Composition Seminar – Martin Suckling

Objets donnés, or: commissioned work, first world problems


I’ll talk about two recent pieces which came with specific commission briefs and source material somewhat out of my control. Meditation (after Donne) is my contribution to 2018’s favourite topic of Armistice Centenary artworks, in this case a substantial public engagement project alongside a piece for chamber orchestra and live electronics using crowd-sourced recordings of Scottish bells. In this case I’m pretty certain I fulfilled the brief. Emily’s Electrical Absence, on the other hand, was a collaboration between the poet Frances Leviston and me in response to a commission from the PETMEM Consortium (, who felt that contemporary poetry and music were ideal avenues for the ‘wider public to explore and understand this new [piezoelectronic transduction memory device] technology’. Given that one of the scientists was hoping we might be able to give them ‘something like the Intel jingle,’ and we wrote a 25-minute piece for string quintet and speaker I’m not sure they got quite what they wanted (though they did get what they asked for).