Mathius Shadow-Sky


Mathius Shadow-Sky (b. 1961) is a French composer and multi-instrumentalist (recently often: a guitarist) who started working at the intersection of games and music in 1979.


Mathius Shadow-Sky points to three main sources of inspiration:

  • Roger Caillois (Man, Play and Games),
  • Lewis Caroll (Alice in Wonderland), and
  • Gille Deleuze (The Logic of Sense).

All authors above treat play as something essential in human life. The composer treats this deep level as an inspiration to change the music from within. Mathius Shadow-Sky's compositions focus on engagement, communal interaction, but mainly freedom. This notion is crucial for the composer directly in his music-making, but he also considers liberation as the main social function of music and expects open music to contribute to personal freedom of performers and audiences.

A few earlier developments were deemed unsatisfactory for this purpose.

  • Iannis Xenakis (Formalized Music) seemed to introduce too much hostility into otherwise promising creations,
  • Karlheinz Stockhausen’s ‘game-type’ works were narrow in scope, a “proof of concept” rather than true games,
  • John Cage was overly attached to specifying durations of music, whereas (according to Mathius Shadow-Sky) the time of the composition should stay unfixed and is crucial for the freedom of performance.

Mathius Shadow-Sky looks for music that is open, instantaneous and radically original. This leads to a lot of experimentation with tuning systems, structures that are in constant flux (with minimal repetition) and that don't lend themself well to teleperformance (e.g. over Zoom etc.). The importance of physical presence of players is not an obstacle for recorded music, but in studio practice Mathius Shadow-Sky puts a lot of care not only to the quality of sound itself, but strongly stresses the spatial organization of music, which leads in this case to employing alternative recording techniques.

Game-style works

Further reading

You can learn more about Mathius Shadow-Sky if you happen to know French, visit: for a lot of content.

The Book of Ephemerodes is Shadow-Sky's book written in English and we have a review.

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