You may have heard Samuel Holloway on Radio New Zealand Concert's Upbeat programme, deftly guiding listeners through the contemporary classics they missed in the 1960s, the 1970s and even the 1990s.

Yet, only 10 years ago, the 27-year-old composer confesses he was "genuinely shocked" when his university studies exposed him to a solo cello piece by Greek composer Iannis Xenakis. "It was something I'd never heard done before in a piece of music."

These days Holloway has established himself as one of our more enterprising young composers and, tomorrow, the Karlheinz Company gives the first New Zealand performance of his String Quartet, Domestic Architecture.

Domestic Architecture has already received its international premiere - at the Asia-Pacific Contemporary Music Festival in Tongyeong, South Korea. Its commission, from the Asian Composers League, was a reward for Holloway being nominated as the Best Young Composer at the ACL's previous Festival in 2007.

Holloway was initially worried about how his work might fare before an international audience as "it's not exactly a full-blown, guns-blazing piece". There was nothing to fear. Back in Auckland, he seems cagey about explaining its title although he admits he was "thinking about the spaces people existed in and, in particular, safe places." Incidentally, the programme note quotes a statement from the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard about how the house protects the day-dreamer.

Some of Holloway's other scores could be soundtracks for dreamworlds. Strange Loops, written for the contemporary ensemble Stroma, suspends a tingling, dissonant blur around a quietly insistent major chord.

Terrain Vague, his "landscape prelude" commissioned by Stephen DePledge and played in the pianist's Wellington Festival concert last year, deals out the same inveigling intensity as its lines curl and prowl around the territory Holloway has marked out for them.

"In all of my pieces I use a fairly tight range of material," he explains. "There's so much potential in each minute piece. There are ways of developing the music without doing a Philip Glass on it."

On radio, Holloway has not been afraid to express his dislike for the easy rewards of Minimalism.

While Philip Glass is not a favourite, he does admire the pragmatic Ross Harris whose music "doesn't fit in a particular idiom" while James Gardner is singled out for his "uncompromising streak".

Yet this young Aucklander is also a Mahler man, "particularly the Sixth Symphony which is utterly devastating every time I hear it. And, as for that A minor chord right at the very end, I still don't know when it's coming and jump when it does."

Other tastes are less expected from a composer who has just received an APRA Professional Development Award and who has had scores performed by both the APO and NZSO.

"I used to be a DJ on K Rd, so I still have a soft spot for various dance music artists like Kelley Polar who used to play in a string quartet and now does dance tracks with strings.

"It sounds a terrible idea, but works rather well... I'd travel anywhere in the world to hear Radiohead," he laughs. "I'm scared I won't hear them before I die."

But Holloway really prefers to talk of issues closer to home, issues concerning his own music and that of his composing colleagues.

If he has one over-riding concern it is that New Zealand music doesn't have the profile of our visual arts as the ever-present problem continues of making New Zealanders aware of their own composers.

"It would be nice if, in general, people were more open about how they listen to things. That's all I ask for."

Performance
Where: Karlheinz Company
Where and when: Auckland University Music Theatre, Sunday 3pm