Kaffe Matthews is a BAFTA award winning British electronic composer and sound artist.
Kaffe Matthews was born in Essex, England, and was first introduced to music through the violin, which she played from the ages of 6 to 16. (Rodgers) She returned to music a few years later when she began to play her own original material, as opposed to the written compositions she had always played on the violin. While in college, she joined the Fabulous Dirt Sisters, an acoustic band that she traveled and played with for four years. After her time with the band, she found a job as an engineer at an acid house recording studio in Nottingham (Rodgers). Here she was introduced to the sampler, which she was immediately taken to given its vast possibilities. However, she was interested in the computer glitches and accidents that would produce unexpected sounds rather than in the sampler's capacity to create rhythmic music. Initially she returned to the violin, using a midi violin and a sampler to perform. As she refined her craft, the midi violin was abandoned and she began to perform using a laptop, using a program called LiSA (Rodgers).
Matthews has several degrees, including a Distinction for a Masters in Music Technology, and an Honors degree in Zoology. She also introduced and taught a performance technology course at Dartington College of Arts.
Matthews has a unique approach to performing her music- rather than set up on a stage, to be watched from an audience down below, as is the conventional setting for a musical performance, she prefers to immerse herself in the performance setting. She sets up usually in the middle of a space, and invites the audience to sit closely around her. This way, each improvised piece serves as a reflection of the moment of the performance, in both time and space, and is unique to that specific setting and audience.
Matthews founded her own record label, Annette Works, which produces and publishes her recorded works. She also founded AudRey, an audio research lab based in London. Her more recent projects have focused on sound as perceived by the entire body, rather than just the ears. Her mostnotable installation piece from this movement is the Sonic Bed, which was a walled bed that sent sounds and vibrations throughout the subject's body, completely immersing their senses. Another manifestation of the sound-outside-of-the-ears concept was her sonic bicycle work, which utilized public radio broadcasts set up at specific stations that cyclists would ride to. She was awarded a BAFTA for her contributions to the 2004 collaborative piece Weightless Animals, alongside film-maker Mandy McIntosh and electronic musician Zeena Parkins. The piece is a result of the question, posed to real NASA employees, "What would be your soundtrack for space?" (Annetteworks).