How music combats the "sensory overload" for autistic performer

Ensemble Mirage are the latest guests in the Chichester Chamber Concerts series.

Matthew Scott
Matthew Scott

They feature Matthew Scott: clarinet; Júlia Pusker: violin; Rose Hinton: violin; Emily Pond: viola; and Michael Newman: cello.

The group will perform in The Assembly Room, Chichester Council House, North Street, Chichester on Thursday, March 22 at 7.30pm, offering the programme: Mozart – Clarinet Quintet in A major K581; Françaix – Clarinet Quintet; Glazunov – Rêverie Orientale Op14; and Brahms – Clarinet Quintet in B minor Op115.

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Matthew said: “We all met during our studies at the Royal Academy of Music! We actually began as a trio with myself (a British clarinettist), Júlia Pusker (Hungarian violinist) and Alexandra Vaduva (Romanian pianist) around 2014, first getting together to perform Bela Bartok’s Contrasts Sz.111.

“Based on Hungarian and Romanian dance melodies, and commissioned by the jazz clarinettist Benny Goodman, this was the perfect piece for us and we were lucky enough to study it with living legend György Pauk, Julia’s teacher at the time.

“From there we began to explore further repertoire for the trio, but soon began collaborating with other musicians to explore more combinations, including Lithuanian violist Ugne Tiskute and Russian cellist Tatiana Chernyshova, resulting in the foundation of Ensemble Mirage.

“We call ourselves a flexi-ensemble as we work in many different chamber mediums, from trios all the way up to octets. Last year we were privileged to hold a St John’s Smith Square Young Artists’ residency, where we got to perform one of our absolute favourites – Messiaen’s epic Quartet for the End of Time.

“It’s still very early days, having expanded relatively quickly, but there’s so many ideas and it’s exciting to see what doors will open next!”

“Our main focus is to highlight the fascinating range of mixed wind-string-piano chamber music. As a flexi-ensemble, each of our concerts tends to hone in on a specific chamber medium, where often only a handful of works are regularly heard live. In the case of the clarinet quintet, the clarinettist is usually invited alongside an established string quartet, usually for the Mozart/Weber/Brahms.

“As such, there’s a whole world of repertoire for these mediums that rarely gets the chance to be heard. By programming these hidden gems alongside the classics, it is our hope to introduce this music to new audiences and spark their own curiosity to find out more!”

For Matthew, a key challenge is his own autism

“Music has always been a large part of my childhood. When I was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome/ASD (autistic spectrum disorder) at the start of secondary school – and slightly later OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) – everything started to make sense.“A large part of living with OCD and high-functioning autism/ASD involves dealing with erratic anxiety levels and sensory overload, which is all invisible to the casual observer. Auditory processing is a large part of this; extreme difficulty filtering out background noise to focus in on one task/person talking, particularly in group situations.

“A typical moment in my brain: clock ticking on my back left, traffic rumble in distance, pen scratching and shuffling feet next door, bird chirping outside window, fly buzzing stuck behind secondary glazing, computer fan whirring, distant hum from air conditioning units, someone talking very loudly in the street, distant building works clatter/drilling...!

“In a way, learning to be a musician is learning how to learn; the ability to constructively analyse or criticise yourself in order to improve. Looking back, I feel part of the reason I was always so drawn to music was that when you’re actually performing/rehearsing, everybody’s attention and energy is solely together on the music, making it perhaps one of the few situations where background noise subsided enough for me to block it out and get a moment’s peace!” Tickets from the CFT.