Artists Monty Adkins

Monty Adkins is a composer, performer, and professor of experimental electronic music at the University of Huddersfield (England, UK). He has created installations, concert and audio-visual works, and a number of collaborations with performers, video artists and photographers. His works have been commissioned by Ina-GRM, IRCAM, BBC Radio 3, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (HCMF), SpACE-Net, ZKM, and Sonic Arts Network (SAN), among others. For his œuvre he has been awarded over 15 international prizes including the Stockholm Electronic Arts Award (Sweden), Grand Prize at Musica Nova (Prague, Czech Republic), and five prizes at the Bourges International Electroacoustic Music Competition (France).

Having read music at Pembroke College (Cambridge, England, UK) where he studied French mediaeval and Italian Renaissance music, Adkins then studied electronic music with Jonty Harrison at the University of Birmingham where he performed across Europe with the Birmingham ElectroAcoustic Sound Theatre (BEAST), and Simon Waters at the University of East Anglia (Norwich, England, UK). Monty Adkins is also active as a writer and concert curator. He completed his first book in 2011 on the relationship between art and music (Shibusa — Extracting Beauty) and a second on the music of Roberto Gerhard in 2013 (Ashgate).


Monty Adkins

[Mathew Adkins]

Leamington (England, UK), 1972

Residence: Huddersfield (England, UK)

  • Composer

On the web

Monty Adkins [Photo: Terry Adkins, Huddersfield (England, UK), 2014]
Monty Adkins [Photo: Terry Adkins, Huddersfield (England, UK), 2014]
  • Monty Adkins [Photo: Gonzalo Biffarella, 2008]
  • Monty Adkins [Photo: Rose Dodd, 2007]
  • Monty Adkins [Photo: James Gardner, 2006]
  • Monty Adkins

Main releases

empreintes DIGITALes / IMED 16136, IMED 16136_NUM / 2016
empreintes DIGITALes / IMED 0898, IMED 0898_NUM / 2008
empreintes DIGITALes / IMED 0679, IMED 0679_NUM / 2006


  • Not in catalogue
  • Not in catalogue
Line / LINE 099 / 2018
  • Not in catalogue
Audiobulb Records / AB 058 / 2015
  • Not in catalogue
Crónica Electrónica / CRONICA 094 / 2015
  • Not in catalogue
Audiobulb Records / AB 051 / 2014
  • Not in catalogue
Crónica Electrónica / CRONICA 086 / 2014
  • Not in catalogue

In the press

The Dialogues: Monty Adkins

Simon Cummings, 5:4, April 18, 2017

It’s a real pleasure to present a new instalment in my occasional series The Dialogues. This episode is in conversation with composer Monty Adkins, whose music I’ve written about many times on 5:4 and hold in very high regard. Our discussion explores a wide range of topics, including the fundamental aspects of Adkins’ compositional aesthetic, the history and development of his practice, the influence of visual art throughout his output alongside musical influences, considerations of beauty, narrative vs abstract approaches to composition, the relationship between and implications pertaining to ‘authentic’ and artificial sonic environments, types of listening, perceptions of time, notions of the sacred, the imposition (and benefits) of compositional restrictions, the organisation / structuring of non-teleological music, combining electronics with live instruments, and Adkins’ relationship with the listener.


I want to thank Monty for generously giving me so much of his time, and for being prepared to talk so openly (and for so long!) about his life and work. The trajectory his music has taken over the last twenty years is markedly different from many involved in electronic music, and I hope both newcomers and long-standing fans of his work will find our discussion as fascinating and illuminating as I did.

The trajectory his music has taken over the last twenty years is markedly different from many involved in electronic music…

The night France tuned in to clank and clatter — and a new music was born

Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph, November 20, 2008

Ivan Hewett looks at the origins of musique concrète, revisited in a 60th anniversary tribute to Pierre Schaeffer

Sixty years ago, on the evening of October 5, 1948, the homes of thousands of Frenchmen and women were invaded by ghostly aliens. It happened at 9pm, when these unsuspecting music-lovers switched on to Radio France, the state broadcasting company.

They were hoping for “normal” music, but instead they were assailed with weird noises; hissing steam engines, the clanking of iron wheels and the clatter of pots and pans. Mixed in with these were the sounds of a piano playing stridently modernist music, and even — horror of horrors — an amateur orchestra tuning up.

The effect wasn’t quite the mass panic brought on by Orson Welles’s famous War of the Worlds radio broadcast in the USA. But it wasn’t far off. The letters pages of French newspapers buzzed for days with expressions of outrage, mingled with a few dissenting approvers.

This concert de bruits was a red-letter day in the annals of modern music. It was the moment when musique concrète — made from sounds recorded out in the world, rather than musical notes — came out from the laboratory and into public view. The man behind it was a quiet, intense telecommunications engineer turned composer named Pierre Schaeffer. For months he had been working in the radio station’s studio, shaping the sounds he had recorded into a musical form.

The results were a series of Études de bruits (Sound Studies), which included Étude pathétique [Étude aux casseroles], based on saucepans, and another made of railway noises entitled Étude aux chemins de fer.

It sounds like “mad professor” music, but there was nothing eccentric or dotty about Schaeffer. He had a rare combination of hands-on practicality, visionary genius, and philosophical rigour. He must have had charm and persuasiveness too. In 1942, with Paris under Nazi occupation, he somehow convinced the state broadcasting company that the time was ripe to put money into an acoustical research institute, with himself as director.

By then, aged 32, he had decided that the aural world had been fundamentally changed by the advent of recording. When a violin note, a bird call and the sound of a foghorn are recorded and played back through a loudspeaker, they are hurled together into the same democratic space of the imagination, which Schaeffer dubbed “the acousmatic realm.” Sounds are severed from their causes, and become “sound objects,” which we listen to for their own sound qualities, just as we view abstract paintings without asking what they represent.

This view required a new way of thinking. Traditional music moves from a musical score to performance; Schaeffer’s new “concrete music” moves from sounds to their organisation. But this bright new vision proved difficult to put into practice. Equipment was primitive and until the advent of the tape recorder in the late 1940s, the only way Schaeffer could capture his sounds was by cutting directly on to a steel disc with a lathe. Modifying the sounds was a trial-and-error business of speeding or slowing up the disc, or playing it backwards.

Schaeffer was determined to bring this bewildering new world of sound to order and produced his Treatise of Musical Objects in 1966.

Schaeffer’s experiments were the beginning of a trend which quickly gained support. His name may not be as notorious as Stockhausen’s, but within the new music world he is revered. “Sound Art” is now a genre in its own right, and the influence of Schaeffer can be heard in film scores and pop genres such as electronica.

So when the electronic composer Mathew Adkins set out to make a 60th anniversary tribute to Schaeffer for the Huddersfield Festival of Contemporary Music, he had no trouble in finding willing collaborators. “My idea was to ask composers and sound artists from all round the world to contribute sound objects,” he said, “and to assemble these into a continuous piece.”

The result is a 60-minute piece in eight movements [[60]Project], some of which have very Schaeffer-ish titles like Urban Soundscape and Noise Study. The sounds have a smooth sophistication that contrasts hugely with the bumpy graininess of Schaeffer’s music, but Adkins still admires his pioneering experiments.

“When I heard this music as a student, it completely blew my mind. Schaeffer set me thinking about music in a completely different way, as something that creates an imaginary world. He’s not dogmatic, he doesn’t banish familiar sounds, he absorbs them into a new vision of what could be created in sound.”

The sounds have a smooth sophistication that contrasts hugely with the bumpy graininess of Schaeffer’s music, but Adkins still admires his pioneering experiments.

Articles written

  • Mathew Adkins, SAN Diffusion, April 1, 2001
    There are few electroacoustic composers that are able to combine craftsmanship with ironic humour as Tremblay does so effortlessly.
  • Mathew Adkins, SAN Diffusion, March 1, 2001
    … listen and let you imagination do the rest.


Mathew Adkins, SAN Diffusion, April 1, 2001

“… are you coming yet… are your nipples erect… ” perhaps not… but your ears are certainly in for an amusing treat. This short passage of telephone sex from «… Ceci est un message enregistré…» is one of many snatches of sonic graffitti that litter the sound world of Marc Tremblay. For Tremblay “Noise is the child of chaos. It confronts us daily and can come to symbolise all that is accidental in life… l Iove to discover the poetry in the noise that surrounds us.”

All six works on this disk seek to explore the poetic quality of everyday noise in its various guises. On the surface these works appear to be light-hearted, even flippant, imbued with a real sense of ironic amusement. Beneath this surface however, there is a darker side, one which utilises many of the anecdotal materials to provide social comment - Cowboy Fiction (1998) exposes the imperialistic mentality of ‘the White man’, «… Ceci est un message enregistré…» (1994) - the way in which technology, though allowing us to communicate faster and quicker, can actually heighten our sense of physical insularity, and L’argent… toujours l’argent! (1990), our voyeristic love of gameshows that allow contestants get rich quick.

Vroum which opens the disk is a homage to the automobile replete with samples from The Beatles to Formula One. The piece’s gestural energy is contained in noise based samples derived from various car parts while more pitched elements are derived from car horns. Though this is a substantial piece, at fifteen minutes it seems a little long. This is due in part to the long drawn out central section based predominately on a sequenced car horn could have been shorter to keep up both the spectral and the gestural from the opening. Nevertheless, this opening piece gives you a taste of what is in store for later.

In contrast to the two extended opening works Vroum and Conte sous la lune - celebrating the naivety of childhood, Résidus (clip dadaïste) (1995) is the shortest piece on the disk and is an ironic evocation of Duchamp’s Fontaine. Résidus (clip dadaïste) must lay claim to be the first electroacoustic work to include a sonic vomit. Tremblay considers this piece “a small variation on the sounds that we hear - but do not really hear - in washrooms.” This is a real cinema for the ears piece which is nothing if not graphic!

Cowboy Fiction (1998) although in the same amusing cinematic vein of the other pieces is the only one actually acknowledged as being part of a larger multimedia project. It forms the second part of an on-going project entitled Rêve de cowboy. The sonic material for the piece comes from the sound tracks to the French version of Howard HawksEl Dorado, John Ford’s The Searchers, and a version of Hank WilliamsRambling Man with a few locomotives and gun shots thrown in for good measure. For me this is the strongest piece on the disk.

Tremblay’s world is a crafted in-your-face melange of sonic debris, that engage in an amusing but ironic commentary on the noises that surround us. I had great fun listening to this disk and laughed out loud on numerous occasions. There are few electroacoustic composers that are able to combine craftsmanship with ironic humour as Tremblay does so effortlessly. Enjoy.

There are few electroacoustic composers that are able to combine craftsmanship with ironic humour as Tremblay does so effortlessly.


Mathew Adkins, SAN Diffusion, March 1, 2001

Unlike all of the other disks from empreintes DIGITALes that concentrate on the work of a single composer, Kristoff K.Roll is the performing/composing duo of Carole Rieussec and Jean–Christophe Camps, who compose and improvise, attempting to capture the poetry of everyday life from amongst the musical worlds and their codes.

Described as a musical travel diary, Corazón Road takes you on a sonic trip around Central America. Like any diary, small excerpts and fragments reveal only a little of the whole. So it is with Corazón Road. You have to listen to the disk right through to get the impression of what Camps and Rieussec are trying to create. In its treatment of the collected sonic environments this is not merely an ethnomusicological set of location recordings, neither is it a musical work in the mould of Telemusik, rather it is more like a hörspiel — a play in four acts with a prologue and two interludes in which sonic set pieces, vignettes, raw recordings and composed material rub shoulders to create a hybrid that is more like the scrapbook we all used to keep combining photos, tickets, postcards and our own written memories.

This disk is intoxicating from beginning to end. As a listener you become so absorbed in the sound world that the numerous sections of the work become irrelevant after a while — they become mere parts of a bigger journey. One of the reasons that this sound world is so engrossing is because of the sense of timing and pacing of material. Camps and Rieussec have an extremely keen ear that carefully balances the composed and the anecdotal, activity and repose. One of the best example of this occurs in the central part Belize City where the quiet and evocative Derrière la fenêtre (Behind the Window) and Un bateau arrive (A Boat is Arriving) are juxtaposed with the raw, raucous sound of the Belizean Rappers rounded off by the advice all travellers should heed once in a while, It will be better for you to take a bus

Diary extracts, photos and maps in the liner booklet complete the travelogue. Though these are interesting, you could do no better that to listen and let you imagination do the rest.

… listen and let you imagination do the rest.


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