Paul Nabil Matthis

performer | composer | author


I'm a composer of electronic, chamber, film, and popular music, some of which has won awards, including "Best Score" in Christopher Coppola's PAH Fest. I've scored two films that have won Grand Prize in their competitions, and a modern dance I sound-designed won Director's Choice at Santa Cruz Fringe. My music for contemporary dance has featured in over 30 festivals around the world, at such venues as the Lincoln Center, the Jacob Burns Film Center, the Getty Museum, the Alex Theater, REDCAT, and Sundance Shorts.

I have performed in, stage managed, and music directed works funded by a CEC ArtsLink grant, the Castaic Days Civic Association, the REDCAT Association, the American Conservatory Theater, and The Industry LA Opera Company. My YouTube channel features original and cover songs sung, looped, and beatboxed, often in a single take, which has garnered over 100,000 views.

My essays and music reviews have been featured on eHow, the Louisville Music News, and Spectropol Records, and have appeared on the front page of reddit more than once. I wrote and co-produced a feature-length musical, Lunatic Sun, first performed at the Coffehouse Theater in Santa Clarita in December 2012. In 2019, I composed the full score for the feature length experimental play On Death by Wild Art Group. My band Mad Apple is a hard folk burlesque act performing original songs and blues covers in dive bars across Los Angeles.

My speculative fiction short stories have been published in various online magazines (and one anthology). I'm currently querying an adult epic fantasy novel, which is also a song cycle and pencil-and-paper RPG experience. At World Fantasy Convention 2017, I sat on a panel discussing American folk influences in modern fantasy fiction, focusing on strong feminine archetypes. I spoke on a panel on Storytelling Through Music for WFC 2018.

I've been designing and coding WordPress sites for over a decade, and coded this site purely in Bootstrap. I have worked in database operation, webhosting, and cyber security on and off for 15 years. In my spare time, I like hiking up mountains and drinking overpriced tea. Thanks for dropping by.

Curriculum Vitae

Chamber Music | Music for Dance | Songs

Chamber Music

Lazybones, for string quartet

A theme and variation strongly dependent on the improvisational capabilities of the performers. The instrumentalists were given a contemplative 7/8 theme alongside a list of iterative instructions for elaboration. In addition to change in tempo and bowing techniques, at certain times in the piece, they were asked to improvise by interval, melody, then rhythmic modulation, then ornamentation, and finally free improv. The piece was performed several times by ensembles of various size at CalArts. The success of this particular recording from the Dizzy Gillespie Studio is due to the dedication of performance by string players Mona Tian, Yu-Ting Wu, Andrew McIntosh, and Erika Duke-Kirkpatrick.

Ajams wa Maqam al-Rast, for string trio

A short study on the oud playing style of Farid El-Atrache, which focuses on Middle Eastern modes (maqamat) which are built on note sets (ajams). Rast is a Persian word (راست) meaning "right" or "direct". Rast is regarded as the basic maqam in most Middle Eastern music, similar to the major scale in Western music, though the two are quite different in detail (the major scale is in fact more like maqam Ajam). Rast features a half-flat third and a half-flat seventh.

Swarm of the Raxion Gruntle Bugs, for prepared piano

My first year MFA studies at CalArts saw a fascination with John Cage's works, and this piece for prepared piano comes as a direct result. Utilizing pennies, clothespins, steel screws, magnets, and at least one Tibetan singing bowl, it was performed in earnest by Christoffer Schunk at my mid-residence recital. Video here.

ASTEROZOA, MFA graduation recital

This is my MFA Performer-Composer Graduation Recital, presented by the Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts on Tuesday, March 19, 2013 in the Roy O. Disney Concert Hall. All performers are CalArts students or alums. Special thanks to Marc Lowenstein, my composition professor and conductor of the third movement. It's dedicated to the memory of Shane Summers, a colossal talent and good friend who performed in it. The composition exhibits five meditations on the numeral five, which is the smallest possible sum of different real prime numbers. These two primes happen to be the building blocks of all rhythm in the human experience, 2 & 3, yet 5-meter is markedly rare in popular music.

The full movement list and credits are as follows:

    I. Autotomy (To Write a Song), for voice, banjo and electronics
      Paul Matthis
    II. Arkarua, for string quartet (6:15)
      Violin - Lauren Baba, Emily Call
      Viola - Alessandra Barrett
      Cello - Betsy Retig
    III. Asteroidea, for five pianos (15:30)
      Shan Shan Ding, Chris Schunk, Kristin Erickson, Ingrid Lee, Shane Summers
      Rehearsal direction by Andreas Levisianos
      Conducted by Marc Lowenstein
    IV. Ambulacral Groove, for five Ewe drums (31:30)
      Master drum - Dan Ogrodnik
      Bell and shaker - Josh Carro
      Kidi - Brian Foreman
      Sogo - Tony Gennaro
      Kaganu - Amir Oosman
    V. Abyssal, for voice and electronics, et al. (36:42)
      Paul Matthis

All electronic processing was produced by two guitar pedals, a Digitech Whammy pitchshifter and a Boss DD20 Giga Delay.

Asterozoa is a subphylum in the phylum Echinodermata. Characteristics include a star-shaped body and radially divergent axes of symmetry. The word is Greek for "star animal", but in modern vernacular zoa is also an insult, and so can also be interpreted as "dumb person of the stars", a phrase which in my opinion covers a lot of ground. When threatened, asteroidea may also sever their own limb to escape a predator. This defense mechanism is called autotomy, a process I find remarkably similar to engaging in music. These lyrics from the opening movement are lifted from my music theater work, Lunatic Sun, Performed December 1, 2012 in the Coffeehouse Theater at CalArts.

The oldest echinoderm fossil is Arkarua adami, dating back roughly 530 million years. The imprint preserves a five-lobed central region representing five ambulacral grooves, which are characteristic of echinoderms. It was discovered in the Flinders Ranges of Australia, home to the Adnyamathana people for tens of thousands of years and counting. It takes its name from Arkaroo, their version of the enormous Rainbow Serpent that inhabits the Dreamtime. Referred to as either male or female, Arkaroo came from far beneath the ground and created huge ridges, mountains, rivers and gorges as it pushed upward. It battled other mystic spirits, protecting the region from drought and famine, drinking dry and then replenishing the water of the salt flats. As it rests, Arkaroo’s belly rumbles, shaking the Flinders Ranges to their core. The instrumentation for Ambulacral Groove is for five Ghanan Ewe drums.

The purpose of this recital composition is to take an open approach to my personal rhythmic aesthetic while diversifying from 3 and 4 metered exploration. I grew up with electronic music, but (just like you don’t need an oud to make Arabic music) you don’t always need electronics to make electronic music. If there’s one thing I’ve learned at CalArts, it’s that my aural landscape isn’t tied to any specific timbre, genre or instrumentation. It’s tied to something more fundamental that I haven’t found any suitable name for yet (but it seems to have a lot to do with post-minimalism). From RJD2's remix of Steve Reich to Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works, the only thing I'm sure of is that music is just another path toward deeper understanding. Video here.

Music for Dance

Compositions for Choreographers, for fixed media

I strongly experience kinesthesia, meaning visual cues correspond to phantom sound for me. Thus I'm fascinated by the marriage of movement and music, and my favorite incarnation of this is composing for choreographers. I've worked with many, and have included a short list of selections here. Video here.


Mad Apple Demo

These are songs from my band, Mad Apple. I've never been good at genre, but this is something like hard folk blues burlesque rock. We have a music video, which you can find here.

Lunatic Sun

These are from the workshop performance of my musical, Lunatic Sun, performed December 2012 in the Coffeehouse Theater at CalArts. Select videos here.


Music for Contemporary Dance | Chamber Works | Live Looping & Multitrack


Music for Contemporary Dance | Chamber Works | Live Looping & Multitrack