Camden Reeves

Camden Reeves


  • Professor of Music, Music

Personal profile


I am originally from Oxford, where I was born in 1974; but I spent much of my childhood in Texas. I come from a family of jazz musicians (on both sides), and received most of my early musical training on the piano (my first instrument) from my grandfather, a jazz guitarist, pianist, trumpeter and arranger.  He inspired in me a love for classical music as well as jazz, and instilled the importance of being able to work both by ear and through notation: the two most essential skills to becoming a composer. I moved to Texas in 1984 (where, amongst other things, I learnt to play trombone in a high-school marching band) and returned to the UK in 1989, completing my secondary education in Oxfordshire. I have lived most of my adult life in Manchester.

I read for a BMus and then an MMus in Music at the University of Exeter (1992-1995, and 1995-1996 respectively). It was at Exeter that I first met and studied with Philip Grange (now a colleague at Manchester). In 1994 I attended the Hoy Composer course where I had the opportunity to work with Peter Maxwell Davies, which had a profound and lasting impact on my compositional thinking.

From 1996-1998 I held the position of Composer Fellow with the Halle Orchestra, which is when I first came to Manchester. I immediately fell in love with, what I believe to be, one of the greatest cultural and musical cities in the world. Working with the Halle's outstanding musicians on a daily basis was a formative opportunity for me, both in writing music for the orchestra and in delivering education projects in schools around Manchester.

I read for a PhD in Music at the University of York (1998-2002) studying with Roger Marsh and David Blake; and from 2001-2002 I held a Finnish Government (CIMO) Scholarship to study composition with Paavo Heininen at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. 

I came back to Manchester in 2002, when I began teaching Music at the University. I held an AHRC Fellowship in the Creative and Performing Arts here (for my project Confronting the Contemporary Piano) from 2004-2007. I was appointed Lecturer in Composition in 2007, Senior Lecturer in 2012 and Professor of Music in 2016.



  • BMus (Exeter)
  • MMus (Exeter)
  • PhD (York)

Research interests

I am a composer of concert music. I have written for orchestral, chamber and vocal forces. In recent years I have become particularly associated with the piano. Many of my scores are published by Edition Peters and much is available in the form of commercial recordings.

My musical influences stem initially from that of European and American Modernism. In my early 20s I sought to combine the intricate rhythmic processes of Ligeti, Birtwistle and Carter with the post-serial harmonic approaches of Boulez and Lutoslawski. From my late 20s onwards I became concerned with large-scale formal strategies and with counterpoint. My acquaintance with the music of Sibelius, whilst studying at the Sibelius Academy in 2001-2002, was a turning point. From Sibelius I developed an interest in organically unfolding structural processes and a dynamic relationship between foreground and background. This later inspiredan exploration of complex counterpoint (things moving in different layers and at different rates) which I began to relate to a growing interest in the music of Nancarrow. In parallel with this, has been an interest in modern jazz (especially Bill Evans) and blues-based rock.

Extra-musically, I tend to seek inspiration from nature: both organic and inorganic. I have written many pieces inspired by aquatic organisms, jellyfish and squid in particular. But in recent years, a growing interest in cosmology has led to a relationship between music and nature that is more abstract and even philosophical.  In the dimensions of space you can stay relatively still, move forwards, backwards, up or down or sideways, and at different speeds. Things are not quite the same with time - we have so little freedom there. And it is music's relationship with time that fascinates me. Music is more inextricably bound to time than any other art form; it dictates what you experience, when you experience it and for how long. My recent work confronts music's relationship with time quite directly: from the relationship of pitches (which is how we experience relative periodic frequencies in time) to the timing of events across large-scale structures.

Further information

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Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Music, Composition


Master of Music, Composition


Bachelor of Music, BMus in Music, University of Exeter


External positions

RMA Council, The Royal Musical Association

Sept 2019 → …

External Examiner (PhD), University of York


External Examiner (Masters in Music), King's College London


External Examiner (PhD), King's College London


Consultant on revision of Music A-level, AQA Education


External Examiner (PhD), University of York


Areas of expertise

  • M Music
  • Polyrhythm
  • Pc-set theory
  • Stratification
  • Piano composition
  • Orchestration
  • Spectralism
  • Teleology
  • Timbral and harmonic integration
  • Non-octave scales and chord chains
  • Misdirection in music
  • Relativity
  • Transformation
  • Transition
  • Vocal composition
  • String quartet composition
  • Organic growth in music
  • Being versus becoming in music

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Creative Manchester


  • Composition


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