Max Syedtollan

Max Syedtollan is an artist-composer living and working in Glasgow, with a multi-disciplinary practice spanning music, text and image. Interests include world-building, anachronism, affect, melody, improvisation, comedy and the naïve.

His pieces have been broadcast on BBC Radios 3, 4 and 6; performed in places such as Café Oto and Snape Maltings, and featured in The Quietus and The Wire. Besides composing under his own name Syedtollan produces music as ‘Horse Whisperer’ which has been featured on NTS Radio, Resonance FM and Radiophrenia.

In 2019 he was selected as one of Sound and Music’s ‘New Voices’, and released his second album of DIY chamber music on Glasgow label GLARC (supported by the Arts Council). In 2020 he made some radio plays & worked with Plus Minus Ensemble.

Featured releases

Delighted to present a release featuring three live performances from the Late Works: Preparations event that took place at Cafe OTO on 20th September 2021. For the event, 23 artists were asked to create a ‘preparation’ each for the grand piano (shown on album cover). Three pianists then had to construct an individual live performance with the adaptable unit of preparations. Featuring GLARC regulars Finlay Clark (Still House Plants) & Max Syedtollan (Horse Whisperer) & Slow Dance signee Aga Ujma, the playful live album shifts from dynamic refrain-based contemporary classical sensibilities (Clark) to flowing melodies and improvisations full of pop influences (Ujma) to theatrical avant-garde baroque-tinged experiments (Syedtollan), together showing off the range of musical possibilities with a prepared piano. Finlay Clark: For the preparation of the piano, Finlay placed the majority of the preparations close to the hammers in the central space of the piano, so that they could easily reach into the belly to shuffle the sculptures around whilst still playing with the other hand. Isobel Neviazsky’s “Figure”, Daisy Harvey’s “Clover” & Jack Bidewell’s “middlegame” were three of the preparations sat in the centre of the piano, creating a harpsichordal sound. Finlay often shuffles these around during the performance, as well as Mathilda Bennett-Greene’s “Hounds of Love Tastes like Gum”, a metal Smint case with metal prongs and lychees stuck on and a secret model figure shut inside. Early on in the piece, Finlay picks up Ralph Parks “The Duke and I” (inbetween picking up Louis Eager’s “Piano Keys”) to pluck the treble strings whilst simultaneously playing a refrain on them. In the middle of the performance, Clark reaches deep into the piano to shift Tawfik Naas’ “Seed” from where it was sat in one of the piano’s iron cavities, leaving it to teeter on the strings. A few of the larger sculptures sat much closer to Finlay throughout the performance (Tom Sewell’s 5000-year-old bog wood “Peg”, Angus McCrum’s “Höhepunktinstrument” & Laila Majid’s “Vertebra 2”), and near the crescendoing finale of the piece they are all used to interact with the strings closest to the pins. Aga Ujma: For the performance, Aga didn’t touch the preparations once they were in place, and opted to shuffle them around by hitting the keys at various strengths. The bottom section of the piano was set up to have snare-like qualities by combining Tawfik Naas’ “Seed” and Katharina Fitz’s “Rendezvous” together. The middle section - like Finlay’s - had many sculptures inside to rattle on the strings. One of the most effective preparations in Aga’s performance is Siyi Li’s “Untitled” stickers which were used to weave and attach a £10 note to the strings. The result is a set of peculiar vibrations that extend the sound. If you have ever tried to use the new pound notes to play an LP on your record player you will have heard a similar sound. Ujma frequently uses Joseph Bradley Hill’s “Knucklebone”, a red Tupperware from the Cafe OTO kitchen with two black dice inside, to contribute to the snare noise, though midway through the performance it gets bounced up and wedged sideways between the strings - when you hear Aga slamming the lower octaves of the piano she is trying to dislodge the Tupperware from its string! Daisy Harvey’s “Clover” almost came flying out of the piano at this point. From here until the end, Aga uses her voice as a preparation, rejecting the use of a vocal mic to allow her voice to merge with the sound of the piano.

Late Works: Preparations – 20.9.21

Past events