Based in: York
Desmond Clarke (b. 1989) is a composer, visual artist and oboist based in the North of England. His work has been performed and exhibited extensively around the UK as well as throughout Europe and in North America.
Throughout his multi-disciplinary practice, Desmond’s work unpicks the relationships between underlying processes and their resultant forms at micro and macroscopic scales.
His recent visual work, largely borne out of the 2020 lockdown, focuses on exploring the limits of legacy printing hardware with modern algorithmic processes to create structures and forms that articulate the friction between order and randomness found in the natural world.
Ongoing musical projects as of 2021 include a series of works using fixed and live-generated video scores to explore the boundaries and overlaps between notated and improvised music, and a number of audiovisual installations.
In 2016 he completed a PhD in composition at the University of York with Dr Martin Suckling, and has attended festivals and residencies at, amongst others, IRCAM, the Banff Centre, and the HighSCORE festival in Italy at which he was awarded the 2013 festival prize for his string quartet Insect-Wood-Growth. In 2015 he won the RPS Composition Prize, and was selected as one of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra's inaugural young composers in residence.
He has worked with numerous professional and amateur ensembles including, amongst many others, the Arditti Quartet, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Cikada and the Philharmonia Orchestra.
More About Desmond Clarke
What inspires you?
I am inspired by the overwhelming variety and diversity of forms we observe in the world around us, and how the simplest of processes can lead to astonishing density and richness. Fundamentally, the structure of the world around us, and its infinite abundance.
Describe your creative process.
My creative process is fundamentally explorative and experimental. I use computer code, specifically Python, to design mathematical structures which I then realise using a computer-controlled pen plotter. These forms can be strict and controlled, or have a high degree of chance in their composition. Every piece I create is unique: my process is such that variations emerge naturally from both the code and the plotting process. All of my works are single points in an infinite space of possibility.
What are 3 words that best describe your work?
explorative, process-based, (in search of) elegance
Who are some artists that have influenced your work?
I trained as a composer before becoming an artist. As such, my influences straddle music as well as the visual arts. In terms of using process to control form, composers like Xenakis, Nancarrow and Grisey are probably the strongest influences on my work across all mediums. From the art world, my strongest influences are Simon Hantaï, Yves Tanguy and Gerhard Richter, though my work doesn't necessarily look much like theirs!
What is the most important tool when creating your work?
Mathematics: structures like cellular automata, Julia sets, stochastics, are the tools of my work.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
I think I've assembled this piece of advice from dozens of different conversations, but if I had to sum it up it's "trust your instincts". So often, in education or in life, artists seek the approval of others, and while that's valuable, it's far more valuable to follow the things which you know are interesting, and trust that intuition.
Where do you go for inspiration?
Exploring a new process - a new idea for how information can be structured - is the most inspiring thing for me. Starting without any idea of what will emerge, and slowly discovering all of the things a given process can do. This leads naturally to ideas for work, but often in surprising and exciting new ways. Just keep experimenting!
PhD, University of York
United Kingdom, 2016
Royal Philharmonic Society Composition Prize
highSCORE Festival Prize
United Kingdom, 2021
Lara: A Piano At Night
United Kingdom, 2019
United Kingdom, 2018
United Kingdom, 2014