Marc Yeats - Composer

October 2021

Say Hello to Dr Yeats!

As of the 12th October 2021, I now have my first degree and it’s a PhD in music composition. I am now Dr Yeats.

After four years, a number of external setbacks and a pandemic, it feels surreal to be able to say this. I’m very happy. I’m very exhausted. Huge thanks to so many people, but just now, to Scott McLaughlin and Benjamin Oliver for such an enjoyable and constructive viva, and to Michael Spencer and Martin Iddon for supporting me as supervisors, colleagues and friends, and to my friends, past and present, at WRoCAH, Caryn Douglas and Clare Meadley. Also Mark, Sadie, Jane and my family for always being there through thick and thin.

I was not naturally drawn to academia. As a self-taught composer with no music education, no technical language to express my ideas and no academic qualifications, universities felt like alien places full of the kind of learning I did not possess.

Despite twenty-two years working internationally as a professional composer, a lack of intellectual self-confidence prevented me from engaging with these institutions in any meaningful way. Now, after nearly four years of doctoral study, my view of academia and my place within it has radically altered and my experiences as a practice-researcher have been transformative.

Although initially resistant to suggestions and advice from those around me, I was sufficiently ‘bullied’ — in the kindest way — particularly and relentlessly by my partner, Mark Hewitt, into investigating the possibility of undertaking a PhD in music composition and situating my ongoing research within academia. Though reluctant, I made tentative enquiries through friends and contacts working in universities and presented my research ideas to them.

Before long, I was encouraged to apply to the University of Leeds by my current supervisor, Dr Michael Spencer, who together with Professor Martin Iddon, my co-supervisor, held my hand through the application process to secure a place at the School of Music in Leeds University and subsequently, a second application to secure a scholarship from The White Rose College of the Arts & Humanities (WRoCAH). Following a successful application to WRoCAH, I encountered Caryn Douglas (then WRoCAH Manager) and Clare Meadley (WRoCAH administrator) who became part of my life for the next three years and supported my studies and requests for additional training, experience and funding with creativity, kindness, interest and enthusiasm, making my PhD journey as useful, enjoyable and straightforward as possible.

Together, Mic, Martin, Caryn and Clare have been the face of my academic experience throughout which, I have felt valued and respected. Completing my doctoral studies would have been impossible without them, not least because entering university at PhD level as a fifty-seven-year-old without any previous academic experience was daunting in the extreme and I needed help transitioning from ‘civilian composer’ to formal practice-researcher. The supervision I received from Mic and Martin to aid this transition and much more besides, was exemplary, focused and friendly. I had a real sense they believed in my research and my capacity to deliver it. For this support and belief, they have my heartfelt thanks.

At home, the emotional contours of my PhD journey were played out at their most acute and personal with Mark who supported me through the triumphs, trials and tribulations of the past four years, including the particularly exacting circumstances that devastated the final year of my research project due to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Mark has been a strength and sounding board throughout.

I would also like to offer huge thanks to Dr Lauren Redhead, Dr Ian Pace, Dr Sadie Harrison and William APM for their resources, advice and support as well as to colleagues in academia and the wider music world, my friends and family and indeed, anyone who showed an interest in my research journey, offered advice, enthusiasm, or showed kindness, I am deeply grateful.

October 2021

‘the unimportance of events’ selected to represent the UK at the International Composers Rostrum

I’m absolutely thrilled to announce that my timecode-supported polytemporal chamber orchestra composition, ‘the unimportance of events’ for 22-players, premiered at this year’s Tectonics Glasgow and brilliantly performed by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, has been selected by BBC Radio 3 as one of three works representing the U.K. at this year’s International Rostrum of Composers in Belgrade.

My huge thanks are also due to Ilan Volkov, whose decision to programme my piece at Tectonics Glasgow 21 made inclusion in the Composers Rostrum possible. A full list of selected composers from around the world can be found here:

The International Rostrum of Composers (IRC), organized by the International Music Council, is an international forum of representatives of broadcasting organizations who come together for the purpose of exchanging and broadcasting contemporary music. Currently, over 30 national radio networks participate in the Rostrum presenting some 60 works composed within the five years preceding the Rostrum. After the listening sessions, the assembly of delegates selects and recommends the most important works in two categories: general and “young composers”. These and other works will be presented in concerts and broadcast after the Rostrum by the participating and other interested radio stations.

Moreover, all works presented at the IRC are made available by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) to its wide network of members and associate members via satellite. These dissemination schemes ensure excellent international coverage for the composers.

Since the foundation of the IRC in 1955, some 400 composers have been promoted and their works broadcast thousands of times within the network of participating radios. After 65 years, the IRC continues today to be the most important platform for the promotion of contemporary music via radio broadcast with some 800 broadcasts of the selected works in the last season. Moreover, the IRC is an invaluable occasion to meet colleagues from all over the world and share contemporary music.

Besides the high number of broadcasts, selected composers in the two categories are offered a commission. For the General Category, IMC commissions a work which will be recorded and broadcast by Radio France while for the Under-30 category, thanks to Swedish Radio, the selected composer benefits from a short-residence program with recording and live broadcast with the Ensemble NEO in Sweden. From 2015 to 2018 the IRC was part of a broader project called Rostrum+ which was co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union.

August 2021

Arts Council England Developing Your Creative Practice Award.

I’m absolutely delighted to announce that I have been awarded an Arts Council England ‘Developing Your Creative Practice’ (DYCP) grant for a new book project called ‘Music, Painting, Landscape and Me’. More of that in a moment.

First, I’d like to say that after 8-years of trying for an Arts Council grant – any ACE grant, and my second attempt at a DYCP award, I was totally surprised to see that I had been successful. I’m usually not.

What is this project?

To answer that, I’m going to quote a few parts of the application that spell out what it is I want to achieve with this book idea and how I’d like to go about it.

I have been awarded 45 research and development days across 9-months to research and generate substantial preliminary written materials such as an introduction, chapter outline and sample chapter materials for a book that explores my relationship to composing, painting and landscape and how these intersect and are embodied in my practice, particularly through a sense of place.

I will produce these materials to help secure a publishing offer or to complete the book for release through self-publication.

Using clear language and written from my perspective as an artist/composer for other artists, composers and arts-interested readers, this book would aim to inform and inspire those exploring their own practice across different media as I set out to demystify, disentangle and clarify creative experiences, conclusions and assumptions through the lens of my own work.

Although I have experience in academic writing, I have not written a book before, so this activity develops entirely new skills and requires new research, learning and partnerships.
Initial expressions of interest include:

• An external critical support network with the schools of music and art at a London university

• Exploring publishing partnerships

• 9-talking head videos (one per month) for my YouTube channel and other organisational outlets (to be confirmed) that document, explore and share this journey.

I have been creating compositions and paintings intuitively or using various processes, particularly with composition, for around three decades. The time has come for me to ask some deeply personal questions about why and how I make these works.

To move forward in my practice and create evermore connected work, it is now time to ask:
• what compels me to do what I do?

• why is my practice as it is?

• why do certain landscapes affect me so deeply?

• what elements of landscape, music and painting are transmitted across these media?

• what exactly is a sense of place and how is it embodied in my work?

Although frequently asked questions, explanations are often wrapped in impenetrable philosophical or metaphysical language that can feel disconnected from the lived artistic experience, or from my lived experience, at least.

Why does this matter?

Because approaching these questions as a practising artist rather than a philosopher may provide unique insight into actions and motivation, shining a light onto what are internalised and little understood processes.
In seeking answers about my own practice, I may provide answers for others.
Supported through a critical network of scholars and artists, this is an intensely personal project driven by my curiosity and developmental needs.

The possibility of becoming a published author positions my creative practice differently, opening opportunities for conference and artistic presentation, meaningful joint concert and visual art exhibitions/installations/lectures and establishes me as a thinker and writer about artistic practice as well as a maker of music and paintings.
So there’s the blurb. I hope you find this project as exciting and interesting as I do. It is unlikely I will be able to answer all of my questions – much of how we operate artistically remains deeply embedded within our bodies, mind and hearts, senses and sensations, and is difficult to articulate such affects in words, but like peeling back the layers of an onion, I’m curious to see just how far I can get along this path, hopefully identifying the territories that bound what is unknown, or even, at this time, unknowable, along the way. This is not a technical instruction book about how to paint or compose, it’s a book about *why* I paint and compose and *how* music, painting and landscape are connected to each other, to me and to my practice.

July 2021

PhD Thesis submitted

And it’s away!

After nearly four years – four because of the additional year of difficulties wrought by Covid restrictions, and with, surprisingly, something of a happy ending and resolution, my PhD thesis is finally submitted for examination. ‘Control, Flexibility, Flux and Complexity: A Timecode-Supported Approach to Polytemporal Orchestral Composition’.

I’ve hugely enjoyed the journey, apart from the last year which promised no hope of completion as all performances were forbidden. It was the unforeseen opportunity to write for the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Tectonics Glasgow 2021 but particularly the invitation to take part from Ilan Volkov that saved the day, and my research, a turnabout of fortune I had not anticipated, hence the happy ending. The results from that particular performance were so good that they significantly helped me to present an extremely strong case (I believe) for the efficacy of my polytemporal composition methodology. Now, the final hurdle, the viva voce, is all that stands between finishing my research project and, if successful, sharing my thesis widely.

Pressing that ‘submit’ button with all its warning about the finality of the action and no going back if you upload the wrong document, was nerve-wracking. I shut my eyes when I pushed the ‘send’ button. And now it is done. Fingers crossed! And huge thanks to all the support thus far from, to mention just a few, Michael Spencer, Martin Iddon, Mark Hewitt, Ian Pace, Sadie Harrison, WILLIAM APM, Caryn Douglas, Clare Meadley and many others.

June 2021

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

the unimportance of events (2021). Premiered by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra for Tectonics Glasgow 2021

Here it is. The world premiere of ‘the unimportance of events’ for 22 players, (2021), performed by members of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra as part of Tectonics Glasgow 2021.

The piece is dedicated to my friend and colleague Jason Eckardt.

Thanks to Ilan Volkov and Alasdair Campbell for including me in this fantastic festival of new music.

This composition is my latest timecode-supported polytemporal composition and the largest to be so far performed at 22-players.

To find out more about the piece, please click here.