Ørjan Matre was born in 1979 in Bergen and studied composition at the Norwegian Academy of Music with Bjørn Kruse, Lasse Thoresen, Olav Anton Thommessen and Henrik Hellstenius. During the past five years he has distinguished himself as a distinct voice in Norwegian music, and has in this relatively short time frame been awarded high-profile commissions by leading performers, ensembles and orchestras.
Matre’s big break came in partnership with Evan Gardner, Jan Erik Mikalsen and Jørgen Karlstrøm while several of them were still students, with the CD ‘Lights Out’ with the Norwegian Radio Orchestra and its leader Rolf Gupta, a release that caused quite a stir when it was released in 2006. By 2003, Matre had already written the orchestral work "Attempted Birdhouse," a title that alludes to Homer's attempts at being a conceptual artist in an episode of the Simpsons. Even if Matre allows himself to play with the artist’s role, his music is rock solid and, on the surface, not strikingly humorous. Nevertheless, it possesses a timbre with a delicate touch that could reveal influences from composers such as Gerard Pesson; the ensemble piece Atem serves as a good example of this. Like Pesson, Matre blends traditional influences with new playing techniques, and through well-placed dynamic bursts the composer also hints at a latent Nordic foundation, making it clear for the listener that his output is a multi-layered affair, with more aspects than just timbre/philosophical experimentation. It remains rather obvious that the timbre of Matre’s music is highly playful and often quite exquisitely refined, all of which built on a foundation that can be seen as more serious and focused.
Matre’s versatile skill allows him to complete commissions with great conviction, one prime example being the orchestral piece "Händel Mixtapes" where Händel’s original compositions gradually erode away and are assimilated by Matre’s work, a highly original and inventive twist on post-modern collage. Other works manifests themselves as a very simple melody with accompaniment, where the overall context leaves the listener in a position where he/she not quite understands how one has ended up there in the first place. Still, the works in which Matre approaches the more abstract are the ones that clearly shows his true character: his major chamber pieces, the ensemble piece Atem as well as his the orchestra pieces.
One can still often hear elements of tradition in Matre’s music, a dance rhythm or fragments of a melody, but they are drawn and suggested with such a delicate touch that they could almost arise as an odd coincidence, akin to seeing faces appear out of the woodwork of a floor. The mutual pull between the abstract and more concrete, albeit diffuse, "objects" is an important part of Matre’s music, therein this contradiction lies much of its immediate attraction.