New voice: Clio Montrey


Clio Montrey describes her recent work ~

A recent work I would like to present is Spielzeug (2009), for toy piano and electronics. I created all the electronics effects, and I played the piano in the electronics part, as well as the toy piano at the premiere (this is a live recording of the first performance). This piece tells the story of Pinocchio through music. A toy piano dreams of being a real piano. While the toy piano plays live, a concert grand rests on the stage, unused, while the sounds of that concert grand are heard only in the electronic playback. By playing a concerto with the electronics as accompaniment, has the toy piano achieved its dream of becoming real?



Clio Montrey is a postgraduate student at the University of Musik and Performing Arts Vienna, in the class of Karlheinz Essl. She earned her Master’s in Composition from the Konservatorium Wien in June 2011, Thesis with Distinction, where she studied with Christian Minkowitsch. In 2008 she earned her Bachelor of Music (Honours) in Composition with a Concentration in Piano from McGill University in Montreal, where she held the composer-in-residence position for the McGill Chamber Singers during the 2007-2008 academic year. Among her teachers were Brian Cherney, Jean Lesage, Jonathan Wild, Sean Ferguson and Thomas Plaunt.

Montrey is supported through artist programs by the BMUKK, Austria (2012-2013). She has had her work performed on three continents at many concerts as well as on CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) radio.


What is your earliest musical memory that, in looking back, has proved to be significant regarding your career as a composer?

I have a memory of riding in the backseat of my family’s car as a small child, listening to Beethoven’s 5th.

If relevant, which composer(s) have been the most influential regarding your own work?  If the answer is “none”, please explain.  Has it changed over time?

With Beethoven, one notices that nothing is contrived: his music is 100% direct. I share that desire for directness in my music, and he remains one of my musical heroes. Benjamin Britten was a huge influence for me. When I heard his opera “The Turn of the Screw,” based on the Henry James novella, I was blown away. I immediately decided that I should compose an opera scene, which I did. This led to a profound interest in composing for voice, leading eventually to me training as an operatic singer as well. Arvo Pärt is a more recent influence. He has discovered something so deep in the sound worlds he creates, it pulls the listener along with it. I have tremendous respect for Kaija Saariaho, because she has the ability to write beautiful music that is also very innovative. Finally, Victor Baez has been a strong motivating force in my work as not only talented fellow composer, but also life partner.

Can you describe your working process, i.e. do you use computer notation software, if so, do you find that it inhibits your process at all, do you have a regular schedule for writing?  What other technology, if any, do you use?

I compose both using notation software and by hand. Recently, I have been exploring graphical notation both by hand and on an iPad. I find that when working on projects such as film scores, using notation software is very helpful for workflow. However, it limits my process when working on more standalone pieces, or pieces where I use atypical musical gestures. I use MIDI controllers, and I work on the computer a lot with Logic, Max, and sometimes Garageband (especially when I want to make live recorded sketches). My favourite piece of technology remains the piano, but I also compose often away from it. I have quite a regular schedule for writing because in addition to composing, I also sing and work in media! Therefore, I have to manage my time extremely efficiently in order to meet the deadlines for commissions and concerts. However, I do write pieces from time to time that I form over years. In all cases, I allow the music to develop organically; sometimes it just needs a little more of an impetus, that’s all!


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