Stephen Altoft is dedicated to the creation of new repertoire for the trumpet. As a solo artist, and with percussionist Lee Ferguson as duo Contour, he has given concerts throughout Asia, Europe, the United States and Canada.
Stephen was also trumpeter in the Music theatre production, “Niebla” by Elena Mendoza and Matthias Rebstock (2007-9) at the Festspielhaus, Dresden, Berlin Konzerthaus and Teatro del Canal, Madrid. In 2014 he appeared at the American Festival of Microtonal Music in New York, the “Bending Brass” event at the New England Conservatory, Boston, USA, organised by the Boston Microtonal Society and at the Daegu International Contemporary Music Festival, in South Korea. In 2017 he appeared at the Mozarteum University in Salzburg as part of the ‘Mikrotöne: Small is beautiful’ Symposium. In 2020 Stephen reappeared at the SWR Art’s Birthday event at E-werk in Freiburg, took part in the first online Microfest, MicroFest Prague and was a guest online speaker at the University of Manchester (UK).
Stephen studied at the University of Huddersfield (1991-5) where he was awarded B.Mus Honours and Masters degrees (in performance) and the Ricordi Prize for Contemporary Performance. This was followed by periods of private study and consultations with Markus Stockhausen (Cologne 1996-8), William Forman (Berlin 1998-1999, supported by the Music Sound Foundation), Jens Lindemann (Banff Centre for the Arts, 2002) and Marco Blaauw.
Between 2001-2, Stephen was a consultant for the Centre for New Musical Instruments, London, where he tested a prototype microtonal trumpet. During this time he began working on a microtonal trumpet manual with composer, Donald Bousted, now available here as an online resource. After further research, Stephen developed, in collaboration with Johannes Radeke and Siegmar Fischer (Musik Gillhaus) in Freiburg, Germany, a fourth (rotary) valve mechanism to enable the conversion of his existing trumpets into microtonal instruments (a 19-division B flat trumpet and quarter-tone C trumpet). Most recently, they developed a microtonal flugelhorn.
Stephen has recorded for radio and televison (SWR, WDR, Deutschlandfunk Köln, Deutschland Radio in Germany, BBC Radio 3 in the UK, France 3 and Bulgarian National Television) and for the Budapest Music Center (Peter Eötvös), Microtonal Projects, Edition Wandelweiser, Wergo and Another Timbre labels.
Stephen is co-director of Microtonal Projects, and manages EUROMicroFest.
As an improviser, Stephen collaborates regularly with Lee Ferguson (duo Contour), Thomas Wenk (piano, prepared piano, cassette recorder), Harald Kimmig (violin), Ephraim Wegner (laptop), Karin Fleck (accordion) and plays in the Human Factory Band. He has also appeared in duo with Gabriele Reuter (Dance) and Jihye Kim (violin).
In 2013, Stephen began formulating concept pieces for performance on the 4-valve trumpets he developed as part of his microtonal work. This lead to the development of graphic scores, which are re-interpreted with each performance, using improvisational techniques. The series of studies explore the possibilities offered and limitations imposed by the converted microtonal trumpets, in combination with contemporary playing techniques. The first piece, RASP, is the title track of his most recent CD, and ‘Hidden Jewels’ was premiered at TechFest in Aberdeen in 2019.
In 2018, Stephen began working on his ‘Permutations’ cycle for flexible ensembles, where the structures and basic materials are prescribed, but developed by the ensemble as an improvisation. ‘Permutations 1- um eine klingende Musikschule zu erschaffen’ was premiered with colleagues of the Music School in Waldkirch, Germany. More recently he has written ‘Anton’s Theme’ for guitar, ‘The Ballad of Baron Anton’ and ‘Honest Homages’ for Donald Bousted’s Ukulele Project, as well as a solo accordion piece for Karin Fleck and a solo vibraphone piece for Lee Ferguson as part of Stephen’s Windspell series.
Stephen teaches Trumpet, Baritone, Tuba and improvisation at the Waldkirch Musikschule near to Freiburg, Germany. He has also been Trumpet and Brass Tutor at the Bisyoc Summer Course since its inception. In 2009 and 2010 Stephen was trumpeter (ensemble linea) on the Royaumont Composition Courses in France, where he has worked alongside Brian Ferneyhough, Isabel Mundry, Misato Mochizuki and Liza Lim with student composers.