Matthew Ricketts

Matthew Ricketts




January 15, 1986

Featured work

Blood Line


December 5, 7 and 10, 2017

Matthew Ricketts is surely one of the composers to keep an eye on in the years ahead. A graduate of McGill University, where he studied with composers Brian Cherney, John Rea and Chris Paul Harman, he is currently completing his Ph.D. studies at Columbia University in New York under the supervision of composer Fred Lerdahl.

Played on numerous occasions in North America and in Paris, Ricketts’s music has earned him a number of distinctions since 2007, including a full seven SOCAN Foundation’s Awards for Young Composers. Ricketts took part in the 2014 edition of the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne Forum in Montreal and received a 2016 fellowship from the renowned Aspen Music Festival in Colorado. From 2016 to 2018 he will occupy the position of Composer-Collaborator in residence at East Carolina University’s NewMusic Initiative. In addition to his musical practice, Matthew Ricketts is the author of poetic and prose texts that have been set to music in different ways, including as part of European productions.

The works of Matthew Ricketts are known first of all for a multicolored quality. Devoted almost exclusively to voice or to small instrumental ensembles, they make up canvases sometimes in muted colors, sometimes in bright ones, and where certain moments of radiant vitality are breached by melodic strokes of a fleeting lyricism. In his confidently crafted music, fragility never gets the upper hand on a delicateness that enjoins audiences to pay very close attention.

In the words of the composer…


“When charged with the task of writing a symphonic poem celebrating Canada 150, with a particular focus on the role the trans-continental railroad played in the formation of a coast-to-coast Canadian nationhood, my thoughts turned to musical metaphors of body, growth and journey. These are some of the more persistent metaphors in our musical culture: that music is a kind of body (as in a composer’s corpus, or more directly in the description of music’s contours and textures and pulse), and also that our experience of music is embodied; that music is an organism which might be heard living, growing, developing, morphing, dying; and that music is a journey, from a starting point to a finishing point through varied landscapes. All three metaphorical tropes might be thought of as representing a single cultural perspective: music as life.


So rather than exploring more ‘pictorial’ or programmatic representations of the train as such, I came to imagine its constitutive role in the very idea of Canada as a kind of unified body whose disparate elements were brought into more or less cohesive wholeness through this [train] line which rather violently cuts across Canada. That violence certainly knew no limits (from the near-slave labour of Chinese migrants in the western portion of the track to the countless lives lost surveying the inconceivably inhospitable regions of central Canadian muskeg country, or the Rocky mountains themselves). So many bodies lost to a larger cause: the national body, stitched together with track.


The first movement, Strands, charts the creation of a kind of musical organism through the slow culmination of musical strands (‘line’). A body is heard coming into being. The second movement, Sequence, takes this organism on a journey through varied music-scapes. Speed is emphasized; some material appears to pass by quite quickly in a blur, as though viewed from a train window. Following without pause, the third movement, Shores, marks a coastal arrival, perhaps on the shores of Vancouver Island (my hometown, and the Western terminus of the Canadian-Pacific railroad). The tempo slows quite suddenly while surface activity remains quite active though muted and undulating ‘beneath the surface’—do we hear waves, beach-bound ebbs and flows, distant birds?” (Matthew Ricketts)


Listen, while following along with the score, to the Matthew Ricketts piece Burrowed Time performed by Nouvel Ensemble Moderne under the direction of Lorraine Vaillancourt.


Listen to Matthew Ricketts’s music on his SoundCloud platform.