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Matthew Herbert biography 2023


It’s no stretch to call Matthew Herbert one of the most important British artists of his generation. From the upper echelons of cinematic scoring and avant-garde composition to iconic, leftfield dance floor tracks and remixes, his accomplishments in music and sound are monolithic. 


Over a career reaching back to the 90s, he’s progressively singled himself out as a relentlessly inventive and driven artist ready to grapple with big ideas and present them in relatable terms. Binding his work together is the idea that any sound can be turned into music - from the complete life of a single farmed pig to a bomb exploding in Libya, one person’s orgasm to a club full of people locked into the joyous unison of a party. His ideas drive many of his most famous projects as an artist, but this is just a snapshot of his myriad achievements. 


Comfortably bedded into the world of orchestration and composition, he’s worked on countless award-winning projects across television, film, video games and theatre, and been commissioned by institutions such as the Royal Opera House, Manchester International Festival and Deutsche Grammophon to name just a few. Herbert’s engagement with the arts is extensive and many-sided, taking in commissions for art galleries and festivals, lecturing at universities such as Goldsmiths and Trinity and completing a PhD examining power and meaning in post-concrète music.

But it’s his electronic music output which has perhaps the widest reach, from the early days of off-kilter micro house through big band experimentation to production work with artists such as Mica Levi, Roisin Murphy, The Invisible and frequent collaboration with Björk. His label Accidental Records has long been the vehicle for platforming similarly spirited music, while he still regularly connects with the immediate energetic exchange of DJing in any venerated party spot you care to mention, from Ibiza to Berlin to Glastonbury and beyond.   


Writing books about albums he’ll never make, producing and presenting shows for BBC Radio, directing the New BBC Radiophonic Workshop and establishing the Oram Awards to recognise female and gender minority artists, Herbert embodies the idea of the polymath with head-spinning prolificacy.



Manifesto from 2003



1. The use of sounds that exist already is not allowed. Subject to article 2. In particular:
1. No drum machines.
2. All keyboard sounds must be edited in some way: no factory presets or pre-programmed patches are allowed.
2. Only sounds that are generated at the start of the compositional process or taken from the artist’s own previously unused archive are available for sampling.
3. The sampling of other people’s music is strictly forbidden.
4. No replication of traditional acoustic instruments is allowed where the financial and physical possibility of using the real ones exists.
5. The inclusion, development, propagation, existence, replication, acknowledgment, rights, patterns and beauty of what are commonly known as accidents, is encouraged. Furthermore, they have equal rights within the composition as deliberate, conscious, or premeditated compositional actions or decisions.
6. The mixing desk is not to be reset before the start of a new track in order to apply a random eq and fx setting across the new sounds. Once the ordering and recording of the music has begun, the desk may be used as normal.
7. All fx settings must be edited: no factory preset or pre-programmed patches are allowed.
8. Samples themselves are not to be truncated from the rear. Revealing parts of the recording are invariably stored there.
9. A notation of sounds used to be taken and made public.
10. A list of technical equipment used to be made public.
11. optional: Remixes should be completed using only the sounds provided by the original artist including any packaging the media was provided in.
MATTHEW HERBERT 27-11-00/updated 05-06-03

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