'Music is an essential part of our shared humanity' - An interview with Joe Cutler

‘Music is an essential part of our shared humanity’ – An interview with Joe Cutler

Ahead of Joe Cutler’s Inaugural Professorial Event with the Fidelio Trio, we caught up with him to ask a number of questions, including ‘What is an Inaugural Professorial Event?’

Please tell us a little about your Inaugural Professorial Event – for the uninitiated (i.e. me) what is an Inaugural Professorial Event?

Well now, when somebody is awarded a professorship, they normally give an inaugural professorial lecture. But I decided a concert would be more fitting, as composing music is what I do. However, in the true spirit of No Frontiers, my event will have a twist, but you’ll have to come to the event to find out what that is!

What should we expect from the two new works being performed? Were they composed with the Fidelio Trio in mind?

One of the pieces, McNulty, was a commission from the Fidelio Trio. Two members of the Fidelio Trio are Irish, and I grew up in quite an Irish part of London and in my mid-twenties I ended up playing in a faux-Irish traditional band in an Irish pub in Warsaw. So faux-traditional music plays a part in the piece. The second piece is a short piece for cello and piano called “2016 was a sad year for pop music”, and I use material from Prince’s 1999, David Bowie’s Space Oddity and Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne. It’s a tribute to these three great artists.

This year’s festival’s them is ‘breaking down barriers with music’ – How do you think music helps to break down barriers?

Music is an essential part of our shared humanity and that makes it the ideal medium for the breaking down of boundaries.

Please name someone you admire artistically and in what ways do you think their work has broken barriers?

A couple of weeks ago I was walking around a wonderful art gallery called the Kruller-Muller Museum in Holland and they had an extraordinary exhibition of Van Gogh’s earliest work dating from 1880 when he decided to become an artist until 1885 when he left Holland for France. He lived amongst the disempowered and he paints them with such incredible warmth and understanding. He had to develop a completely new way of painting to be able to truthfully communicate their world, and in doing so was considered a joke by the artistic establishment. I found that exhibition very powerful and extremely moving.

As a composer in 2017, do you feel a responsibility or particular impetus to represent or reflect current social or political issues?

I’m wary of making political statements through art, as one-way preaching is rarely effective but that doesn’t mean one can’t make work that provokes thought and challenges the way we see and experience society and the world around us. As artists we can live politically in the sense that we can try to be a small part of making the world and better, kinder, more understanding place.

Has your work in any way been compromised by an unaccountable bureaucrat in Brussels?

No, but a couple of years ago, I was a jury member for a composition competition organised by the association of left-leaning parties of the EU (PES Group) so I spent a very enjoyable day in Brussels.

Apparently, you are ‘the best thing to come out of Neasden since Twiggy.’ Do you think you’ll ever go back to modelling?

Well, if all else fails, I can always fall back on that can’t I.

A British cultural icon famed for androgynous looks, skinny frame and making virtue of all the terrible things of gawky, miserable adolescence…AND DAVID BOWIE!

The Fidelio Trio perform Inaugural Professorial Event: Joe Cutler Portrait Concert at 7.30pm on Tue 28 Mar in the Recital Hall at Birmingham Conservatoire.

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