing didjeridu, electric guitar and also as singer. Following substantial media attention and TV previews, Kalkadungu was then acclaimed by the press, who said that it ‘opens new opportunities for Australian music’, and that it included ‘the most compelling few minutes of indigenous-inspired fast music to come from any white Australian’.
In a rapidly changing world, the music of Matthew Hindson is similarly reinventing itself at every turn. His innate sense for drama, wit and spontaneous joie de vivre has enabled him to break down barriers and reach new audiences in ways that leave many of his contemporaries in his wake. As we look towards a new era of music-making it is composers such as Hindson who will surely pave the way for the next generation of musical creators and listeners.
Tim Brooke, July 2010