Sam Salem, w/ things (2019)

About / Biography:

I create audiovisual works for performers, electronics and video, which challenge traditional notions of concert presentation and instrumental virtuosity.

My compositional process begins with a set of locations, a line on a map connected by a particular theme, history, or set of constraints. I capture moments, surprises, and ultimately, like prominent London-based psychogeographer Iain Sinclair, I offer a reading of my chosen locations, a divination made through an “act of ambulatory sign- making”. I excavate my locations, and the layers of myth and history that I uncover form my building blocks.

Having received a PhD in Electroacoustic Composition in 2011 from the University of Manchester, I have since shifted my practice in order to incorporate live performance.

My electroacoustic works have been performed at festivals and concert series around the world. These works have also received several awards and nominations, including: the HearSay Prize (Winner, Best Sound Category, 2015), Prix Palma Ars Acustica (Nominated by Radio Television Suisse, 2015), Concours Luc Ferrari (Winner, La Muse En Circuit, 2012), Prize Phonologia (Finalist, 2013), Metamorphoses (Finalist, Musique et Recherches, 2012), Competition Destellos (Nominated by Grand Jury, 2012), Joensuu Soundscape Composition Contest (Third Prize, 2011), 11th Musica Viva Composition Competition (Winner, First Prize, 2011).

My first works for live performers, my London Triptych, are based upon the lives of William Blake (“Not one can pass away“, 2015), Austin Osman Spare (“Untitled Valley of Fear“, 2016) and Nicholas Hawksmoor (“The Great Inundation“, 2017), and were written for Distractfold Ensemble. “Not one can pass away” has received 16 performances by 5 different ensembles. “Untitled Valley of Fear” was premiered at Darmstadt in August 2016, and has also been performed at Café OTO and HCMF. “Untitled Valley of Fear” was nominated for a British Composer Award (Sound Art Category) in 2017. “The Great Inundation” was premiered at Cut & Splice 2017 and subsequently broadcast on BBC Radio 3. 

These works formed the basis of my debut portrait album, London Triptych, which is available via dFolds.

I have since written extensively for Distractfold Ensemble (“Midlands“, 2019, “Shadows pass the morning ‘gin to break…”, 2022), Talea Ensemble (“The Lovers“, 2017), Ensemble Soyuz 21 (“The Tower“, 2019), the BBC Philharmonic, and the International Contemporary Ensemble (“Of Darkness 1”, 2024). 

I have composed a number of solo works for leading performers, including Linda Jankowska (“The Raft Breaks“, 2019), Alice Purton (“THIS IS FINE“, 2021), Weston Olencki (“Bury Me Deep”, 2022), and Noam Bierstone (“The Way Up & The Way Down”, 2023). 

I am currently completing a new large-scale work for solo piano & electronics, composed with / for Mark Knoop, and finalising my second portrait album, to be released by No Hay Discos in autumn / winter 2024. 

I am a founding member and co-artistic director of Distractfold Ensemble. Distractfold received the Kranichstein Music Prize for Interpretation from Internationales Musikinstitute Darmstadt (IMD) in 2014, becoming the first British ensemble to receive the honour. In 2017 we curated and co- produced Cut & Splice in collaboration with SAM and BBC Radio 3, which culminated in a weekend festival in March 2017 and BBC broadcasts in April 2017. 

I am also a founding member and co-director of Another Sky, a new festival celebrating experimental music from the SWANA region & diaspora. 

I was practitioner-in-residence at the Warburg Institute, School of Advanced Study, University of London throughout 2023, and have been PRiSM Senior Lecturer in Composition at the RNCM since 2019.