In this series, we present our new composers. We are proud to introduce Karl Steven.


Please tell us about yourself and what you do.

I’ve been interested in music and sound for as long as I can remember. My mother says that when she was pregnant with me I would start wriggling around when they cranked up the music in the movies to signal the feature was about to begin. Appropriately enough I now make film and television music for a living, which is something I really enjoy, and I’ve been lucky enough to be the recipient of a bunch of awards for projects I’ve worked on (e.g. “Come To Daddy”, “The Bad Seed”, “Resolve” and “800 Words”).

My musical interests are diverse… I grew up mucking around a lot with tape recorders, which gradually evolved into sampling and early digital recording and manipulation, so there’s definitely a collage aspect to how I approach things. My father shared an office with Phil Dadson where ‘From Scratch’ would rehearse, so theirs were some of my earliest concerts which certainly left an impression too.

Between that and the Cook Island drummers at primary school assemblies, then later rap music, rhythm is a whole universe for me and, along with the timbral and colouristic qualities of sound, usually captures my attention before pitch. I’ve done a lot of work writing, producing, and performing in bands (like Supergroove, The Drab Doo-Riffs, Heart Attack Alley, and Queen Neptune), so a bit of that pop/rock/folk/punk sensibility finds its into my work as well, which is perhaps why I respond to the work of New York genre-bending composers, whether Bang On A Can and their extended family, the Minimalists, the Fluxists, or Kelly Moran.

My mother’s Swedish, and I grew up in a bit of a micro-Swedish bubble at home so I’m also interested in Scandinavian musical styles as well, especially their variants of Minimalism and some of the recent experimental music that explores, remembers, and disrupts folk traditions from that area like Meriheini Luoto and Maarja Nuut.

Other factors – I studied philosophy for a few years after getting fed up with the music industry, eventually completing a PhD in ancient philosophy in England, so I Create your own automated PDFs with JotForm PDF Editor 1 guess I’m a bit of an out of control nerd, which also means that my favourite ninja turtle is their sensei Splinter.

Please choose 2-3 of your works/albums and tell us about them

Recently I made the music for the limited series ‘Black Hands’ about the tragic Bain family murders. I really enjoyed writing for string trio and various choral combinations, and worked with some great players:

I’m rather interested in the music that exists on the borderline of what counts as ‘real’ music, like scales and other drills and exercises, nursery rhymes, bell peals, and the songs that accompany games. These teach us about music, it seems to me, like Wittgenstein’s language games teach us about language.

‘Chopsticks’ has become one such piece of semi-music, derided and ubiquitous, so I thought I’d break it open and allow the listener to spend some time looking at it from a few different angles, while exploring what I nd to be the emotion that hides inside something so unassuming:

Finally, to me one of the absolute privileges of living in the South Pacific is being able to hear and occasionally collaborate with taonga pÅ«oro practitioners. Here is an EP I made with Ariana Tikao a few years back, in connection with a documentary on the Hinewai reserve. I’m really pleased with how sounds with very different origins create a cohesive atmosphere on these recordings:

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m currently working up some of the pieces from ‘Black Hands’ into a suite for string trio, to be performed this winter. There are a couple of possible films in the pipeline that I’m really looking forward to if they come through as well, and sometime later this year Gaysorn Thavat’s lm ‘The Justice of Bunny King’ which I scored will hit screens, and its soundtrack be released, so I’m excited about that too…

Bunny is a folk hero in what is at times a very hostile world, so it was interesting trying to nd a musical language that could react to the interplay of those two forces, the human and the inhumane. I’m also perennially mucking around with electronics and recordings that will one day hopefully comprise a full album, as well as a more propulsive piece for woodwinds and both tuned and untuned percussion that I hope will someday find it’s way to some actual players.

Where can people connect with you?

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