Portrait film (by Johannes List)
Interview with Composer OverTime
Timothy McCormack (1984) writes haptic, viscous music which makes audible the tactile, physical relationship between a performer and their instrument. Sometimes ecstatic, sometimes hermetic, his music embeds pitch within dense walls of noise to create strangely affecting sonic ecologies which alter one’s perception of time.
He has been commissioned by ensembles and organizations such as the ELISION Ensemble, Ensemblekollektiv Berlin, Klangforum Wien, the JACK Quartet, musikFabrik, Curious Chamber Players, the [Switch~ Ensemble], the Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik, the impuls Festival, and ON – Neue Musik Köln. His music has also been performed by Ensemble Recherche, Ensemble Dal Niente, the Talea Ensemble, Ensemble Nikel, and ensemble hand werk and programmed on the MATA, Wien Modern, Darmstadt, Huddersfield, Maerzmusik, and TRANSIT festivals.
McCormack is the recipient of the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation Composers’ Prize 2018. He won the 2019 Impuls International Composition Competition, which resulted in a new work for Vienna’s Klangforum Wien. He was also awarded the George Arthur Knight Prize in 2014 for his piece you actually are evaporating, as well as the 2017 John Green Fellowship for his “demonstrated talent and promise as a composer,” both from Harvard University.
McCormack received his PhD from Harvard University in 2019, where he studied with Chaya Czernowin and Hans Tutschku. He also studied at the University of Huddersfield with Aaron Cassidy and Liza Lim, as well as at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music with Lewis Nielson and Randolph Coleman. He participated in the Schloss Solitude Sommerakademie in 2009, and the Tzlil Meudcan Summer Courses in 2012. From 2014-17 at Harvard University, he was the director of the Harvard Group for New Music, organizing concerts and residencies with ensembles such as Ensemble Dal Niente, the JACK Quartet, Ensemble Recherche, musikFabrik, the ELISION Ensemble, and many others. In addition to music, McCormack has also studied contemporary dance with Jill Johnson and has worked in masterclass or choreographic settings with William Forsythe, John Jasperse, Christopher Roman and Riley Watts.
Interview & portrait film with Johannes List as part of the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation Composers' Prize [May, 2018]
“His work brings to mind processes of erosion, or long term processes caused by the effects of outside forces on organic systems. His work conjures the power of nature and simultaneously the vulnerability of nature.”
"Timothy McCormack's music is intensely physical. Drawing on inspirations as diverse as dance, geology, ceramics, and painting, it considers sounds as tactile, sculptable matter - things to be pressed into one another and that react to each other's presence. Structured around internal cues and prompts, rather than an external framework of rhythms and phrases, his music encourages its performers to listen intently to each other and respond collaboratively and socially. Sounds arrive by chance as the result of performing actions that are prescribed in great detail: the commitment is to the gesture now, not an arcane ideology of perfection. Often stretched across large timescales, those sounds become organisms, living, breathing, and curling around one another. It is music of breathtaking elemental force."
- The Board of Supervisors and the Board of Trustees for the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation [Read Tim Rutherford-Johnson's profile on my work, written for the Ernst von Siemens Composers' Prize, here]
"Timothy McCormack writes high resolution music. Music of razor sharp detail, printed on aluminium. No: not that. It is music magnified too far, so that the spaces between every RGB pixel on the screen are visible. Still no: it is both these, both micro and macro. Timothy McCormack writes music that occupies a fractal world of multiple, conflicting geometries.
It has a monolithic quality, certainly, there is no narrative pull, but it nevertheless inhabits and participates in the passage of time. The monolith is neither static in space, nor within itself. Like a body whose cells replace themselves entirely every seven years, standing on a ball of fire and shifting continents, exploding to the edge of the universe at the speed of light. It’s all a question of where you look from. And yet in all locations there are still the same universals, the same forces acting in the same ways. Hyper-activity, completely caged."
- Tim Rutherford-Johnson [10 for '10: Timothy McCormack]
"His music has always been focused, intriguing, and supremely musical, sometimes almost hyper-emotional, but there's a careful, calculated craftsmanship in his musical language. In effect, he has constructed multiple sound worlds simultaneously and through a meticulous layering process, juxtaposes them so that each layer pops out from the other in an explosion of sound and color. Gerhard Richter's Abstract Paintings or his overpainted photographs come to mind."
- Alejandro Acierto [Spotlight On: Alejandro Acierto, Clarinet]
"Timothy McCormack is a bad-ass."
- "Forcing the catastrophe. An interview with Timothy McCormack" Robert Dahm [Sound is Grammar]