Associate Professors

Martin Watt

Martin WattBMusHons(NWU), MMus(UCT), DMus(Pret), AdvDipRAM(London), MAkadSA, FTCL, FRSA

Music Theory and Composition

Martin Watt is a composer and music theorist. He graduated from the North-West University in Potchefstroom, South Africa, with the degrees Bachelor of Music (Piano Performance) under the guidance of Albie van Schalkwyk in 1991 and Bachelor of Music Honours (Composition) in 1992 (both with distinction).

In the same year he entered for the then called Natal Philharmonic Orchestra’s South African National Youth Concerto Competition and performed the premiere of his own piano concerto in the Durban Playhouse which was broadcast live on Radio South Africa. He continued with his studies in composition with Peter Klatzow, Professor of Composition and previous Director of the South African College of Music at the University of Cape Town, where he obtained the Master of Music degree cum laude in 1993. Numerous national and international scholarships, such as the Priaulx Rainier Prize, the SAMRO Overseas Scholarship for Composers, the Foundation for the Creative Arts International Scholarship for Composers and a grant from the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust assisted him to continue his studies with the distinguished British composer Paul Patterson at the Royal Academy of Music in London from 1994 to 1995. During his time at the Academy, he also studied advanced orchestration and music analysis with Melanie Daiken, a pupil of Olivier Messiaen, and participated in masterclasses with György Ligeti, Pierre Boulez and Sir Colin Davis. Here he received the Diploma of Advanced Studies in Composition and won the prestigious Charles Lucas Prize, awarded since 1838. As a composer, he made his European debut at the British Music Information Centre in London and had a number of his works recorded for broadcast on BBC Radio.

Upon his return to South Africa, he became a part-time lecturer in the Department of Music at the University of Pretoria, lecturing in Music Theory. Here he also obtained a Doctorate in Music under Professor Henk Temmingh in 1996. From 1998 to 2000 he was a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the university, researching in historical musicology, and apart from publishing a number of research articles on music composed during the Anglo-Boer War, he compiled, catalogued and critically edited two comprehensive anthologies of music composed during this period.

From 2000 to 2003 he was a lecturer in the Music Division of the School of Arts at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg where he taught Music Theory and History of Music. In 2004 he accepted a senior lectureship in the School of Music and Conservatoire at the North-West University in Potchefstroom where he taught Music Theory, Composition, Orchestration and Music Technology. In 2005 he was the only South African member of a Pan-African panel of jurors who were invited to evaluate and prescribe a new Anthem for the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In 2007 he was a guest lecturer in composition at the Utrecht Conservatoire in the Netherlands.

Since 2008 he has been a senior lecturer in Music Theory and Analysis, Composition and Orchestration at the South African College of Music at the University of Cape Town and promoted to associate professor in 2018.

Watt has composed over sixty substantial works in all genres, many of them commissioned by prominent local and international organisations and performers. His music has been performed, broadcast and recorded on four continents, in countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, Scandinavia, China, Thailand, Japan, Australia and the United States.

In 2015, his chamber opera “Die Burenhochzeit” (“The Boer’s Wedding”) was premiered at the International La Guitarra Esencial Festival in Millstatt, Austria, where he was also artist in residence. The work has received further performances in Linz, Vienna, Golling, Salzburg and Worclav in Poland, performed by award winning artists Julia Malischnig, who is regarded as one of the leading concert guitarists in Europe, international recording double bass player Oliver Steger and Jacques le Roux, winner of the Austrian National Opera Award several times and principal tenor at the Linz National Opera (the largest opera house in Europe), who also records for EMI, Naxos and Sony. The opera was broadcast live on Austrian National Television.

Another chamber opera, “Tronkvoël” (“Jailbird”), has received 12 performances in 2015 and 2016 in the Soweto Theatre in Johannesburg and in the National State Theatre in Pretoria, produced by Gauteng Opera. In 2014 he was composer in residence at the American National Choral Collegiate Organization Conference in Charleston in the United States after winning their International Choral Composition Competition, chosen out of more than two hundred entrants from across the world with his choral work O Sacrum Convivium. The work was commissioned by the Royal Academy of Music in London’s Chamber Choir and a recording was commercially released on the Herald AV CD label. In 2015 he won the International Vox Novus Fifteen Minutes of Fame Composition Competition for his piano work Capriccio and it received its world premiere in the Symphony Space Concert Hall in New York by the renowned concert pianist Yumi Suehiro. Several of his works are published by Alexander Street Press, Alry Publications and Periferia Publishing in the United States.

Watt is also active as a comparative musicologist and has read papers at various national and international conferences. He has published articles on a variety of topics related to South African music in a number of peer-reviewed scholarly journals. In 2014, Watt was elected as a full member of the prestigious professional society for notable academics, The South African Academy for Science and Art for his contribution towards the development of the Afrikaans art song in South Africa, and in 2015 he was made Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.