Home | Projects | Works

Scott McLaughlin, Composer

Contact: email scott at lutins dot co dot uk or see my university page

Listen: YouTube Playlist,     SoundCloud,     BandCamp page

scott mclaughlin portrait, dark and moody, looking away from camera Scott McLaughlin is a composer and free-improviser (cello, live electronics) based in Huddersfield, UK. Born in Ireland (Co. Clare) in 1975, he wanted to be a scientist but instead spent his early 20s playing guitar in art-indie bands between Galway and Belfast. Slowly he discovered more experimental non-pop musics, leading to a foundation course and subsequent BMus degree in music at the University of Ulster at Jordanstown, completed in 2001. Somewhere between that and completing his PhD at the University of Huddersfield in 2009, he reconnected with science via music, with the help of supervisors Pierre Alexandre Tremblay, Bryn Harrison, James Saunders, and Christopher Fox. Currently he teaches composition and music-technology at University of Leeds, and still enjoys reverb-drenched feedback.

His research is compositional, a practice-led exploration of the physical materiality of sound and the local teleology of performance, combining approaches from experimental music with dynamical systems theory and philosophy to explore autopoiesis and recursive feedback systems in constraint-based open form composition: especially concerning resonance and perceptual ambiguity on both macro/formal and micro/spectral scales. His music is concerned with relationships between minimal processes of transformation and proliferation: ideas of recursion, hysteresis, difference, cluster-microtonality, chaos/complexity theory, and interactivity. Recent performances have been given by Manon Quartet, Dublin Sound Lab, National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, LSTwo, and Mira Benjamin.

Scott's research takes non-linear and unstable elements of instrumental sound and treats these as locally unpredictable systems (weighted unpredictability, similar to markov chains) within globally indeterminate cybernetic system of performer-score-instrument. For example, the set of single-reed pieces there are neither wholes nor parts (2011-13) uses only multiphonics but treats each multiphonic as a system with multiple possible pitch outputs of varying probability: wind multiphonics are unstable at low dynamics, and may collapse onto one of several possible pitches. The score guides the player with a preferred path, but the nature of the medium allows for other possible outcomes which then determine the multiphonic chosen next. The string quartet a metastable harmony (2012) applies this principle to strings, where drone-bowing of open strings, becomes a reservoir of possible partials isolated by right-hand techniques only. The constant feedback between bow-activity and formant resonance is a hysteretic system where resultant pitches act as targets to guide the performance. The cello solo intra-actions (2013) and work for six electric guitars surfaces of emergence (2013) build on this by altering the environment of the instrument with periodic gradual detuning.

Currently Scott is working on an AHRC-funded 18-month practice-research project exploring compositional strategies for working with Heather Roche and Jonathan Sage on the indeterminacies of the clarinet, see The Garden of Forking Paths.

Upcoming and Recent Performances

[RESCHEDULED DUE TO COVID] May 2020, new work for orchestra, Tectonics 2020 

[RESCHEDULED DUE TO COVID] 25/4/2020 Abrash, Symphony Orchestra, Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, ISCM New Zealand

14/11/2020 October Nocturns tape piece for Land Lines project.

[CANCELLED DUE TO COVID] 18/04/2020, In the unknown there is already a script for transcendence for prepared-piano and magnetic resonators, played by Zubin Kanga at the Music Current, 8pm Project Arts Centre, Dublin  

7/2/2020 The whole is encountered by going further into the parts for prepared double bass, Christopher Williams, German Center for Venetian Studies, Venice.

20/12/2019 The Endless Mobility of Listening, Mira Benjamin at Iklectik London  

4/12/2019 Surfaces of Emergence for 6 feedback guitars, played by students of Goldsmiths (University of London) 

Nov 2019, like stones skipping on a lake, solo flute, included on a new CD by Kathryn Williams as part of her 'Coming up for Air' project. Released on Huddersfield Contemporary Records

20/06/2019 7pm, Contingent Harmony for Explore Ensemble (fl, cl, pno, vc, vla, vn) with preparations and resonator. Uni of Leeds, Concert Series  

19/06/2019 7pm, Contingent Harmony for Explore Ensemble (fl, cl, pno, vc, vla, vn) with preparations and resonator. Oxford  

02/05/2019 7pm, Der Greise Kopf for Metapraxis Ensemble with phone playback. Cafe Oto  

26/04/2019 2–3pm, Anarchiving Resonance, performance and open workshop of new work developed with Jessica Aszodi. Uni of Leeds, Great Hall  

13/04/2019 7pm, Der Greise Kopf for Metapraxis Ensemble with phone playback.  

22/02/2019, In the unknown there is already a script for transcendence for prepared-piano and magnetic resonators, played by Zubin Kanga at the Royal Holloway University  

22/02/2019 (1pm), In the unknown there is already a script for transcendence for prepared-piano and magnetic resonators, played by Zubin Kanga at the University of Leeds International Concert Series, Clothworkers Concert hall, Uni. of Leeds.  

7/02/2019, In the unknown there is already a script for transcendence for prepared-piano and magnetic resonators, played by Zubin Kanga at the Free Range in Canturbury.  

20–24/11/2018 (1–4pm), Sonic Bodies interactive installation (movement sonification) as part of Being Human Festival at the Leeds Art Gallery  

25/11/2018 (3pm), In the unknown there is already a script for transcendence for prepared-piano and magnetic resonators, played by Zubin Kanga at Transistor Festival, Mälmo  

17/11/2018 (4pm), In the unknown there is already a script for transcendence for prepared-piano and magnetic resonators, played by Zubin Kanga at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, Phipps Hall, Uni. of Huddersfield.  

23–24/06/2018, Bee Music (draft 1) for tape will be presented at Rothamsted Research 'Festival of Ideas', Harpenden.   video link symbol

24–26/05/2018, Perisonic (full version) has been selected for installation at Elektro Arts Festival, Gheorghe Dima Music Academy in Cluj-Napoca.

04/05/2018, Repetitions and variations transform one another for LSTwo ensemble will be performed at CCCH, Leeds. Follow the composition of the piece at my new blog here  video link symbol

14/01/2018, Perisonic will be performed in full at Schwankhalle, Bremen.

28/10/2017, bifurcations in continuous systems performed by Sebastian Berweck (kbd) at SinusTon, in Magdeburg, Germany, 9pm

13/10/2017, Mira Benjamin performs The Endless Mobility of Listening for violin and live electronics in Oslo

1/7/2017, Cartographies of Sheet Metal for multiple bowed cymbal players. Performed by Scott McLaughlin and Joe Whelan at Performing Indeterminacy conference in Leeds.

6/5/2017, The Careful Plaiting of Weak Ties for prepared string quartet. Performed by Manon Quartet at 840 concert series London

29/4/2017, Threads of the Social performed by LSTwo Strings (string ensemble) and Mira Benjamin at Leeds International Concert Series in Clothworkers Centenary Concert Hall, Leeds, 19.30pm.

28/4/2017, Perisonics at Music Current 2017 in Smock Alley, Dublin

27–31/3/2017, I'll be in Berlin taking part in Forecast Platform

17/3/2017, M. Grisey, his Galliard (string orchestra, 2005), Bifurcations (clarinet quartet, 2007), and Blues for Horatiu (piano, 2016) at Minzu University, Beijing.

7/12/2016, Reciprocal Structures performed by Scott McLaughlin (prepared cello) at Sounds Between Festival in Guildford, 5.30pm.

5/12/2016, bifurcations in continuous systems performed by Michael Quinn (kbd) at Smock Alley in Dublin, 8pm.

4/12/2016, Reciprocal Structures performed by Mira Benjamin (vln), Dom Lash (bass), and Scott McLaughlin (feedback guitar) at Hundred Years Gallery in London, 4pm.

8/10/2016, Snowflake performed by Peyee Chen (sop) at Alba New Music in Edinburgh, 7:30pm. Tickets £8 (£6 concessions)

9/9/2016, multistable objects assembled around a common point performed by Duo Hevans (Eleri Ann Evans & Henri Bok) at 'Doctors in Performance' conference, Royal Irish Academy of Music, Dublin.

Summer 2016, the wonderful Mira Benjamin takes my new concert-length piece for violin and live electronics, The Endless Mobility of Listening, on tour to Canada (BC) and UK.

May/June 2016, Snowflake performed by Juliet Fraser at: 5 May BARBOUR ROOM, SAGE GATESHEAD; 14 May HEPWORTH WAKEFIELD; 18 May UNION CHAPEL BAR, LONDON; 18 June PENINSULAR ARTS, PLYMOUTH UNI.

16/5/2016 I'm very pleased to have been selected to participate in Composer Lab. My first orchestra piece will performed by the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra in Dublin on May 16th.

29/2 - 2/3/2016 'The world according to Bob', a celebration of the work of Bob Gilmore, a good friend who is greatly missed. Blues for Horatiu for solo piano performed by Reinier van Houdt at Cafe Oto on weds evening in London. And another performance of Untitled (for Bob) performed by Trio Scordatura on 7pm on Tuesday at City University.

29/11/2015 Untitled (for Bob) performed by Trio Scordatura at muziekgebouw (Amsterdam) as part of 'Nicola Vicentino, a second life' at MicroFest Amsterdam 2015.

23/11/2015 (midnight show) Reciprocal Structures performed by Dominic Lash at hcmf// shorts. video link symbol  research page link symbol

17/11/2015 Reciprocal Structures performed by Dominic Lash at Circus London as part of collaborator Shelley James' exhibition. research page link symbol

06-07/11/2015 & 14/11/2015 in Wiltshire, Snowflake performed by Juliet Fraser at Corsham, Upavon, and Minety.

9/9/2015, London, Cafe Oto, 'wax-on, wax-off'. (related to bifurcations in a continuous system). Requested by Tom Mudd for his Control exhibition.

21/5/2015, Leeds, objects exceed our access to them for (euph, cl, fl, sax, amplified cymbals). LS2 Ensemble, Clothworkers' Centenery Concert Hall, University of Leeds. video link symbol  research page link symbol

17/03/2014 Huddersfield and 21/01/2015 Brunel, a string vibrates in two directions. Diego Castro (solo guitar – 5’),


June. 2018 "Composing for contingent materiality in performance", paper given at HARP2018 conference (Hub for Artistic Research) at the Royal Northern College of Music

April 2018 "Notating Materiality", video-paper given at the Material Cultures of Music Notation conference in Utrecht.

Oct. 2017 "Material Indeterminacy and De-centred Practice", guest lecture given at SoMA, Bath Spa University.

Sept. 2017 "Material Indeterminacy", paper given at ISACS2017 conference, ZKM.

Nov. 2016 "Materiality Topologies and Critical Technical Practice", paper given at Orpheus Institute (Ghent, Belgium) at the Composition as Critical Technical Practice Symposium.

Oct. 2016 "Materiality, Topology, Indeterminacy", composition seminar given at University of York.

Jan. 2016 "Material Agency and Indeterminacy as Musical Structure", a public lecture given at University of Wolverhampton, video here.

Sep. 2013 "intra-agencies", CeReNeM Journal, issue 4.

Aug. 2012 "If a tree falls in an empty forest…: Problematization of liveness in mixed-music performance", Journal of Music Technology and Education, 5/1, Summer 2012.

Jun. 2012 "Imperfect balance: Musical composition by exciting periodic and near-chaotic regimes in coupled metal cymbals", 5th Chaos Simulation and Modeling Conference, Athens.

Jun. 2012 "Issues in Application of Chaos in Acoustic Composition", 5th Chaos Simulation and Modeling Conference, Athens.

Jan. 2012 "There are Neither Wholes nor Parts: Issues of notation and Performance with Multiphonics" joint paper with Iain Harrison, SPEEC, Uni. Of Oxford.

Oct. 2011 "Framing, Filtering: Sites of Indeterminacy in the Text Scores of Manfred Werder", "Word Event" (text-score conference), Bath Spa University.

Sep. 2011 "Hysteresis and Recursion in my Recent Music", Music and Minimalism Conference, University of Leuven.

July 2011 Whitewater on Eric Honour's, Phantasm: Music for Saxophone and Computer, 2011 Ravello Records.

Mar. 2011 "Dynamic Systems and Analogy in Experimental Music", Chaos Simulation and Modeling Conference, Technical University of Crete. Also to be published in proceedings book in 2012.

Mar. 2011 "Schema for Undermining Memory in Experimental Music", Time's Excesses Conference, University of Caen, France.

Mar. 2011 "Problematisation of Live-ness in Mixed Music Performance", FiMPAC, Leeds College of Music.

Nov. 2010 "SpectralConway: Cellular Automata off the Grid", Earzoom, Ljubljana.

Nov. 2010 "Dissolution: a Study in Collaboration", with S. Berweck, RMA Study Day, University of Leeds.

Aug. 2010 "SpectralConway: Cellular Automata off the Grid", ICMC 2010, New York.

Mar. 2010 "What Remains: musical structure as a function of notation in experimental music.", Off The Staves Conference, Bangor (Wales).

Mar. 2008 Bifurcations included on CD compilation, 'Contemporary Music from Ireland: Volume 7'. Published by Contemporary Music Centre, Dublin.