My Story in a (biggish) Nutshell
I was immersed in music early as a child born to professional classical musicians. I took up piano and trumpet and played in several ensembles during my school years. I took part in some competitions and did a concert in the Queens Hall in Edinburgh with a semiprofessional classical group. I’m very grateful to have had this voluntary grounding in music at such an early stage in life.
Nature and animals were always of great interest to me and in my teens I envisioned working in nature conservation. This led me to studying ecology at University and also getting my hands dirty with practical voluntary conservation groups at the same time. We would do some pretty strenuous tasks like “rhodi-bashing”: cutting down as many rhododendron bushes as possible. This is a highly invasive Asian plant, widely planted in gardens throughout the world for its pretty flowers. Unfortunately, outside of its native habitat, it chokes other, indigenous plants out of existence and acidifies as the soil at the same time. Human beings are so careless sometimes when they try to create foreign ecological realities on their back doorstep for aesthetic purposes or out of homesickness!
I was lucky enough to participate in some really great ecological research expeditions to Belize and Ecuador. In the latter country, one of our projects won and international bird conservation award. We wanted to establish where the best remaining patches of a very threatened type of forest were, in order to create a conservation programme for the region. This ” Ecuadorian Dry Forest” has a wide variety of species which exist nowhere else in the world, and which are likewise endangered. Thankfully our work was built upon by further research groups who set up nature reserves, educational centres and initiatives to help people use and farm their land sustainably within the forests and bordering them.
I then went on to do an MSc in human ecology (you may be asking, “what the hell is that?”) at Edinburgh University. This radical eye-opener of a course is about understanding and solving the human-environment dilemma from different angles: psychology, philosophy, culture, education, alternative land use, energy and economics etc. One of the key questions was how to become a fulfilled human being and thus replace our addiction to consumerism. It basically moved me to follow my inner calling of becoming a musician and composer.
The centre for human ecology had some very outspoken elements about land ownership policies of its mother institution, Edinburgh University, and also some environmentally destructive tropical forestry practices promoted by them under the heading “resource management”. This touched many nerves and won great respect alike, but eventually resulted in the centre being discontinued. But that didn’t stop our passionate course organisers, who then established an independent university to continue the course elsewhere with independent funding.
Civil disobedience is certainly necessary if humanity is to get back on the right track. There are clearly power structures entrenched in destructive visions, and they will do almost anything in the name of fear to stop their palaces from crumbling into dust, as they probably see it. Some will hang on to their addiction until the bitter end. Unfortunately this type of mindset is not uncommon in positions of power, simply because those positions attract those addictions. We don’t have to look too far to see the obstacles to climb in order to bring about justice for people and the environment.
I partook once in a campaign by an environmental group, Earth First, to legally confiscate mahogany products from a Jewsons – well-known timber merchant with a store in Edinburgh. Why legally? Because it had become clear that the only wood of this South American tree left that was suitable commercially, would be in protected areas like indigenous peoples’ reserves. That means it is stolen property. A group of about 10 of us went into Jewsons, interviewed a shop assistant and walked out with as much of the stuff as we can carry. We drove with a minibus down to the local police station and declared the stolen goods. To our surprise, they turned the situation around and put us under arrest for theft, and escorted us to their cells, where we would have to remain until Jewsons decided whether or not to press the charges! The superintendent remarked that we should feel honoured to be imprisoned in the oldest cells in the UK. They were certainly very spartan, with no soft surfaces at all: a bit like a large urinal!
In the end, Jewsons wisely decided to let us off the hook and even removed mahogany products from their shelves. We had quite a bit of media presence on the occasion and I am sure they saw It could snowball. Whatever the faults of activist groups like Earth First, they demonstrate the need to rise to the occasion and break out of the comfort zone of timidity.
I started teaching guitar and English in Munich after deciding that doing film music – my main intention – was unlikely to lead to any rewarding employment. I gather that most often it is regurgitation of slightly moderated MIDI-files (computer files of music that tell synthesizers and samplers what to play) to stressful deadlines. I had already been playing guitar for several years and had developed a passion for flamenco. I formed a flamenco guitar duo with Axel Gottwald and did sporadic gigs for a couple of years until I realised that I still wanted to compose my own music first and foremost. I hope this website speaks for itself on that front!
Since living in Germany I have played with numerous musicians covering a very broad range of genres. Amongst these colleagues was Bavarian musician and comedian, Willy Astor. I performed in his Sounds of Islands project, in major Munich and local venues: Philharmonie, Zirkus Krone, Seebühne Chiemsee, on national German TV and on Willy’s CD.
I have also done various studio recordings with other artists in the Munich scene.
With much perfectionism, finally got my first CD produced in 2008: “Victims or Creators?” – a rich blend of catchy and soulful melodies in a range of musical genres, thought-provoking, humorous and poetic lyrics. Well, I allow myself to write that because the feedback has been equally positive. You can decide for yourself!
Spiral-M is the name of my musical dream. The Spiral bit is symbolic of spiral forms so often found in nature and the universe, even in mystical patterns of events in life itself. Things seem to come around again, but somehow we move forward and develop so that nothing is ever quite the same again. Today so much seems to be spiralling out of control, but in fact we are living in the most exciting times ever in human history – “it’s all or nothing on the inside.”
The “‘M” is not mystical at all. I needed to add it for internet purposes: there are too many spirals out there! M for Matt and Music…….A friend of mine thought it sounded modern and cool. Whatever. it has stuck!
More music coming, please enjoy!