MICHAEL GUINN TALKS TMA wins, AND HIS OWN MUSIC STYLE

Michael, you won best music this September 2019 at the Tracks Music Awards. How do you feel?

I feel very honored, especially after checking out some of the other winners this month! 

How would you describe your own music, you own style?

This is always a tough question. I suppose my music mainly falls into the contemporary classical category, but I prefer to think of my pieces as songs that are simply arranged orchestrally. They might have vocals or not, but they tend to rely on larger instrumental forces for their impact.

However, I also compose a lot of music that mixes orchestral and electronic atmospheres. This is the main incentive behind a work like ‘Inner Vibration’.

Here we have a piece that starts off with an electronic ostinato, and when the strings and human voice enter as accompaniment, it produces a kind of musical shock

despite the fact that what follows is more organic– the strings and the human voice. ‘Inner Vibration’ has only three tracks on it– computer-generated (the electronic ostinato at the outset), organically-generated (the strings) and body-generated (the human voice). Music comes from this inner vibration of our spirit– our urge to create something that aligns with universal vibrations.

My work is very often inspired by literary and artistic works as well. I have just recently finished putting together a film called ‘Todesfuge’, which is a piece I made for a piano trio to accompany the poem of Paul Celan as read by the author himself. The film itself is a very rapid stream-of-consciousness illustration of his poem, which is based on his own experience of living in a Nazi concentration camp in Romania during World War II. I have submitted it to a few festivals in Europe and the U.S., so it will be interesting to see how it makes out.

What made you submit your work to the TMA – Tracks Music Awards in the first place? Looking for recognition, promotion, buzz?

Yes, of course all of those things are appealing for artists! Most artists believe that their work should have a larger audience, and

TMA is especially intriguing to submit to because they are open to such a vast array of genres and styles. So many music festivals these days are centered on popular genres, so it’s refreshing to have festivals like TMA for composers like me whose music falls into the more niche categories.

‘Inner Vibration’, for example, is very difficult to categorize, so getting it into just the right music festival is a challenge. So I’m grateful for festivals like TMA for providing a platform for a work like this that normally goes underexposed.


Have you won any other prize or recognition for your music?

Yes, actually one of those was from TMA. My song “Nineveh’s Burning” won for best lyrics at TMA in August 2017. That particular song did quite well at many film and music festivals globally, mainly due to a wonderful video for it by the Polish director Lukasz Pytlik and a standout performance by actor Michał Przybysz.

The song is the prologue for my musical/ opera based on the Epic of Gilgamesh, which I am still at work on. It has become the main project for my Ph.D. in Music Composition at Bath Spa University in England, where I now live.

You have a new Music Video, using your track Inner Vibration, can you tell us more about it?

The video is done in only five shots. The first is a shot of film leader with a lifeline on a screen superimposed on it. The heartbeat depicted is this physical inner vibration, and then there are four shots of astral travel as that inner vibration moves out into space seeking a universal equivalent. The footage was licensed from some obviously very talented animators, so I’m proud to have it up on YouTube. 

What are you up to now, what is your next project?

My current project is my musical based on the Epic of Gilgamesh. I’ve been at it for several years, and it’s roughly 75% finished at this point. I’m not rushing through with its composition because I want it to be as perfect as can be. The story is humanity’s oldest extant story– about 4000 years old or so. There is an artistic responsibility to make sure that the music and the interpretation live up to such a story, but I’m doing my best. And now that I am working on it with such great performers and collaborators in my Ph.D. program at Bath Spa, I am confident that we will produce a worthy work together.