Dr Mic Spencer
- Position: Associate Professor of Music
- Areas of expertise: Composition/improvisation; notation systems; aesthetics; heavy metal; conducting/performance practice of new music; semiotic analysis; micro-tonal tuning systems, creative collaborations
- Email: M.Spencer@leeds.ac.uk
- Phone: +44(0)113 343 2530
- Location: 2.20 School of Music
- Website: Soundcloud | Twitter | LinkedIn
Born in Bellshill, Lanarkshire in 1975. I studied composition with Graham Hair at Glasgow University where I received an MA in Music and Scottish Literature. Between 1997 and 2002, I completed a MusM and PhD in Composition with Geoff Poole at Manchester University.
Between 1998 and 2004, I worked privately with James Dillon, on whose work I have published two articles and I have also studied in masterclasses with Richard Barrett, Steve Takasugi, Chaya Czernowin, Brian Ferneyhough, Mathias Spahlinger and Pierluigi Billone.
My music has been performed nationally, internationally, on BBC Radio 3 and is available on CD. In terms of performances, it has been performed at the Henze Festival (RNCM),St Cyprians Church (London), the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (twice short-listed for the Young Composers Competition in 2000 and 2003), Instal2002 (Glasgow), Maxis2003 Festival (Leeds), in workshops by the Apollo Sax Quartet, Psappha, in France, Canada, at the Darmstadter Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik in Germany, 2004 and 2012, and extensively at Glasgow, Manchester and Leeds Universities.
‘Toxic Knuckle Bones’ was performed by the BBC Philharmonic under James MacMillan on Radio 3's Hear and Now programme in 2001. I have worked with notable performers such as Ensemble SurPlus, Ian Pace, Richard Casey, Modelo62, Trio Atem, Apartment House, Christophe de Bezenac, Adam Starkie, Lauren Redhead, Ingólfur Vilhjálmsson, Carlos Cordeiro and Geoff Poole. Recently my piece ‘A Maze I(a)n (S)Pace (Space [G]race)’ which celebrates Ian Pace's 50th birthday, was performed by the dedicatee on BBC Radio 3.
In 2003, I received a stipend to attend the first International Summer Course for Composers at Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart, where I worked with Chaya Czernowin, Steve Takasugi and Richard Barrett. My work ‘la mer allée avec le soleil’ was performed there by Ensemble SurPlus and subsequently by them in Stuttgart and Freiburg.
In 1999, I co-founded Polaroid, an evening of new and experimental music at the Arches (Glasgow) with Tiernan Kelly and Freya Mitchell. Programmes included the Scottish premires of Cage's ‘Muyoce II’, Nono's ‘Canti Per Tredici’, and performances of Stockhausen and young British composers. Polaroid was the blueprint for the Arches Instal Festival, for which I was a consultant in 2001 and 2002, organising the performance of Ligeti's ‘Poème Symphonique’, works by Berio and Takemitsu and the Scottish premiere of Feldman's ‘Instruments III’ (which I performed in as percussionist).
I have also conducted the University of Glasgow's Kelvin Ensemble in a programme of Arkell, Yeats and Schumann. In 1999, I co-ordinated the performances of the music of Urugyan composer Graciela Paraskevaidas at Manchester University (as part of a tour of Universities organised by Stephen Davismoon). In 2003, I gave a lecture-recital at the University of Glasgow, a master-class in composition at the Junior Department of Trinity College of Music (London) and was resident composition tutor for the National Youth Brass Band.
At the University of Leeds I run and conduct the new music ensemble LSTwo which has performed under my artistic direction Stockhausen's ‘Kreuzspiel’, Varèse's ‘Intégrales’ and ‘Ionisation’, Lachenmann's ‘...zwei Gefhle...,Musik mit Leonardo’, Grisey's ‘Vortex Temporum’ and Boulez's ‘Le marteau sans maître’, Chaya Czernowin's ‘Afatsim’, James MacMillan's ‘as others see us’, Beat Furrer's ‘Gaspra’, Stäbler's ‘Luftspiegelungen - Ein Spiel fur Sieben’, Nunes's ‘Improvisation I’, Finnissy's ‘Catâna’, Dillon's ‘Zone (de azul...)’, Birtwistle's ‘Tragoedia’, Clarke's ‘Delmenhorst’ and ‘Afterglow’, Hoban's ‘Wyrdlines’, an entire festival of the works of Hans Joachim Hespos, a concert dedicated to the work of Volker Heyn, and a range of premieres of postgraduate and undergraduate student work and colleagues' works. 2018's concert included works by Zeynep Gedizlioglu, Ann Cleare, Michele Abondano, Liliana Z del Rio, Ed Cooper, Kieran Blythe, Alannah Halay, Aílis NÍ RÍan and Hannah Firmin.
I have published several articles on the creative process as well as on James Dillon's music. My other work includes ‘Ungrund II (after Böhme)’ for solo clarinet/kick-drum (one player) which was premiered in Strasbourg before receiving its UK premiere in Leeds, April 2010. It recently received another performance at MusicA Festival, Strasbourg.’Ungrund I (after Böhme)’ for chamber ensemble was premiered by Ensemble Modelo62 as part of their UK Urbane Tour.
‘The Eemis Stane - Homage to K.S. Sorabji’ is available on a CD collection of new piano music recorded by Aleks Szram (fonorum label 2005) and my piano piece ‘Message from Aiwass X (on his Horoscope)’ is available on CD (Joyous Lake on primafacie records, performed by my past mentor Geoff Poole, to whom the piece is dedicated). My work for solo cello, ‘Verdrangung von der Aufhebung’ was premiered in Darmstadt by Andrej Gal and more recently performed in San Diego by Franklin Cox.
In 2012 I composed ‘Ungrund (after Boehme) V’ for Trio Atem using text fragments by Heraclitus in a collaborative project with Bill Hutson which was premiered in 2013 (funded by Arts Council England) and another new piece in my Ungrund cycle for Adam Starkie (solo clarinet) and ensemble (‘Ungrund (after Boehme) IV’ which was premiered in 2013. Later in 2013, an article on the string quartets of James Dillon was published in Contemporary Music Review.
In 2014, I wrote ‘The Phaedra Complex’ for ELISION ensemble (oboe, percussion and violin) which they premiered in Leeds. At the same time, I composed ‘CLSTRFCK’ (for organ/voice - 1 player - fixed media electronics and live electronics, premiered by Lauren Redhead) and ‘CLSTRBMB’ (for ensemble, premiered by Workers Union Ensemble) both of which enjoyed performances in 2014 and 2015.
Between 2015 and 2016, I collaborated on a work for clarinet with composer and colleague Scott McLaughlin and clarinettist Heather Roche. She premiered ‘Palmyra’ in Leeds in early 2016 and there is documentation in web form of the creative process available. As well as the above, my research interests include the music of Brian Ferneyhough, James Dillon, Helmut Lachenmann, improvisation, live electronic-performer interaction, aesthetics and semiotic analysis which I taught at the University of Manchester for seven years.
My recent pieces include ‘Per me si va nella città dolente’ for solo piano, premiered in December 2019 by Ian Pace and ‘Beatrice’s Last Smile’ for modular ensemble(s), disembodied voice (Peyee Chen) and electronics (realised by Max Erwin) premiered in 2021. Current work in progress includes a new work for LoveMusic (Strasbourg).
- Head of the Graduate School, Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (2011–2022)
- Graduate Board Representative on Taught Student Education Board (2020–2022)
- Programme Manager MMus Critical and Experimental Composition
- Member of School Taught Student Education Committee
- Head of Composition
- Deputy Head of School (2011–2021)
- Chair of the Schools Student:Staff Forum (2011–2020)
- Postgraduate Research Tutor
- Postgraduate Research Tutor for the School of Music and the School of Performance and Cultural Industries (2010–2012)
- Equality and Diversity Officer for the School (2006–2009)
- Joint Honours Arts Tutor (2004–2009)
- Programme Manager for MMus Composition (2004–2014)
- Chair of Programmes of Study and Audit Group (2014–2019)
- LITE Fellow (exploring ways to enhance Masters level Creative Arts Practice, 2020–2021)
Current Research Students
- Annie Blin-Bolt [PhD Composition] (2022–Present)
- Paulina Waclawik [PhD Composition] (2021–Present)
- Niki Zohdi [PhD Composition] (2020–Present)
- Rhun Gwilym [PhD Music Theory (musicology)] (2022–Present)
- Oana Kariotoglou [PhD Music Theory (Analysis)] (2019–Present)
Completed Research Students
- Martin Loridan [PhD Composition Leeds Doctoral Scholarship] (2018–2022)
- Jake Randell [PhD Composition Frank Parkinson Scholarship funded] (2017–2022)
- Marc Yeats [PhD Composition WRoCAH funded] (2017–2022)
- Hans Kretz [PhD Performance University Research Scholarship] (2016–2021)
- Alfia Nakipbekova [PhD Performance] (2014–2020)
- Joanne Armitage [PhD Composition Stanley Burton Trust funded] (2012–2018)
- Arne Sanders [PhD Composition University of Leeds Anniversary Scholarship funded] (2014–2018)
- Richard Barrett [PhD Composition Stanley Burton Trust funded] (2013–2017)
- Alannah Halay [PhD Composition AHRC funded] (2013–2017)
- Oliver Thurley [PhD Composition AHRC funded] (2012–2016)
- Marcello Messina [PhD Composition] (2009–2013)
- Michael Walters [PhD Composition] (2007–2014)
- Caroline Lucas [PhD Composition Stanley Burton Trust funded] (2008–2013)
- Roddy Hawkins [PhD Musicology AHRC funded]
- Adam Ferguson [PhD Composition AHRC funded]
- Eleri Pound [PhD Composition] (2004–2008)
- Ian Sapiro [MPhil Composition] (2001–2004)
- Federico Pozzer [PhD Composition] (2017–2021)
- Qais Alghanem [PhD Performance] (2014–2019)
- James Clarke [PhD Composition Leeds Arts and Humanities Scholarship funded] (2015–2018)
- Laurence Johnson [MA by Research] (2015–2016)
- Danielle Hood [PhD Music Theory (analysis)] (2010–2016)
- Kevin Laycock [PhD Fine Art Practice, as his theory supervisor]; Parent School: Fine Art (submitted 2012)
- Christophe de Bezenac [PhD Performance] (2003–2007)
- Ian Gallimore [PhD Musicology] (2004–2009)
- PhD Examiner (Goldsmiths, London 2019)
- PhD Examiner (Kings College, London 2017)
- MPhil Examiner (Huddersfield, 2016)
- PhD Examiner (Huddersfield, 2013)
- PhD Examiner (Glasgow, 2013)
- PhD Examiner (Salford, 2011)
- External Examiner for the MA in Composition Programme, University College Cork, Ireland (2009–2012)
- Member of White Rose College of the Arts and Humanities Creative Arts Cluster Committee (2016–17)
- Chair of White Rose College of the Arts and Humanities Creative Arts Cluster Committee (2015–16)
- Member of White Rose College of the Arts and Humanities Creative Arts Cluster Committee (2014–15)
- Organiser of composition workshop with Icebreaker ensemble, Assembly Rooms, Leeds as part of the FUSE Festival (2009)
- Organiser, Lichtung: A one-day conference on the music of Emmanuel Nunes, University of Leeds (December 2007)
- Co-organiser (and composition workshop leader) of RMA Student Conference, University of Leeds (2006)
- Organiser of workshop with London Sinfonietta at University of Leeds as part of the FUSE Festival (2006)
- Organiser and leader of workshop with Fine Arts Brass, University of Leeds (2004)
- External reviewer for AHRC Research Leave (several extraordinary appointments, 2006–Present)
Other former roles
- Member of Points-Based System Steering Group
- Member of the University Research Ethics Committee (as representative of Graduate Board)
- Member of Collaborations and Partnership Committee University of Leeds
- Representative on York St. John University Research Degree Sub-Committee
- Head of Composition
- Former Head of the Graduate School, Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (2012-2022)
- composition (including improvisation, notational issues, linearity/non-linearity, narratives, experimental music)
- the music of Dillon, Feldman, Redhead, Ferneyhough, Hespos, Lachenmann, Lim, Maxwell Davies, Clara Schumann, Spahlinger, Xenakis
- aesthetics, philosophy of new music including the theoretical thinking of Adorno, Heidegger, Foucault, Boehme
- conducting and performance practice of new music
- heavy metal and related sub-cultural issues
- semiotic analysis (Monelle, Nattiez, Samuels)
- micro-tonal tuning systems
- creative collaborations
- MA (Hons), Scottish Literature and Music, University of Glasgow
- MusM (Composition), University of Manchester
- PhD (Composition), University of Manchester
- The Scottish Music Centre http://www.scottishmusiccentre.com/michael-spencer/
My current teaching includes composition at all levels, new music performance practice at all levels and some MA dissertation supervision. I am also lead for Ensemble Peformance at levels 1, 2 and 3.
Research groups and institutes
- Making Music