10 Questions for: MATTHEW-JOHN KNIGHTS
1. What is your program? What year are you in?
Master of Music, Composition Profile, second year.
2. What are your plans for next year?
Beginning a Doctorate of Musical Arts at the University of British Columbia with Dorothy Chang.
3. What are some of your greatest accomplishments within the program?
Launching a career. I feel as though I have been mentored as a professional, not just as a student, and now I have the tools and experience to work at the professional level.
4. What opportunities have you had for performances of your works while studying at the University of Ottawa?
I have had my own recital, the GMSA (Graduate Music Students' Association) recital, and the 13 Strings Competition.
5. Which of your professors had an impact on your studies?
Kelly-Marie Murphy has had a huge impact on my studies. She has always been there, nurturing and encouraging my art, while somehow also pushing me into new territories and pointing me towards opportunities.
6. What are some of your favourite styles to write? What are some of your favourite ensembles to write for?
I love the slow, lyrical styles, as well as nebulous, soundscape type pieces. My favourite ensemble yet to write for was a mixed ensemble called Standing Wave, which used Flute/Alto Flute, Clarinet/Bass Clarinet, Violin, Cello, Marimba/Vibraphone/Cymbal, and Piano.
7. What was the most pivotal moment in your music career/music studies?
Winning the 13 Strings competition. It was the first competition I won, and for me, it felt like I had a chance of making a name for myself, and thusly, a career, in this tightly competitive world of new music.
8. What did you learn about yourself while studying here?
I have learned to trust my instincts when composing. I know what I want, especially once I hear it, and I have been given the gift of confidence by my professors and mentors to let my cultivated instincts and trust guide me to making a good piece of music.
9. What does a glimpse into your creative process look like? How do you find inspiration to write, and how do you express a certain emotion through your music?
At the start, my creative process is quite child-like. I sit at the piano, banging around on the keys, just pressing notes, and finding ones that I kind of like to write down. Once I have solid ideas, I spend a lot of time at the computer, listening to playback simulations, and from there, the 'right' answer of what comes next seems so obvious, as if the piece is telling me what it wants to be. When I hear it, I instantly know if what I wrote is 'right' or 'wrong,' and then I can react and grow the work.
10. How has the current situation had an impact on your studies? What has been helpful to you in these situations?
To be honest, I have not had much of a negative impact on my studies from COVID-19. I have not had to deal with working two jobs and going to class, so I have been able to focus much more intensely on each task, be it a paper, or composing a new work. The extra time has been a wonderful gift in many ways. That said, being forced to remain indoors so much can feel a bit overwhelming. Composing has been helpful. It keeps my brain busy and makes me feel a sense of normalcy in a world that is utterly not normal right now.