Stephen Spencer (b. 1990) is a Canadian composer of contemporary music. His music employs extended playing techniques, auxiliary percussive materials, and live electronics to elicit a visceral and emotional response. He is interested in the unusual beauty that emerges when abrasive material is combined with consonant material, and seeks to engage both the conceptual and sensorial aspects of listening.
His music has been recognized at the SOCAN Foundation Awards for Young Composers in three consecutive years: he won second prize in the Hugh LeCaine Category for his piece Zoom! Fiction in 2013, second prize in the Serge Garant category for Méditations dans l’urgence in 2014, and third prize in the Serge Garant category for Alloys in 2015. He is the winner of the 2016 Canada Council for the Arts’ Robert Fleming Prize, which is awarded to the one composer in each year’s grant competition. He has been selected as a participant in several summer festivals and workshops, including the SYNTHETIS International Summer Course for Composers in Radziejowice, Poland, and the Composit Festival in Rieti, Italy. Performers of his music include Ensemble l’arsenale, E-MEX-Ensemble, Guillaume Bourgogne and the McGill Contemporary Music Ensemble, as well as several student chamber groups which he assembled and directed himself.
Stephen holds a Master’s degree from McGill University, where he was the recipient of a Graduate Excellence Scholarship. His principle composition teachers include Philippe Leroux, Brian Cherney and the music psychologist Stephen McAdams. His master’s thesis, Alloys for seven players, explores the compositional control of instrumental blend, and borrows concepts from auditory scene analysis, orchestration, and metallurgy. Originally a French horn player and guitarist, he studied both classical voice and jazz piano at McGill, and attained a minor in music technology. He was a research assistant in the Music Perception and Cognition Lab, where he worked with Stephen McAdams on a research project around the perception of orchestration.