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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


VI The Contemporary Scene

20 Electronic music and the Avant-garde

Electronic Music

[Tristram Cary, Peter Zinovieff, Ernest Berk, Daphne Oram]

Electronic music was both inevitable and necessary in the evolution of the Western contemporary tradition; and just as important as its technological basis is its underlying philosophy. It is important to differentiate between creative energy and creative originality; both have their place in different situations. The energy which drives a composer to discover existing sounds, or to invent new ones, is not necessarily synonymous with the originality which invests a sound with musical meaning. To take a simple example, when writing his Violin Concerto, Beethoven took the scale of D major-a sound which had been musical common property for centuries. But to raise this from the level of a mere sound to the status of a musical theme called not for energy so much as originality. In thus focusing his creativity onto the ‘meaning’ more than onto the ‘sound’, Beethoven was closely reflecting the Romantic philosophy of his age, which we may read, in its literary expression, in the work of E.T.A Hoffmann or Goethe.

In 1920, when Schoenberg first formulated the 12-note technique, it was not possible to foresee the goal of total serialism to which, thirty years later, that path would lead, and towards which his new style of composition represented the first, tentative step. All that was possible was to identify the philosophical basis on which Schoenberg built, which was linguistic, mathematical; the musical extension of Wittgenstein’s logical philosophy, and the ‘Vienna Circle’.

So today electronic music is at a correspondingly early stage of development. It is impossible to foretell what lies at the end of the path; it is only possible to identify its philosophical raison d’etre, which, as in the case of Schoenberg’s style, is linguistic, mathematical.

Coming at the end of the Romantic period, Schoenberg also realized and took advantage of the climate of avant-garde thought in his day, which was broadly speaking, in many branches of philosophic activity, the avoidance of linguistic abuse, and the search for the logical expression of meaning. In evolving the note-row, he was similarly seeking to avoid the ‘abuse’ of pre-conceived tonal and melodic associations in his music, and to discover the ‘new logic’. The numbers of a series, in later serial composition, are precisely analogous to the variables of logical philosophy. The Beethoven-process is thus reversed, and the composer’s creative energy is focused onto the ‘sound’ more than onto the ‘meaning’. In fact, the ‘meaning’ becomes the ‘sound’, and the composer’s originality consists in his logical invention of sounds, and the manipulation of the series.

Coming at the end of the serial period, the electronic composer finds that the climate of avant-garde thought is still concerned with linguistic and scientific logic, but, in an age of computer-technology, this now takes on an unprecedented scientific precision in the exact analysis of sounds.

Just as the creative energy of the philosophical leaders in Schoenberg’s day was directed not to the invention of new philosophical propositions, but to the avoidance of linguistic abuse in the presentation of existing ones, so this principle still holds today, when the climate of thought now favours an even closer inspection and analysis of life as it is, with all the advantages of a scientific age to assist towards this end. It is the main characteristic of an Alexandrian period, such as ours, that its energies are spent in questioning, analysing, discovering what already exists, not in originating new concepts and insights. The mere act of discovery, it is believed today, will bring its own insight.

The electronic composer reflects this philosophy. He explores and explains the nature of sounds, which he breaks down into parameters, then reconstructs. As the technological means of achieving this is so complex, it has taken a much longer time to arrive at a system than Schoenberg took in first evolving his 12-note style. But the principle is similar: the composer is expected to use his energy in logically analysing and synthesizing sounds, not his originality in giving them meaning-such a romantic concept, it is held, belongs to a past age, and to an out-of-date philosophy.

Electronic music is not just a new sort of sound; it is a new way of communicating sound, with a precision hitherto unknown to the musician. Conventional notation allows the performer wide scope for his personal artistic judgement; with each performance, the performer becomes to some extent the composer’s colleague in bringing the work to life. Giving rhythmic and dynamic life to a phrase has always been an integral part of the performer’s art, and the exact interpretation of a marking, such as mf, or accel., and the exact degree of die-away at the end of a phrase, has always been a matter for the performer’s individual judgement. But with the arrival of the computer and the tape recorder the composer of electronic music has become his own performer, to a degree of exactness hitherto undreamt of. On the principle of the parameters, composition has become organized sound; and since it is done by computer, this organization is exact down to the smallest detail.

The story of the beginning of electronic music in Paris and Cologne is well-known. The musique concrete of Pierre Schaeffer, and his Concert des Bruits, dates from 1948, and studios were built in the early 50s in Cologne (1953), under Stockhausen and Eimert, and Milan (1954) under Maderna and Berio. These developments all took place, significantly, in association with radio stations; and indeed the first piece of electronic music, Musica su due dimensione for flute and tape (1951), was composed by Maderna and Dr. Werner Meyer-Eppler? who was a lecturer in communications technique at Bonn University. Parallel developments took place in America, mainly centred on universities; particularly notable, and first, were Ussachevsky and Luening at Columbia. Thereafter composers developed their various concepts of serialism in the new medium; Eimert, Stockhausen, Xenakis, Berio, Barband, and many others.

Electronic music may be said to have begun in England on 15th January 1968, when the first concert of works by British composers took place in London [given by the Redcliffe Concerts at the Queen Elizabeth Hall]. It was the work of two musicians, Tristram Cary and Peter Zinovieff, and represented the stage then reached in this country.

The programme was:

1. Potpourri Delia Derbyshire

2. Diversed mind Ernest Berk

3. 3 4 5 Tristram Cary

4. Birth is life is power is death is God is... Tristram Cary

5. December Quartet Peter Zinovieff

6. Contrasts Essconic (for piano and tape) Daphne Oram and Ivor Walsworth

Interval

7. Partita for unattended computer Peter Zinovieff

8. Silent Spring George Newson

9. Syntheses 8, 9 and 12 Jacob Meyerowitz

10. Agnus Dei Peter Zinovieff

11. March probabilistic Peter Zinovieff and Alan Sutcliffe.

The first piece was made in the B.B.C. radiophonic workshop; all the others were made in private studios. This first concert excited considerable interest, but it did show up the handicaps under which most

British composers work in this medium without a properly equipped studio. Some of the tapes were merely sound effects, at a primitive stage of development. Electronic composition presupposes sophisticated techniques. Soon, therefore, various somewhat tentative studios began to be assembled-at Manchester and York Universities, at King’s College, Cambridge, at Goldsmith’s College, and at the Royal College of Music in London, where Tristram Cary began a class.

Cary and Zinovieff jointly gave another concert the following year (February 1969), and this was followed by the setting up of the British Society for Electronic Music, whose chief purpose was to raise money to build a properly equipped national studio.

If this project is still (in 1970) an unfulfilled dream, certain important technical developments have meanwhile been pursued by Peter Zinovieff, whose computerized studio at Putney is far the most advanced in the country. Starting in 1962, he developed an electronic music system, Musys, in collaboration with David Cockerell and Peter Grogono. His studio is unique, both in the design of the audio devices, which are controlled directly by digital computers, and in the programmes, which implement a comprehensive and sophisticated language for musicians. This could be adapted by any studio with a simple computer, and a few simple hardware devices and converters.

The musical idea, once compiled, is fed into the faster of the two computers in the form of a programme, which must be exact in every detail. The studio is a hybrid of two types of machine, digital and analogue. The digital part consists of two general purpose computers and devices for feeding information into them. The analogue parts are mostly special purpose machines which convert the essentially numerical signals from the computers into the electronic equivalents of sound pressure waves. The function of the computers could thus be compared with that of an orchestral conductor, and that of the analogue devices with that of the players except that, in this case, only the conductor has the score.

The digital hardware consists of two D.E.C. PDP8 computers, a disc file and fast paper tape reader/punch, to which a magnetic tape drive is added. The PDP8 computer is cheap and reliable and has a simple interrupt and input/output system, which makes it very suitable for realtime applications. One of the devices connected to the interrupt line is a crystal clock, which delivers synchronizing pulses at 400Hz or a sub-multiple of this frequency: the resulting resolution of 2.5ms has been found adequate for music realized in the studio. For complex pieces, multi-tracking is used, and synchronization between tracks is achieved by recording the 400Hz pulse train on a guide track. There are also 10KHz digital-analogue and analogue-digital converters connected to the faster computer (PDP81L) but apart from simple experiments in waveform synthesis and simulated reverberation these have been used in visual display systems rather than music.

The computers control the pitch, tuning, amplitude, waveform and envelope of three banks of oscillators, each covering seven octaves; the gain and response mode of 64 narrow passband filters, placed at semitone intervals over 5 octaves for spectrum analysis and synthesis; nine other oscillators and function generators; six amplifiers; two variable response filters; and a number of other devices such as percussion simulators, noise generators (for both white and coloured noise) and reverberation units. Most of the connections between devices are made manually on a patch-panel, but up to twenty of them may be changed during realization by computer-controlled audio switches.

Signals from these devices are mixed and may be monitored both on the oscilloscope and through amplifiers and loudspeakers. A four track recorder and four two track recorders may be used for recording compositions on magnetic tape, but it is one of the great advantages of the studio that it is not necessary to use tape at all until the piece is known to be correct in every detail.

There are two important programmes in Musys: the Compiler translates the composer’s programme into a data set stored on the disc, and the Performance Programme sends items from this data set to the audio devices at appropriate times controlled by the crystal clock. Eight independent lists of data may be stored by the Compiler, each with its own time scale, so the composer is spared the intricacies of temporal relationships between parts. The language has a macro facility, which permits the user to give a name to a sound or structural element, leaving ‘gaps’ which will be filled by parameters when the macro is called. It also allows sections to be repeated or compiled conditionally: these facilities are meant to reflect musical requirements, rather than mathematical requirements.

Either before or during performance, the composer can use a peripheral known as the Button Panel, from which he can monitor, alter and control data going to any of the Musys devices; he can also stop, start and adjust the rate of delivery during a performance, and can ‘single-shot’ the delivery routines by turning a knob which the computer recognizes as a substitute for the clock. An editing programme run in conjunction with the Button Panel enables the data stored on the disc to be altered, providing a way of making fine adjustments which are hard to programme.

In many ways, Zinovieff’s studio and programme language are unique in the world. He brought it to the attention of an international audience at a UNESCO conference in Stockholm, in June 1970 [Music and Technology; the Composer in the Technological Era].

If Zinovieff may be considered primarily as a technician who has brought an electronic language within the reach of the composer, Tristram Cary is a composer who has extended his range of expression towards electronic music. Ideas for the manipulation of sound came to him already while he served in the Navy during the war, working in radar. He worked quite independently of Schaeffer’s musique concrete, and by 1953 he had built up a working studio. But he found little interest or encouragement for electronic experiments at this time, and devoted much time to film work and incidental music for B.B.C. plays. A few conventional compositions were played.

Cary does not consider electronic music as a thing apart from other music; nor does he consider that its function is simply to reproduce the sounds made by existing instruments-if you want a violin tone, you use a violin. He does not see electronic music as a substitute for orchestral music, so much as an extension of it. But its uniqueness consists in the building of sounds, and all Cary’s electronic compositions have a very clear scheme and purpose.

3 4 5 deliberately restricts the material, and the only frequencies used are 3, 4 or 5 cycles per second, and their multiples by 10, 102, 103 and 104. This results in three subsonic, nine sonic and three supersonic tones. The subsonic tones, inaudible by themselves, become audible in combination with others, mostly by modulation. The basic combinations are all concordant, but discords arise when harmonics are mixed in certain ways.

Birth is life is power, etc., is based on the music used for Don Levy’s multi-screen film shown in the British Pavilion at EXPO ‘67. This was concerned with a cycle of energy, creative and destructive, and the music is therefore a nine-minute loop.

Cary has combined instrumental with electronic music. Peccata Mundi is for choir, orchestra and tape; Narcissus for solo flute and tape. The latter, as its name implies, feeds on its own reflection. As the piece proceeds, playbacks at different speeds and directions join the live flute, and these too are recorded, so that the single instrument builds a polyphony round itself Every nuance, even every mistake, of the performer thus becomes part of the total fabric, as it is played back to him. No modulation or other transformations are employed, which would destroy essential flute quality. Speed changes, however, quadruple, or quarter, the original pitch, and up to thirty-two notes occur together in later passages.

If the basis of Narcissus is tonal, that of Continuum is temporal. This piece, which was first heard at a Cheltenham Festival concert in 1969, suggests the infinity of time stretching endlessly in both directions from where (or when) we stand. This endlessness is disturbed by temporary events, which bend it but do not essentially change it. This continuum in the music is a sound both changing and changeless, within which there are three episodes, each a little longer than the last, and containing at least one element derived from the continuum itself.

This main sound is a texture, a large pile of notes all continuously modulating in pitch, but by different amounts and at different speeds. The overall structure of Continuum has affinities, in the broadest sense, with symphonic procedures, as the composer’s description shows:

The ‘mesh’ of sound is presented in a number of different forms, because it is disturbed by events. During the opening passage, we hear some other sounds faint and strangled in the background, as if struggling to get through the mesh. Later in the piece these sounds become definite and forward. The mesh gradually thins, losing its upper frequencies and slowly reducing energy, so that it eventually becomes weak enough to be penetrated by the first event proper. This consists of a ‘freezing’ by modulation of two blocks of the mesh sound, thrown like a thrombosis across the flow of the continuum. The result is a short passage of dynamic terracing and positional displacements, followed by a new, almost melodic idea in the bass which rises up with the modulated continuum to a climax. At this point groups of supersonic transformations of four notes at a time of the continuum (the audible sound consists of beat notes) make a series of clang-like sounds, while the melodic idea disintegrates and slips away. The continuum reasserts itself, but filtered to a lower sound than before (the event has left its mark).

The second episode (each one rises to a climax and falls back into continuum) also begins by throwing in an interruption which layers and terraces the mesh. The new sound is a development of the undulation idea-notes are slowly moved up and down as much as a fourth or fifth and then ‘chopped’ at a frequency not necessarily related to that of the frequency modulation. This results in little figures which, like the continuum itself, are similar but never quite the same. These figures build by becoming more numerous (there are twelve at the climax) and two other elements also build; these are (I) the two main elements of episode I modulated together (each event ‘learns’ from the previous one), and (2) the continuum now twisted and tortured by filtering. After the climax the episode I element goes, and the ‘chop’ falls away by gradually thinning out (like ending a round in a way). Finally, all that remains is an exhausted continuum, filtered till only a low rumble remains. This too goes and there is a short silence (it hasn’t stopped, but we have lost sight of it.

Out of this silence arises the third episode, which is the most complex of the three. Another almost melodic idea (this was also heard in a choked version at the opening) is built from a rearrangement of the original ‘mesh’ notes; the filtering of this material is being constantly altered, which means that timbre changes occur within most notes. Added to this is yet another continuum transformation and a development of the ‘clang’ motive from the first episode. In addition, you hear a choked version of the ‘chop’ from the second episode, which goes away well before the climax after wandering about like a lost soul in the space between the speakers. Most of this material, as well as moving about, is slightly reverberated, which takes it back in space. The 'clang’ sounds are doubled and thrown across from one speaker to the other. Near the climax, some unreverberated (and therefore close) blocks of notes (in eights) appear in rhythmic units and gradually build to the climax (of the piece as well as the episode). The chords here turn into a thick wall of notes, not undulating, whose very density stops the original continuum in its tracks. The melodic strand, by now high in pitch, can be heard wailing and crying behind the heavy curtain of the chord. But both gradually collapse, and again there is a short silence.

In the closing passage the continuum picks up its own pieces in a palindrome of the way we first heard it, and reasserts its power over strangled versions of the ‘chop’ and the ‘clang’. Finally, the ‘mesh’ rises suddenly and forcefully to its original virility, and we as suddenly turn away, leaving whatever future events there may be to happen unobserved.

The period of the sixties might be called the ‘first phase’ of the development of electronic music in this country. Composers were made aware of its existence, but they lacked the technical apparatus of a properly equipped studio. Apart from Cary and Zinovieff, several other composers have made individual attempts at electronic effects, notably Ernest Berk, Robert Gerhard and Daphne Oram. Younger composers, including Birtwistle, Connolly and Smalley, have also attempted to embody a simple use of electronics into their compositions. But the electronic composer is just as much technician as composer; either without the other is incomplete.

 

The avant-garde

[Roger Smalley, John Tavener, Tim Souster, David Bedford, Harrison Birtwistle, Cornelius Cardew]

The term avant-garde, like the terms romantic or contemporary, is capable of many shades of meaning. It describes an attitude rather than any one style, with the result that it is evident in many different categories of contemporary music-making, and in all countries of the world. Manifestations of the avant-garde may be seen today in Los Angeles, New York, London, Paris, Cologne, Vienna, Stockholm or Tokyo. It is polarized between wide and mutually contradictory extremes; between the artless primitivism of pop musicians on the one hand, whose talent is rudimentary and whose compositional technique non-existent; and post-Webern serialists on the other, whose experimental techniques are everything, and can only be described by the term avant-garde, since they work consciously on the frontiers of musical knowledge. Or again, between the total abandonment of creative responsibility, the total non-involvement, of the aleatoric school, on the one hand, and the highly sophisticated machine-involvement of the electronic composer on the other. What is the underlying attitude, which we call avant-garde, that can possibly be stretched to apply to these widely differing and often contradictory trends?

One of its main characteristics is the element of protest and questioning; and of the mocking of generally accepted standards of concert-music. That avant-garde composers are for the most part young is largely due to the protest-core of the aesthetic. The time for protest is when you are young; it sounds more convincing if you are twenty-five; if you leave it until you are forty-five you merely sound disillusioned, tired. When you approach middle-age, you yourself become the object of the withering contempt of a younger generation of protesters. So, one by one, the aesthetic canons on which musical traditions are built are disposed of, until the ultimate goal is revealed: of nihilism, in a figure like John Cage; or of total abstraction and complexity, in the-case of the later serialists.

Why, says the avant-garde, should music be serious? We will make it frivolous. Why should it involve hard work and laborious technique? We will make it easy, improvised, random. Why should music be dignified? We will distort, mock and parody. Why should a composition necessarily be a work of art, for all time? We will make it ephemeral, here and now. Why should the audience sit in rows? We will have them in informal groups. Why should musicians wear lugubrious, respectable dress? We will do the opposite.

There is thus a considerable affinity between this aspect of the avant-garde attitude and the frivolous mood of the 1920s; and it is significant that there has been a recent revival of interest in the work of Satie and Lord Berners by certain groups, such as the Pierrot Players.

It is illogical to assess an ephemeral work by the standards of permanent artistic value, and to approach a satirical or trivial work with the solemnity we reserve for a serious composition. In the case of avant-garde music, whose purpose is by definition to make, in some direction, an ‘advance’, the first question to decide is whether it succeeds in making such an advance, and, if so, what it is. In order to arrive at such an aesthetic conclusion, it is necessary to identify the point at which protest ceases and artistic alignment begins; the point where the composer’s intention ceases to be on the periphery of experience, and begins to involve the listener's; for at some point he has to cease his aleatoricism, and invite the performers’ collaboration; at some point he has to cease cocking a snook at his audience, and invite their artistic response, if his work is to have even an ephemeral identity. A great number of avant-garde works have no identity, or are derivative from one of the dominant trends of Europe or America.

Both pop and jazz are American-derived; most of the absurdities of British attempts in these fields are due to their derivation from American models. But several different and basic influences converged to produce these phenomena. First, a lack of stimulus, particularly among the young, from the complex developments in contemporary music, which meant little or nothing to them; second, just as jazz itself was a negro folk-art born out of protest, so pop followed suit. Elvis Presley had been the well groomed hero-figure of a generation of post-war adolescents, and it was only a logical step for succeeding groups, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, to become also the focus for those countless points of difference between teenagers and their elders-which might be expressed politically, in student revolution, in the Black Power movement, in civil rights, in nuclear disarmament; or socially, in the assertion of a carefully publicized ‘drop-out’ status, by means of unkempt dress and dishevelled appearance, or by means of drug-taking or sexual permissiveness-or by making records.

British jazz also lacks a valid traditional basis; its nature is derivative, with the result that even the most successful British bands compete on unequal terms with their American originals. Jazz is a branch of music in which the negro has always retained the artistic initiative. In recent years, however, the jazz style has been subjected to treatment and modification by composers of varying shades of allegiance; it has been embodied in a light style by Joseph Horovitz and Ernest Tomlinson; it has been grafted onto other styles (the so-called ‘third stream’) by Banks and Richard Bennett; it has been given the sort of avant-garde treatment usually reserved for other more complex styles of composition, by Howard Riley, Tony Oxley and others.

The avant-garde musician is always asking ‘Where do we go from here?’ Music is for him, therefore, essentially a continuous development, a ‘one-upmanship’. He is concerned not with what is ‘valid’ today; still less with what was ‘valid’ yesterday; but what is going to be ‘valid’ tomorrow. If we may say very broadly that pop and jazz developments are, generally speaking, American-derived, those avant-garde musicians whose experiments are with more sophisticated forms of music start from the post-Webern situation of European serialism, which they either respond to, or react from.

Two composers who have responded, though differently, are Roger Smalley and John Tavener.

Ten years Davies’s junior, Roger Smalley’s artistic starting-point is more dogmatically and narrowly confined to the avant-garde, whose standard he bears with considerable conviction, and for whom he acts as spokesman. ‘Tradition’ for him practically amounts to an indecent word. His aesthetic attitude is aptly summarized in a review [[Musical Times, February 1969: The pieces which earned this accolade were as follows:, Mayuzumi Prelude for String Quartet; Kagel Fantasia; Lutoslawski String Quartet; Penderecki String Quartet; Juan Allende-Blin Sonorities; David Bedford Two Poems; Stockhausen Gruppen; Carré; Solo; Berio Sequenza for trombone; Carlos Roque Alsina Consecuenza; Ligeti Etude I; Lux Aeterna; Globokar Discours II five trombones, Mauricio Kagel Match for two cellos and percussion; Music for Renaissance instruments]; of six avant-garde records:

I sometimes wonder if I am being wilfully perverse when I condemn so categorically the ‘traditional’ music of our time-since so many people seem to enjoy it.... One only has to try and imagine listening to six records of so-called ‘traditional’ music (my imagination won’t stretch quite that far) and compare the boring, cliche-ridden irrelevancies that would not fail to be on offer over 90% of the time, with the vital, imaginative, and stimulating music on these records. Here there is hope even for the composers of those works which are not very interesting because they have at least chosen the path which has the possibility of leading to something original, while the 'traditionalists’ will never succeed in becoming relevant whatever they do. I assume that everyone already interested in contemporary music will have bought these records. I am more anxious that those who are not particularly convinced or concerned by contemporary music take advantage of this bargain set and devote several hours of unprejudiced listening to its contents. They will, I am sure, be astonished by the vistas opened up.

The overwhelming naivete of such an approach to the musical art does not necessarily invalidate Smalley’s work as a composer; and it is this that concerns us more than his theories. For anyone except the composer himself, however, there are two basic and logical flaws to be noted: the first is that such an aesthetic reduces the range of artistic choice open to the composer, that ‘creative volition’ of which Stravinsky speaks, to a contrived one between two irreconcilable opposites-the avant-garde on the one hand, the ‘traditional’ on the other. Thus the whole range of the compositional process is reduced melodramatically to a stark contrast-black or white. Neither art, nor life, is quite so simple as that.

The second flaw is that by its failure to define, it begs more questions than it answers. What is meant by ‘traditional’; what is meant by ‘avant-garde’? Smalley suggests that the avant-garde is what is ‘contemporary’-with the implied corollary that the traditional is what is out of date. Thus, if you do not align yourself with the avant-garde you are not truly ‘contemporary’. To offer the definition that the avant-garde is what is new and ‘advanced’, while the traditional is what is old and un-advanced, does not so much define a style as describe the effect of that style on one particular already-committed recipient. It is also to confuse style with content, what you say with the way you say it-which is a central feature, as will become apparent, of avant-garde thinking.

Unfortunately, as we all know, it is not only possible, but most commonly the case, that composers of standing achieve new artistic ends with existing means at their disposal. In other words they have considered the ends (what they say) more important than the means (how they say it). As Smalley is still only twenty-six, it is hardly possible yet to do more than show the general direction in which he is facing. Most of his output so far has been of a formative, exploratory nature. Ironically enough, he is, in one sense, one of the most ‘traditional’ composers in England today, if by ‘traditional’ is meant that he accepts what is ‘handed down’ from someone else. He has accepted in the fullest sense of the word the ideas and techniques handed down by Stockhausen, and he has acted as the advocate and protagonist in this country for Stockhausen’s work, in much the same way as Robert Sherlaw Johnson has assimilated and passed on the ‘tradition’ of Messiaen.

He was born in Swinton in 1944, and at Lee Grammar School (where Peter Maxwell Davies had also been a pupil) he combined science with music. He went to the Royal College of Music in London in 1961, where his composition teacher was Peter Racine Fricker. After the latter left for America [See p. 245], there was no one to teach serial techniques. Smalley had studied Stravinsky’s Movements, and his first serial piece dated from that year. Thereafter his study became more diffuse with John White, whose compositions at first comprised mainly piano sonatas with a strongly French flavour, until later they became much more experimental; with Alexander Goehr at Morley College, who analysed in detail several works of Mozart, Beethoven, Schoenberg. He also attended the B.B.C. Invitation Concerts, newly instituted by William Glock, at which works by Stockhausen, Berio, and others of the avant-garde were introduced to London. In 1965 he was given a Countess of Munster award, which enabled him to go to Cologne with Brian Dennis and attend Stockhausen’s class. The summer of that year saw him at Darmstadt. Since 1967 he has worked from Cambridge, where he was elected a Fellow of King’s College.

So Smalley’s formative years occurred in the mid-60s, some ten years after the tide of post-Webern serialism was first felt in London. In his work, therefore, the results of this powerful movement can be seen. The pattern of serialism was by this time clearly recognizable, and thus formed the background to his creative attitude as a composer. What is his attitude? He never felt the slightest dichotomy, or break in continuity, between classicism and serialism. It had been Schoenberg’s vision to see that after Mahler’s death keys were dead; thus Brahms and Wagner were embodied in Schoenberg and Berg; but serialism did provide one answer to the problem of avoiding tonal chords and regular beats. Smalley has never used a 12-note series, but prefers sets of fewer notes, like a cantus firmus or ground bass; nor is he attracted to motivic development, but instead derives the parts from the motif by canon. Up to 1967 he did not use non-pitched percussion instruments, since they add nothing (so he felt) to what has already been said. What is ‘advanced’ is interesting; what is most ‘advanced’ is most interesting; what is not ‘advanced’ is not interesting. It is not possible to do interesting things in the old style; new things require new language and new methods.

His student years were very busy and productive. His compositions between 1962 and 1967 form a ‘first period’. Apart from Stockhausen, he was also strongly aware of the work of Maxwell Davies, and in many respects was directly influenced by him; for instance in the use of mediaeval or renaissance pieces as sources of musical ideas; in the idea of parody; in textures and layout generally. Following Davies, he had recourse to the Mulliner Book, and the sixteenth-century composer William Blitheman gave him the starting-point, first for two settings of Gloria Tibi Trinitas, one for orchestra, the other for orchestra with soloists and choir; next for a Missa Brevis, a taxing, virtuoso setting for sixteen solo voices [first performed by the John Alldis Choir, on 2 May 1967], which includes vocal effects such as whispering, shouting, humming and parlando. The two Missa Parodia (No. 1 for piano, No. 2 for piano nonet) also originated in this way; the Blitheman themes are quoted, only to be deliberately distorted. Another early work (1964/5), Elegies, is a strongly dramatic setting of Rilke, for soprano and tenor soloists, and accompaniment of three groups of instruments, strings, brass and bells. Instrumental interludes, and in the middle a Sonatina, separate the four vocal sections, and a characteristic instrumental chord gives rise to the melodic material of the voice parts. In this piece, as in all his other early works, there are implications of tonality; also, as in the Gloria Tibi Trinitas, multiple division of the strings. Other pieces of this formative period include a Septet (1963), a String Sextet (1964), Variations for Strings (1964), and a Capriccio for violin and piano (1966), as well as two song-cycles with instrumental accompaniment, and some short, experimental piano pieces. Then after 1967 his style underwent a change.

Stockhausen’s influence has always been all-powerful over Smalley. Not only does the young Englishman perform and propagate the works of his German mentor, and make them the starting point for his own composition, but he has also been persuaded by the older composer’s views on the social function of music, and about such mundane matters as the arrangements of concerts, and the relationship of composer, player and audience. Why should an old score be extended into a complex contemporary work? Why should the listener be expected to possess a fund of musical and historical knowledge? Too much intellectual superstructure can well cut him off from the composer [cf Busoni’s Die Brautwahl in Dent’s Ferruccio Busoni, pp. 183-185]. A conversation with John Cage in 1967 also had a decisive influence on Smalley in forming his opinion that the traditional conception of concert-giving is unattractive.

And so from now on he became concerned not so much with the musical material as with the very minutiae of the process of composition; with the continuity not of the motif or harmony, but of all those controlling factors that hitherto had been subsidiary, or taken for granted. Scales of each controlling factor were graded and systematized (loudness, speed, degree of eventuation and density, rate of change, intelligibility of words and so on), and composition became a rational search for a balance between these factors. The finished piece would thus consist of different combinations of these scales of elements. Spontaneity was impossible, though a limited amount of freedom might be allowed to the performers, who could be invited to listen and take part. Generally speaking, Smalley’s music since 1967 is not so technically demanding as that of Maxwell Davies, who looks for a virtuoso standard from the Pierrot Players.

The first work in this new style was Song of the Highest Tower, for soprano and baritone soli, chorus, string and brass ensembles and orchestra, which was first heard, with disturbing effect, in the otherwise somewhat decorous atmosphere of a City of London Festival, 1968. The score, which calls for two conductors, consists not so much of notation as such, but of instructions on the manner of performance of the ideas. What matter for the players are durations, dynamics, bowing, mode of tone-production; these are the factors that are ‘composed’, more than any thematic or motivic invention, which is very simple. The vocal parts consist variously of whispering, murmuring, speaking, shouting.

This piece was followed by Transformation I for piano (1968/9), in which Smalley first used electronic modulation, live not pre-recorded. The work, which was commissioned by the City Music Society, was a preparatory study for Transformation II, or Pulses 5 x 4 [first played by the London Sinfonietta conducted by David Atherton on June 20, 1969]. In this piece five groups of four players are placed at random in the hall, and each group is amplified and/or modulated electronically, by combination of the instrumental sounds with sine-tones in a ring modulator. The instruments consist of: 3 trumpets, 1 percussion (1 group); 3 horns, 1 percussion (2 groups); 3 trombones, 1 percussion (2 groups); The work lasts fifty minutes and is made up of thirty ‘Moments’.

The conception is one of a composition in layers of continually fluctuating densities, according to how many of the five groups are playing during each Moment.

The ‘pulses’ of the title are rhythmic variants, or ‘categories of pulsation’, of which there are three, each with five sub-divisions. What matters therefore in this case are the rhythmic characteristics of each Moment. Again, the notes played are of secondary importance, and indeed could hardly be simpler, since in each Moment each instrument only plays one note, which is varied constantly by internal vibrations, microtonal inflections, muting and so on. During each Moment only one group plays from notated music; the other ‘layers’ are provided by groups continuing to develop the last Moment they have played.

This process and principle of composition, which Smalley derived from Stockhausen, rests on the assumption that the composer’s art consists not so much of musical ideas or themes as on the constantly fluctuating and variable presentation of the elements of the material. Thus the analogy with logical philosophy is seen to be extremely close [see my Contemporary Music, pp. 231-3]; the same intellectual principle governs both-chiefly, that what is important is not what you say but how you say it. Such a principle of composition is not so much an extension of the range of music’s experiences as a confining of it within certain selected, concentrated limits, which are thoroughly exploited to the exclusion of other fundamental factors.

Such a trend is directly the reverse of that adopted more than fifty years ago by composers such as Busoni, Schoenberg, Stravinsky and Webern. Then it was a question of breaking out of the confines of a comparatively narrow tradition into the wider fields of mediaeval, polyphonic and renaissance music, as well as reaching into the unknown paths of the future. their intellectual curiosity and creative urge was directed towards the constant enlargement of both the extent and the depth of their musical experience. Conversely, however, the avant-garde of 1970, of which Smalley is an articulate representative in this country, reverse this process, and seek instead to reduce the range of their musical vision by eliminating whole periods and facets of artistic experience from their thoughts, pronouncing them to be ‘irrelevant’, and focusing their creative energy with correspondingly greater concentration onto the comparatively limited areas of their own choosing. This process illustrates not only the profound changes that have come about in music, particularly since 1945, but also the illusory nature of freedom’ where art is concerned. The composer needs constantly to ask: Freedom-from what? Whereas composers of the earlier generation sought freedom from their immediate tradition, and from academic formalism, by the exercise of their creative curiosity, the present generation has inherited the fruits of this freedom; it therefore scarcely needs to invoke the cry of ‘freedom’ in quite the same way as its forebears did. Yet already, paradoxically, the result of this freedom is showing signs of leading to a narrowing, a rigidity of the art, that is far more restricting, far more rigorous in its demands, than that nineteenth century aesthetic from which earlier composers strove to break free. If this proves to be the case, then it will only be a matter of time before the next generation of composers, in their turn, seek to win their freedom from it. Dogmatism, from whichever quarter, whether ‘traditional’ or ‘avant-garde’ is an unsatisfactory basis for the creative artist.

 

Like Smalley, John Tavener was also born in 1944. Again, therefore, it is premature to suggest more than the general direction in which he is facing-which is unquestionably that of the avant-garde. And though his technique is less complex, and not so mathematically theoretical, as Smalley’s-nor is it derived from Stockhausen-nevertheless, the same generating principle inspires both composers: that of concern with, and sophistication in, the manner of presentation of material which by itself may be rudimentary. For instance, the closing section of In alium, whose texture is similar to part of Smalley’s Elegies, consists of an improvised glissando within the framework of certain given pitches for sixteen divisi violins, and a pre-recorded solo voice in sixteen canonic parts, gradually dying away to nothing. The notes by themselves mean nothing; there is no thematic material in the accepted sense of that term. The composer’s attention is directed towards originality and unexpectedness of effect, not towards the invention of original material.

He studied under Lennox Berkeley at the Royal Academy of Music, and later with the Australian David Lumsdaine; his early pieces include settings of T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, and of Three Holy Sonnets of John Donne (1963/64), as well as a short religious drama, The Cappemakers (1964), and a dramatic cantata Cain and Abel (1965). The last two are similar in style and both betray a certain awkwardness of word-setting; but in Cain and Abel, which is clearly derived from late Stravinsky, Tavener first begins to use that free, improvisatory technique that was soon to become dominant. The work was awarded first prize in the Monaco competition, 1965.

A light work, Grandma’s Footsteps, and a traditional work, a Chamber Concerto, are the prelude to his total adoption of an avant-garde style which became apparent in The Whale (1966). This is the piece on which his reputation now chiefly rests. It was not performed, however, until 24th January, 1968 [by the London Sinfonietta under David Atherton. This was also the first appearance under a new twenty-four-year old conductor of this chamber orchestra, formed specifically to perform avant-garde works], when it was received with rapturous acclamation. Hardened London critics, whose enthusiasm is not always their most prominent characteristic, even admitted to a sense of exuberant enjoyment and infectious high spirits. The composer’s comment gives the clue to his intention: ‘the extravagance of the score is something which I feel I may not be capable of when I grow older.’ After all, if you are going to throw traditional discipline to the winds, half-measures will not do. And so the work, a dramatic cantata, which lasts forty-five minutes, is an abandoned display of ingenuity, theatrical amusement; it is certainly never dull. It is a word-fantasy, and is constructed, again like Smalley’s Elegies, with instrumental interludes. It opens with a solemn, documentary reading from the Encyclopaedia Britannica on the biological properties of whales; only gradually does the music encroach on the words, until the voice has to struggle to be heard. The composer’s ingenuity is directed towards the treatment of noise-effects, some of which are deliberately banal and monotonous; interruptions from a loud-hailer, whispers, snores, grunts, buzzes, hisses; electronic effects; the baritone soloist shouts into an undamped piano, representing the whale’s belly; and so on.

Such a work could not be repeated; but the immediate success of The Whale opened the door to the young composer. In alium was commissioned by the B.B.C. for a 1968 Promenade Concert [at this concert (12th August 1968) three new works were played; Tavener’s In Alium, Banks’s Violin Concerto, Musgrave’s Concerto for Orchestra. In the interval of the concert a ‘popularity poll’ was conducted to find out which of the three works the chiefly youthful audience would like to hear repeated. Tavener’s work was the clear favourite], and the Introit for March 27, the Feast of St. John Damascene, was commissioned by the London Bach Society. These were followed by A Celtic Requiem (1968-69) which, like The Whale, is described as a ‘dramatic cantata’, and in which, also like The Whale, and the other works, though its origin may have been sacred, any traditional religious association is entirely contradicted by the individual presentation of the idea. Though the movements are recognizably traditional (Requiem aeternam, Kyrie, Dies irae, etc.) in no other sense is the work a ‘requiem’. The adult rendering of the words is parodied by the nonsense interruptions of children as they play hopscotch; their games have ritualistic overtones for the composer, as well as suggestions of parody.

For instance, the concluding section Requiescat in pace is set against the words of the nursery rhyme ‘Mary had a little lamb,’ which ends:

Mary had a little lamb

Her father shot it dead.

Now it goes to school with her

Between two chunks of bread.

This is enacted to an accompaniment of organ and popguns, to say nothing of Cardinal Newman’s hymn, ‘Lead, Kindly Light’. The purely musical material is extremely limited; indeed, the whole work is reduced to different presentations of the chord of E flat. It is, in this case, no longer a question of a composition consisting of the treatment and development of contrasting ideas or thematic material; it is the varied treatment itself which is the composition.

 

Tim Souster is Smalley’s contemporary, and shares his aesthetic. He also succeeded him at King’s College, Cambridge, as ‘composer in residence’. After studying at Oxford, and with Richard Rodney Bennett, he attended in 1963 the courses of Stockhausen, Berio and Kontarsky at Darmstadt, the Mecca of the European avant-garde. Most of his recent works include electronic effects, such as Tsuramono-domo and Titus Groan Music. The first of these is about war on three levels: the personal, the epic and the political; the second, named after the first of Mervyn Peake’s trilogy of novels, is also political, dedicated to the Greek composer and freedom-fighter, Theodorakis. Other avant-garde composers of this generation are Brian Ferneyhough and the slightly younger Michael Finnissy.

Of the former generation, the best known are David Bedford (b. 1938) and Harrison Birtwistle (b. 1934). Bedford’s style is the slenderer of the two, the more lyrical. Birtwistle’s is the more uncompromising and abrasive, and though he has been closely associated with Peter Maxwell Davies, both as fellow-student at Manchester, and as co-director of the Pierrot Players, his music lacks the dimension of parody that Davies shows; nor does it derive inspiration from the extra dimension of visual or dance effects, or to any great extent from mediaeval music. His characteristic avant-garde works, such as Medusa, or Interludes from a tragedy, are built on very simple patterns, and use violent dynamic extremes. He is very interested in electronics, and Medusa also required a computer on stage. His only opera so far, Punch and Judy, which was first heard at the 1968 Aldeburgh Festival, was a miscalculation in several important respects: the ugliness of orchestral sound palls quickly on the ear, while the scoring and instrumentation combine to make the singers inaudible. Stephen Pruslin’s text is equally savage and aggressive. But a sense of drama underlies some of Birtwistle’s other orchestral and instrumental works, such as Verses for Ensembles, Tragoedia and Chorales. Tragoedia (1965) derived a dramatic form from Messiaen’s Chronocromie, and was a preliminary study for Punch and Judy, while the earlier Chorales is an individual interpretation of ‘The Martyrdom of St. Catherine’ by Pieter Brueghel. Its four sections juxtapose, alternate and repeat similar material in many dimensions and in various perspectives, some blurred, some in focus, like foreground and background.

In many ways Birtwistle is the most uncompromising and determined post-Webern composer in England today. Another who follows a similar path is Justin Connolly, who also went to America on a Harkness Fellowship, and who follows the established avant-garde pattern in his concern for method rather than style. He has worked with electronics at Zinovieff’s studio.

Several groups have been started in the 60s for the presentation of avant-garde works: ‘The mouth of Hermes’, ‘Sonor’, ‘The Electric Candle’, to mention only three. ‘The Gentle Fire’ is associated with Richard Orton; ‘Intermodulation’ is the name under which Smalley and Souster present their work to the public. The group known as ‘The Soft Machine’ played at the first ‘Pop Prom’, on 13th August 1970; but the ultimate so far in this direction (though who can say what the future holds in store?) is Cornelius Cardew’s ‘Scratch Orchestra’? which he founded in 1969.

Cardew, who was born in 1936, is the John Cage of British music. Indeed, after studying electronic music in Cologne (1957/8), Cardew was associated with Cage and David Tudor, and also made his acquaintance with the music of Christian Wolff and Morton Feldman. His compositions bear deceptively traditional titles, but there any resemblance to traditional procedures ends; more often than not the scores contain lengthy instructions on how to decipher the otherwise unintelligible symbols. Every work is for him a fresh experiment, and every performance too. The only thing, for instance, that is determinate about Treatise is that no performance will bear audible relationship to any other performance. The score consists of 193 pages of free graphics, without a single symbol whose meaning has been agreed in advance. You can sing it, play it on any instrument, in any order, backwards or forwards, in part or in whole; you can contemplate it in silence, or act it; but for the final result Cardew disclaims all responsibility. ‘My intention’ he says, ‘is that the player should respond to the situation.’

But what of the audience? An artistic response on the part of the listener has always been the sine qua non of any music which lays claim to the stahls of art. If the nihilistic avant-garde composer dissociates himself from the performer, does he also disclaim any concern for the audience? Suppose that a listener were to trespass on a meeting of the Scratch Orchestra in the fond and innocent expectation that he was going to hear a concert:

Place: St. Pancras Assembly Rooms

Date: 2nd April 1970. Thursday evening, 7.50 p.m.

Enter concertgoer.

Heavily Victorian hall. About one hundred seats occupy one half of the floor; the other half is taken up by seven or eight young people seated on the floor, with assorted items of musical and other apparatus.

Audience, ten minutes before the concert, consists of eleven people, and one somewhat bewildered janitor.

Concertgoer refers to his programme-a postcard informing him that this is the 12th presentation of the Scratch Orchestra, and that the date is 2nd April 1970. The reverse side is entirely blank. Perhaps his nearest neighbours might know what was to be played? They say that the participants in the orchestra are not musicians at all; they just enjoy playing. Their instruments appear to consist of a frying pan, blocks of wood, assorted tins. Is that a military drum over there? Someone is busily unpacking a shopping-bag, which evidently contains more utensils, needed no doubt for the performance; a paint tin, what looks like a bag of nails, some iron bars.

Another possible audience-member ventures round the door, only to retreat in haste at the sight that meets his eyes. Those sitting on the floor now number twenty; the audience, so far, twelve.

Various tappings, squeaks, noises. Can this be the concert? Surely not; but it is almost 8 o’clock. The audience is now eighteen. Everyone waits expectantly. More uncoordinated tapping and isolated sounds. Is this all that is meant by avant-garde?

Someone with a mallet intently and very deliberately strikes a piece of wood: whereupon four children come in (five-eight age group), who make the loudest noise so far heard, with their golliwog father. The audience is now twenty-three.

A saxophone somewhat surprisingly emits a note; someone claps; someone else utters a vocal sound. Perhaps this is some secret means of communication, like morse code? Or a meditation? Or more likely a leg-pull. Yes, a practical joke. But the date is 2nd April, not 1st April. Several teenagers come in, dishevelled, bored and disconsolate. Evidently avant-garde people are unhappy?

More very quiet sounds. Surely this is very tentative for an improvisation? Some of the participants seem to be reading something; a score, maybe?

A rustling of paper; a squeak of a whistle, all unconnected. Someone arrives late with a cornet. Someone else sits with his arm embracing a cello, apparently incapable of playing it. Ah, no! After much deliberation he manages to produce one pizzicato note. Another noise, like the whistle in a Christmas cracker. Over there is a horn player; but he, too, is transfixed, quite unable to play.

The time is now 8.15 p.m. Another violinist comes in, bejeaned, shoeless. He solemnly selects a chair, sits down, and lays his violin on the floor. Evidently dissatisfied, he then moves to the other side of the room, sits this time on the floor, and meditates. About what, one wonders.

Twenty-four human beings are now reduced to silence; only the occasional peep or plonk disturbs the placid scene.

Concertgoer is now in a questioning mood. For want of anything resembling music, his thoughts take a dissatisfied turn. Is this all the avant-garde has to say about the Western musical tradition? Is this all that is left of the musical art?

(Suddenly a tune is heard-on a musical box.)

Is it meant to be a joke? If so, each concertgoer must supply his own punch-line; nobody else will.

(Two more elderly people arrive - surely not The Times critic?)

The participants are obviously indulging their private rite of this particular spring; a private meeting of meditation for their own edification. An audience is an affront in such a gathering-an unwarrantable intrusion; neither valued nor necessary.

Concertgoer reflects that there is a saloon just opposite, where his custom would be, on the contrary, highly valued.

Exit concertgoer.

 

 

21 Serialism and Romanticism

 

Categorisation is an inadequate way of considering a composer’s work; if he is a composer of any marked individuality, whose music bears the imprint of his personality, he will create his own category. Nevertheless, it is equally true that the great increase in musical activity in this country since 1945, and the vastly greater general interest in music-making at all levels has led directly to a correspondingly increased response by composers. Demand has, to some extent, created supply; moreover, the highly variegated demand by different groups and different trends has created a highly variegated supply; largely occasional and ephemeral perhaps, but all an essential part in a vital and growing tradition.

Serialism

[Frankel, Lutyens, Hamilton, Goehr, Gilbert, Wood, Crosse]

One of the strongest trends, and one which made the most exacting demands to any who succumbed to its siren voice, was the serialist/avant-garde movement that began to be noticeably felt in the 50s. It largely focused on a small group of composers centred round the B.B.C., where William Glock was Head of Music from 1959.

The most senior of those composers who today reflect the trend of serialism is Benjamin Frankel. He was born in 1906, and in his case it was a gradual assimilation of Schoenberg’s ideas, not a sudden conversion; he was not born into an environment which accepted the 12-note principle as a fait accompli. On the contrary, his musical growth has been a slow and cumulative process, which is reflected in his compositions. Frankel developed his own 12-note style, because Schoenberg alone appeared to him to offer a technical discipline which he, Frankel, needed. He came to serialism practically unwittingly, instinctively; then he worked consciously and quite alone, in an attempt to arrive at his own technique, which was not comparable with anybody else’s, but which arose absolutely from the ‘classic example’ of Schoenberg. Frankel’s large output culminates in seven symphonies, the first of which was not written until 1960. All the symphonies are, to a greater or lesser extent, serial.

Prominent among those who have worked within the Schoenberg tradition is Elizabeth Lutyens. With Humphrey Searle, she was the pioneer of the 12-note technique at a time (in the forties) when it was hardly heard of in this country. Moreover, as the wife of Edward Clark, and one of the founders of the Macnaghten concerts in 1931, she has been actively concerned with matters to do with contemporary music concerts in this country, and the musical politics that appear to be inseparable from them, for very many years. Needless to say, she has not infrequently been at the centre of controversy. Her close acquaintance with William Glock has secured for her works a hearing at his Dartington Summer School, and since 1960 in radio concerts. Indeed, the trend towards serialism, which reached a peak in the 60s, was in no small measure the result of her influential and crusading voice.

She was born in 1906, the daughter of the architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens. She studied first in Paris, then at the Royal College of Music under Harold Darke, the organist of St. Michael’s, Cornhill. Her first public performance consisted of a ballet The Birthday of the lnfanta, conducted by Constant Lambert. Gradually during the thirties her works reached audiences, through the L.C.M.C., or her own Macnaghten Concerts, or Adolph Hallis. Later she regularly featured in I.S.C.M. programmes, starting in 1939, when her Second String Quartet was played at the Warsaw Festival [when Rawsthorne’s Symphonic Studies were also played (see p. 43)]. This is a conventional work; dissonant, though hardly revolutionary. It was gradually, after about 1940, that she embarked on the path of 12-note composition, starting with the first of the Six Chamber Concertos, Op. 8. It was a path which, particularly at that time in England, called for qualities of musical vision and personal determination. She had to be prepared for her voice to be, for many years, a lone one crying in a particularly lonely wilderness. In retrospect we are now able to detect, and identify, that goal of total serialism towards which Schoenberg’s 12-note style represented the first step. It was an all-demanding technique of composition, through which only the strongest musical personality could assert itself. Such a success in the personal adoption of the serial world is seen in the later works of Gerhard [see p. 183/5], in which his individual characteristics of style remain stronger and more important than the technical procedures he adopted. But his achievement is exceptional, and, in this country at least, unique.

But for the pioneer Elizabeth Lutyens in 1940 this path lay in the unseen future. Her works since then, of which there are over seventy, as distinct from her incidental film scores, represent her gradual movement along that path. In a number of them, her idiom and style is indistinguishable from that of countless other European composers at this time. Schoenbergian dodecaphony was the common technique of the avant-garde in the 40s and 50s; the more refined Webernian serialism followed after.

The adoption of dodecaphony, and a totally chromatic tonality, presents the greatest problems of balance and texture in orchestral works; not so much in chamber works, which use fewer instruments. Moreover, Lutyens’s style is best suited to small-scale works. A highly expressive score, and an early one, is the soprano cantata O Saisons, O Chateaux (1946); it has a clarity and a brevity which is lacking in some of the orchestral works, such as the densely concentrated Three Symphonic Preludes (1942) or Music for Orchestra I(1954). Indeed, writing for voices tends to bring out the lyricism in Lutyens-such works as the Wittgenstein Motet (1953) and Quincunx (1957), for instance, have a focal point. Wittgenstein’s philosophy is germane and highly relevant to Schoenberg’s [this point is dealt with in greater detail in my Contemporary Music, pp. 231-3], and in translating into music such apparent imponderables as ‘The world is everything that is the case’, or ‘The existence and nonexistence of atomic facts is the reality’, Lutyens was retracing the path that Schoenberg had trod thirty years earlier. She simply, if unconsciously, substituted one series of symbols (a note-row) for another (the variables of logical philosophy). The musical characteristics of the resulting composition are precisely analogous to the linguistic characteristics inherent in Wittgenstein’s text in the first place. It is one of the most apt pieces ever composed, since the 12-note technique was linguistic in origin. Lutyens’s motet is not a setting of words so much as a realization of ideas.

She has written a large number of scores since 1960 for B.B.C. performance, many directly commissioned-starting with the Wind Quintet, OP. 45, (1960). These include orchestral works-Music for Orchestra II (1962) ‘for Edward Clark,’ who had died that year, and Music for Orchestra III, (1964); also Symphonies for piano, wind, harp and percussion (1961), and several works for voice and instrumental ensembles. In these later works Lutyens found herself confronted with the severest test of all-a ready audience. The path of the 12-note technique can only lead the composer through progressive refinement of idiom, until all inessentials are pared away. Webern is the prototype in this respect. Lutyens’ style is slender and lyrical; but all too easily, as in Quincunx? the melodic line can be lost among the notes. Her idiom is the lingua franca of European serialism; but her musical personality does not shine through it with the strength and brilliance of Gerhard.

Many composers have since followed along the Schoenberg-Webern path; among them the Scottish composer Iain Hamilton, who was born in Glasgow in 1922. Like his contemporary Fricker, he emigrated to America in 1961, where he was Professor at Duke University, North Carolina; also like Fricker, he was awarded a Clements memorial prize, for a String Quartet, and a Koussevitzky Prize, for his Second Symphony (1950). Unlike Fricker, however, he is more doctrinaire in his approach to the post-Webern situation; and the strict serialism of his Sinfonia for Two Orchestras (1959), which was a direct reflection of the then Continental avant-garde, caused an uproar when it was first heard at an Edinburgh Festival concert that year. He has, however, written several works in lighter vein, such as a 1912 Overture (1958), and a Concerto for jazz trumpet and orchestra.

A similar versatility, and a certain artistic ambiguity, marks the work of the younger composer, Richard Rodney Bennett. His major works are unquestioningly 12-note, yet he combines this with a remarkable fluency; already his work so far includes as many as five operas, two symphonies, a major choral work, Epithalamion, a Piano Concerto, and numerous other pieces, including scores for films, radio, television and theatre, which call for a less intellectual style. He is also an accomplished pianist, and his penchant for jazz led to a jazz ballet, and several pieces for jazz ensemble.

More directly in line from Schoenberg (not so much from Webern) is Alexander Goehr, the son of the conductor, Walter Goehr. At Manchester, his name was bracketed with Davies and Birtwistle in the ‘Manchester Group’, though his work has since followed a more recognizably conventional path than that of his two student contemporaries. After Manchester he studied under Messiaen in Paris, and his piano Capriccio (1958) is dedicated to Messiaen’s wife, the pianist Yvonne Loriod. Goehr is widely-travelled, spending much time in Europe and America, and active as a teacher, lecturer and writer. He taught analysis and composition at Morley College, and two of his pupils were Roger Smalley and Anthony Gilbert. He later taught at Yale (196819).

The idiom of his work is that of the orthodox European post-Schoenberg tradition; concentrated, dense, proliferating in detail, and instrumental rather than vocal-indeed, his vocal and choral works (The Deluge and Sutter’s Gold) are the least satisfactory among his output. Concertos include the Violin Concerto (1962), Romanza for cello (1968) and Konzertstuck for piano (1969); symphonic works include Little Symphony (1963) and Symphony in one movement (1970). The final movement of the Little Symphony is particularly indicative of Goehr’s style. In it, the composer seeks to combine the features of both slow movement and finale. ‘I particularly like this type of movement,’ he says, ‘which combines different tempi and musical inventions, although it always raises the biggest problems of clarity and continuity, and imposes a particular stress on the performers.’ In this movement, the various styles of recitative, finale material, and chorale, alternate in a mosaic of rich texture, leading to a coda (Adagio) based on the symphony’s opening. Rather than thematic invention, Goehr prefers the invention, and development, of texture. This is particularly apparent in his chamber music.

Apart from instrumental composition, Goehr has also had considerable operatic experience. His first opera Ardern must die was written, in German, for the Hamburg State Opera (1967), while his theatre work ranges from an early ballet to Greek plays, as well as feature and television films. He is associated with the Brighton Festival, where, in 1969, he directed the Music Theatre Ensemble in Birtwistle’s Down by the Greenwood Side and Walton’s Facade, as well as his own Naboth’s Vineyard - a morality in the style of a chamber opera, combining music and mime. It has been described by the composer as a ‘dramatic madrigal’. It was the first of a trilogy, the other two pieces being Shadowplay-2 and Sonata about Jerusalem. Goehr’s ‘Music Theatre’ is comparable with Davies’s works for the Pierrot Players, and Britten’s Church Parables.

The works of his pupil Anthony Gilbert, though still comparatively few in number, are also very much the products of their period, the 60s. The trend of serialism decisively influenced Gilbert at a formative stage of his development. Though only two years Goehr’s junior (he was born in 1934), his work so far shows him to be a more outright avant-garde composer, and less innately romantic, than his teacher. His first pieces, such as the Missa Brevis, Op. 4, and the Sinfonia, Op. 5, are serial miniatures; later pieces, such as Nine or Ten Osannas, Op. 10, and Mother, Op. 15, written for the Pierrot Players, are avant-garde miniatures, using a certain amount of aleatoricism. One of his largest scores is Magic in Twelve Regions (Op. 6), written in 1965 ‘in memoriam Edgard Varese’. This is scored for two orchestral units, and derived, like Hamilton’s Sigia, from Stockhausen’s Gruppen, rather than from anything of Varese. It employs a formidable, but not unusual, array of instruments, including a Hammond organ and amplified bass guitar, and calls on most tricks of the avant-garde trade, in a highly organized welter of orchestral effects.

Also contemporary with Gilbert, and three years his junior, is Gordon Crosse, who, after studying at Oxford under Wellesz, sought the stimulation of a continental environment by going to Rome, in 1962, and working under Petrassi. His contacts with the academic world, first at Oxford, and later at Birmingham, where he was appointed Composition Fellow in 1966, have given his use of serialism a different dimensions modalism, which somewhat recalls Maxwell Davies’s style. His output is varied and variable, and includes several operas (Purgatory is the best known) as well as other theatrical works, and school and choral pieces.

Another composer whose comparatively small output reveals a painstaking study of Schoenberg’s 12-note technique is Hugh Wood. Like Goehr, his works contain a romantic core; as indeed do those of a large number of composers of widely differing style. Romanticism is still a strong force in British music today.

 

 

Romanticism

[Bliss, Alan Bush, Daniel Jones, Wilfred Josephs, Nicholas Maw, Jeremy Dale Roberts, Patric Standford, Arthur Butterworth, C W Orr, John Tomlinson, Horovitz, Ronald Stevenson]

Though an adequate and universally acceptable definition of Romanticism is impossible, there is probably a broad measure of agreement about what is implied by the term Romantic when it refers to music. We might call it that residue, in a score, of sound-for-its-own sake, which is still left over when the analyst has done his work. Historically speaking it is music based on a harmonic style of composition, as that of the nineteenth century was; its appeal is to the heart more than to the head; it tells a story (roman), it fills a need in the human spirit, of quest, of imagination, of picture-painting, of pleasure in sound, which nothing else equally can. In a sense, therefore, romanticism is a pre-requisite of any music that aspires to anything more than ephemeral interest. And indeed, is not a man who sits down to write a symphony, instead of following the more lucrative and rational occupations of commerce or industry, a living embodiment of that mixture of imaginative idealism and unrealistic foolishness that we describe by the single, all-inclusive word romanticism?

Romanticism is only possible in a period of active confidence. Indeed, historically speaking, it was the rock-firm confidence of composers after about 1770 in the newly-established principles of diatonic harmony, the nuts and bolts of the harmonic style of composition, that gave birth to the period of music that saw by far the greatest manifestation of the human spirit of romanticism, namely the nineteenth century. The nineteenth century was certainly a period of overwhelming confidence. And by this reckoning of romanticism, if you maintain your confidence when the grounds on which it rests are no longer firm, your art runs the risk of becoming decadent.

It is a commonplace that many twentieth-century composers, starting with Busoni and Debussy, ceased to have confidence in this aesthetic of romanticism and attempted to modify the harmonic foundation on which it rested. The long line of those contemporary composers who have since questioned the harmonic structure of music and, as it were, divided up the spoils of the nineteenth century, is also common knowledge. But it is all too easy to exaggerate the effects of an experiment. Many critics have mistakenly interpreted the experiments of a particular composer as representing the one true direction in which contemporary music is really facing. They mistake an individual composer’s personal developments for those of the tradition within which he works; in their bid to avoid at all costs appearing Beckmesserish, they mistake appearance for reality, in a way that no composer ever would. It is a particularly prevalent form of intellectual snobbery which causes a critic to simplify contemporary music, and to present it as a straight choice between the work of whatever composer he sees as ‘advanced’ on the one hand, and all the rest, whom he labels ‘reactionary’, on the other. You do not see the view if you are facing the wrong way; and the fact that many composers have questioned the concept of romanticism does not cause the whole corpus of romantic music to become thereby instantly redundant and irrelevant. Music history is made, not by trends, but by traditions. Moreover, one should wait to see the results of an experiment before announcing, and assuming, its success.

The late flowering of romanticism in British music, which has already been referred to [see p. 11], was, at least in part, the expression of confidence by a newly emerging school of composers. Centred round Vaughan Williams, Holst and Arnold Bax, it was a movement which formed the background for many composers, before and after 1945, who wrote symphonies, or large orchestral works: William Wordsworth, for instance, whose five symphonies and three concertos form the core of a large output. His particular pleasure is in nature mountains, storms, spacious views, ever-changing colours-which he translates into symphonic sounds. Moreover, he admits to the force of emotion; and what could be more incurably romantic a view than that? Concord, discord, tonality-the data of romantic music-are for him reality, and he has never pursued originality for its own sake. His music is a quiet, restrained contemplation of the world’s tribulations and triumphs.

Enough of something from our hands have power

To live, and act, and serve the future hour.

A composer whose personality reflects many sides of the romanticism between the wars is Arthur Bliss, who was born in 1891. In 1953 he succeeded Bax as Master of the Queen’s Musick, and his career has included a number of administrative posts, including the B.B.C. His early compositions culminated in the Melee Fantasque (1921) and A Colour Symphony (1922); but it is the more intimate, less outwardly original works written since his return from California in 1925 which have proved longer lasting, such as the Clarinet Quintet (1931) and the Pastoral: Lie Strewn the White Flocks (1928). His symphonic works include two concertos, Meditations on a Theme of John Blow (1955), and Discourse for Orchestra (1957); his large output (over one hundred works) comprises opera, ballet and innumerable smaller pieces.

Representing an Establishment of a very different order stands Alan Bush, whose adherence to the Communist Party acts as a positive stimulus to his composition. After the conventionally English musical training of the Royal Academy of Music, and a period under John Ireland, he went to Berlin (1929-31) to study philosophy and musicology at the Humboldt University. The rise of Nazism, as well as his contact with Brecht and Hans Eisler, influenced him in adopting Marxism in 1934, though he had for a long time been associated with music in the working-class movement.

So his early instrumental compositions, which tended towards a sophisticated chromaticism, now gave place to vocal and choral compositions of a direct simplicity. Instead of piano pieces he wrote workers’ choruses; instead of string quartets he wrote marching songs; and he adopted a simple style. Like Vaughan Williams, he wanted an idiom which all could understand; unlike Vaughan Williams, however, his message was political. His search for a national style has been a search for a topic, and a musical modalism, which would unite the working class. His ballad-operas Wat Tyler and Men of Blackmoor are each concerned with the unjust exploitation of the working-class, the one in the middle ages, the other in the nineteenth century. And when writing Men of Blackmoor Alan Bush and his wife visited a Northumbrian mine, and acquainted themselves with the folk-songs and speech idioms of that part of the country. His operas have so far only been produced in Germany; Wat Tyler in Leipzig, 1953; Men of Blackmoor in Weimar, 1956; The Sugar Reapers in Leipzig, 1966; Joe Hill in Berlin, 1970.

Such direct tone-painting from his choral and vocal works spills over into his orchestral composition. His Third Symphony, the Byron Symphony, in which each movement depicts an episode, or aspect, of Byron’s life, culminates in the hero’s death for the cause of Greece. In this work romanticism and politics combine; and they make uneasy partners. Just as Bush’s thematic material appeals to the musically unsophisticated, so his plots, and musical schemes, reveal a naivete which cannot but exclude a large number of his compatriots. While he may seek to unite one section of the population, this is against the other half. His Byron Symphony finishes with a choral finale; but there any resemblance to Beethoven ends. Beethoven’s vision was for all men, and it was one of love.

Another composer of substantial symphonic works, who combines academic learning with a nationalistic colour, is the Welshman Daniel Jones. Twelve years Bush’s junior, he is both interested in philosophy and familiar with many languages. After graduating in English at the University of Wales, he wrote his M.A. thesis on ‘The relations between Literature and Music in the Elizabethan period’; he has since written a number of essays and articles on a variety of highly original topics, including Music-Aesthetics, in which he is a contemporary pioneer. He was a friend of Dylan Thomas, and on the poet’s death became literary trustee of the estate. He constructed Under Milk Wood from the unfinished manuscripts, and edited A Prospect of the Sea. He wrote his Fourth Symphony (1954) in memory of Dylan Thomas, and has recently edited the poems [The Poems of Dylan Thomas, (Dent)]. He appears as Dan Davies in Dylan Thomas’s Portrait of The Artist as a Young Dog.

Jones’s compositions consist of several symphonic poems and other orchestral pieces, six symphonies, piano works and chamber music; an oratorio, St. Peter, an opera, The Knife, and several other choral works. His romanticism is tempered by metaphysical ideas, which give his music a distinctive flavour. In 1935 he devised a scheme of Complex Metre, from which the German composer Boris Blacher later derived his ‘Variable Metre’ system. Jones’s Complex Metres, however, have an expressive and formal purpose, and are usually confined to small appreciable units, whereas Blacher’s system is mathematically based, and the unit becomes so extended that it is barely detectable to the listener.

Complex time signatures (9.2.318) give Jones’s melody a distinctive and subtle quality, as well as a new basis for formal construction. Working from that basis, he evolved complex metrical patterns. The music gains from the unifying element of a fixed pattern, but the pattern itself is asymmetrical. In the Sonata for Three Kettledrums [The Score, June 1950], for instance, (1947) the metrical patterns of the different movements are:

i Moderato 4.3.2.3.3.4

ii Allegro assai 3.2.3.2.2.3.2.2.2.3 2.2.3.2.3.3.2.3.3.3.2.3.3.2

iii Lento e solemne 9.8.6.4.3.2.3.4.6.8.

iv Agitato 3 9 2 6 4 3

An example of the use of ‘Complex Metres’ occurs in three of the six movements that make up the Sixth Symphony (1964). The six movements are arranged into three pairs as follows:

I

(a) Maestoso The prelude, containing the symphony’s basic theme, played in unison.

(b) Agitato The metrical pattern 5 + 4 is maintained in the main section; in the subsidiary section 445; in the development section 5 + 8

II

(a) Sostenuto A slow movement

(b) Con brio A scherzo, without middle section

III

(a) Capriccioso Variations, played continuously, with the metrical 6.4.3.2

pattern 4

(b) Vivace Resembles I (b) in structure, but with the metrical pattern 4 + 8

This symphony, which, like the fourth, was commissioned by the Royal National Eisteddfod, is free in its tonality, but highly organised in its structure. The whole work derives from a single theme, and the tonal centres of the six movements are regular, and balanced-D, G sharp, B, F, G sharp, D.

If Jones’s ‘Complex Metres’ recall the rhythmic development of Stravinsky, and in particular the additive rhythm technique which Tippett embodied into his style, he also invented a system of extended modes, which are somewhat reminiscent of Messiaen’s music before 1950. Jones conceives of a mode that arrives not necessarily at the octave above the starting-note, but at some other one. A musical continuum is formed by continuing the mode upwards. Thus the mode extends over a minor ninth; the starting-note is a semitone higher each time. Intervening notes are not considered; for instance, the note C can only occur at the point, and pitch, shown above. The use of these modes has been confined to chamber music for a small number of instruments.

Several composers of the next generation as well have continued this symphonic growth, with works on a large scale: Wilfred Josephs, Nicholas Maw, Jeremy Dale Roberts, Patric Standford, Arthur Butterworth and several others. All derive recognisably from the English romanticism of the 30s; all use a familiar form of tonality; yet within these broad limits their individual styles differ.

Wilfred Josephs, who was born in 1927, achieved what is practically unknown for a British composer, a sudden, and spectacular, international notoriety. This came in December, 1963, when his Requiem, Op. 39, won the ‘First International Competition for Symphonic Composition of the City of Milan and La Scala’. His subsequent success as a composer-performances, commissions and so on-stemmed from that point, though it was by no means his first work, nor his first prize.

The Requiem caught the public fancy, particularly in America [it was first played in this country by the Halle Orchestra in Sheffield, 29 October 1966], in a way that few works do; certainly those of unknown composers. It was played in 1967 in Cincinnati and New York.

It is an act of remembrance for the untold millions of Jews who were murdered in Europe under Hitler. It was originally conceived in 1961, during the time of the Eichmann trial. Perhaps the artistic representation of this chief crime of our age required, for its full effect to be realized, a Jewish composer. Only he would feel the consanguineous horror at the sufferings of his fellow Jews; only he could express, on behalf of the world-wide Jewish community, what it is appropriate should be expressed-and no more. We recall Schoenberg’s A Survivor from Warsaw. We also recall another work, which, strangely, was also awarded an international prize in 1963, but without creating such a sensational, and very obvious, succes d’estime-more strangely still, it was the work of a composer who was himself, in his own person, a survivor from Warsaw-Andrzej Panufnik’s Sinfonia Sacra. The very title, Requiem, appealed to the public mood at this time, as Britten had shown the previous year. But Josephs’ work is more personal, and contains none of the immediate juxtaposition of opposites that Britten’s War Requiem has. The spirit of protest is entirely absent; it is replaced by a dignified sorrow, a quiet hope.

Josephs first wrote a String Quintet, Op. 32, in memory of those Jews who had died: three slow movements, called Requiescant pro defunctis Iudaeis. Later, he incorporated this quintet into a choral work, a setting of the traditional Hebrew prayer of mourning, the Kaddish. Just as the mood of this Requiem is prevailingly quiet, so is its tempo prevailingly slow; yet nowhere does the Kaddish text mention death or the dead. Though it is a funeral meditation, it is concerned-only with life and with the glorification of God. The three String Quintet movements (Requiescant, Lacrimosa, Monumentum) carry the burden of grief, and become progressively slower, simpler, less rhetorical. Interspersed as they are, as interludes to the text, they correspond in this respect to the Wilfred Owen poems of Britten’s work. The six vocal movements express the acceptance of God’s will, and the traditional Messianic hope of the Psalms and the Prophets, in a mood of fervent and profound submission. There is one purely orchestral movement, De profundis. The scheme of the work as a whole is thus:

 

1st section

(Adagio 3/4) 1 Requiescant string quintet chorus and orchestra (Adagio 3/4)

(Adagio 3/4) 2 Yitgadal

(Allegro ritmico 4/4) 3 Yehey Sh’mey Raba chorus and orchestra

2nd section

(Poco Andante 3/4) 4 Yitbarach baritone solo and orchestra

3rd section

(Adagio 4/4) 5 Lacrimosa string quintet baritone solo, chorus and orchestra

(Adagio 4/4) 6 Yehee Shem

4th section

(Grave 6/4) 7 De Profundis orchestra baritone solo, chorus and orchestra

(Pesante 3/4) 8 Ezri Meyim

(Piu Adagio 4/4) 9 Monumentum string quintet

(Adagio 4/4) 10 Ohseh Shalom baritone solo, chorus and orchestra

However, the Hebrew text was not used to restrict the work to Jewish dead. On the contrary, though it was a Jewish tragedy that first triggered off the composition, Josephs wished to underline the universality of his artistic aims by avoiding the many established associations, both musical and liturgical, of the Roman Mass for the Dead. It was his hope that the listener would be able to submerge himself in the feeling inspired through the music by the text, without being distracted by any such specific associations; and the profoundly moving impact made by the La Scala premiere amply fulfilled this hope.

The very original emotional character of the work results partly from the layout of the forces employed. When Josephs first started planning the extension of the Quintet into a ten-movement choral and orchestral work, begun and interspersed by quintet movements, he entertained the idea of rescoring the quintet music for orchestra. But by deciding against this, and instead keeping the original quintet of two violins, viola, and two cellos, he produced a work of strongly individual dynamic design. The music rises out of, and finally sinks again into, near-silence, and the use of a quintet of solo strings adds an extra dimension to the dynamic possibilities of normal orchestral scoring. By contrast with the biggest fortissimo the quintet can produce, even the quieter passages for chorus and orchestra assume a character of massive strength. The few loud outbursts are in turn able to make a striking impact, since the contrast with the quintet enables the composer to keep to a soft dynamic through a large proportion of the choral and orchestral music.

The impact of Josephs’ Requiem, which is sung in Hebrew, in phonetie transliteration, derives partly from the direct expressiveness and warmth of the vocal line, partly from the harmonic idiom. This is both highly individual, yet flexible, and consistent as need be both with the quasimodal style of a plainsong-like section, and with the semitonal brilliance of a elimax-point; the third movement illustrates both these aspects. This harmonic and melodic consistency derives from a simple 4-note chord which is capable of almost limitless variation of colour, by the constant permutation of its constituent notes.

By the inflection of each note either way, either singly or in combination, a wide range of progressions and chords is possible. For instance, if the E is changed to E# (F natural) and the B to Bb, harmony in fourths is suggested; the work opens in this way. Many types of triads can be arrived at; one example, for instance, results from the two lower notes (C, E) being moved up a tone (to D, F#). No. 6 ends with this chord (transposed down a semitone). Moving triads occur in several places (for instance in No. 8); the major seventh chord moves in its entirety, in No. 3, and No. 4. The four notes may be spelt out melodically, in modified form, as at the opening of No. 10; the inversion of the chord leads to the minor 2nd, or minor 9th, with which the work closes.

Indeed, a most interesting parallel may be drawn between the even chord movement of the unaccompanied choral Amen with which Britten ends the Dies Irae of his War Requiem, which again occurs at the end of the work, and the even-chord movement of Ohseh Shalom at the end of Josephs’ Requiem. Both move step-wise; in both the movement arises from the nature of the thematic material. But the harmonic change in the

Josephs is subtler; the final die-away leaves the implications of the parent chord unresolved. Britten, however, instead of dying away on the tritone, round which his entire work has been built, allows the chorus to subside onto a comfortable and reassuring F major triad.

Wilfred Josephs wrote a large number of early works while still a schoolboy, which he later destroyed. A certain parental mistrust of the musical profession led him to qualify as a dentist in 1951; and his study at the Guildhall School under Alfred Nieman (1954) was carried on simultaneously with the practice of dentistry. A year in Paris under Max Deutsch, 1958/9, enlarged his musical range decisively; this was the period when Boulez was presenting the avant-garde in his Domaine Musicale concerts. But Josephs was not easily swayed. ‘The 12-note style,’ he said in 1964, ‘has come and gone for me, and I have found my own style in words that have appeared abroad - seldom in England’; which is the fate of many a British composer.

Yet Josephs was not entirely unknown before the Requiem; the Viola Concertante, Op. 30, was commissioned in 1961 for a chamber orchestra in Birmingham. He was particularly in demand as a composer of lightweight works, and of radio and television incidental music; his flair for light music had been shown in the Comedy-Overture ‘The Ants’, Op. 7, which depicts the ant-like movement of Londoners in the Underground during the rush-hour; and Twelve Letters, Op. 16, a setting of Hilaire Belloc’s ‘A Moral Alphabet’. Light music, indeed, forms a strong element in his musical personality. He has since written a very large amount of incidental and background music for feature films, documentaries, television and theatre shows, which calls for little beyond fluency, and whose raison d’etre is economic. Light works form a fair proportion of his large output.

But for his development of a personal idiom the turning point came with the Concerto da Camera, Op. 25, the first work that he wrote after his study with Max Deutsch. Thereafter, his works with opus numbers are divided between symphonies, concertos and several large-scale chamber works; important works for piano-14 Studies, Op. 53, 29 Preludes, Op. 70 - and various dramatic, or semi-dramatic entertainment pieces, which are more direct in idiom, such as Adam and Eve, Op. 61.

The Second Symphony was the first major work to be heard and ‘officially’ commented on in this country. When it was known that Josephs had won the Milan prize, his symphony was included in the 1965 Cheltenham Festival, and played there on 5th July. It is a striking work in structure and idiom, and breaks new ground in both respects. The first movement, which lasts almost half the total twenty-five minutes, is an exposition of the material, which is treated in the ensuing shorter movements. The second movement is an intermezzo, while the third combines slow movement and scherzo; the fourth, Grave, is the symphony’s heart, which Josephs originally conceived as a synthesis to the opening movement’s thesis, while the finale Prestissimo leggiero, never rising above p, is a fleeting, ghostlike re-working of the first movement at twelve times the speed. The harmonic idiom is freely tonal, with a dimension of expression that comes from an acquaintance with serial techniques.

Two important commissions from America resulted from the Requiem; the Third Symphony (‘Philadelphia’) was commissioned by the Chamber Symphony of that city; and a large-scale choral work, for adult and children’s choruses, Mortales, was commissioned for the Cincinnati May Festival, in May 1970.

The Third Symphony is tailored to an orchestra of thirty-six players. It was written in the very short space of two months (June/August 1967), and adheres to a classical four-movement structure. Mortales followed a period of reassessment, and introduces new techniques, such as aleatoricism.

 

Maw, like Josephs, also studied under Max Deutsch in Paris. His most characteristic works, in a so far fairly small output, are Scenes and Arias (1962) for soprano, mezzo-soprano, contralto and orchestra (a setting of two anonymous mediaeval poems), a String Quartet (1965), Sinfonia (1966) and Sonata for 2 Horns and Strings (1967). He achieves a certain opulence and fullness by the gradual and deliberate spelling out of a harmonic situation, by thematic cross-reference, and build up of a complex texture, often from lightweight material. The music finds its fullest expression when the pulse is slow moving, and the rate of harmonic change correspondingly leisurely. In purely vocal works his characteristic romanticism is less noticeable. The vocal line, for instance, in the songs The Voice of Love (1966) is serially derived, and various devices are directly influenced by Britten. Moreover, Maw’s first opera, One-Man Show, was spoilt by a libretto of shattering triviality, against which the music was powerless; but for his second opera, The Rising of the Moon (1970), which was the first ever to be commissioned by Glyndebourne, the librettist Beverley Cross, in spite of some unnecessary complications of plot, provided a comedy of considerable scope for the composer’s gradually evolving harmonic style.

Several composers of this generation modify the romantic tradition in the light of their own style, and in accordance with evolving contemporary styles. Jeremy Dale Roberts, who was born in 1934, strove first to emulate Debussy and Tippett, whose imaginative power he most respected; this is reflected in his earliest works, such as the Suite for Flute and Strings (1958) and Florilegium (1961). Later, he developed an increasing interest in timbre, a keener-edged melodic line, in such pieces as Capriccio for Violin and Piano (1967), and Sinfonia da Caccia (1966). He is a composer, like Tippett, who seeks to translate the imaginative experiences of life-a year in the Cameroons, the Egyptian desert, nature, French epic poetry-into aurally perceptible sound.

 

Patric Standford’s romanticism, on the other hand, has been tempered by a study of various contemporary techniques, new and not so new, under Malipiero, Lutoslawski and Messiaen. Like Bennett, he includes light music and film music in his output; but his most characteristic orchestral works are the fruits of a personal imagination. After the Second String Quartet and Stabat Mater (1966) he developed a greater freedom of style, and later works such as Chiaroscuro (1967) and Notte (1968) are an attempt to combine atmospheric and aleatoric techniques into the traditional disciplines of thematic composition. His student contemporary at the Guildhall School of Music was the conductor, James Stobart, who has since performed many of Standford’s works with the New Cantata Orchestra, which he founded.

In spite of the adulatory fervour which surrounded the name of Sibelius in the thirties, the two Scandinavian masters of the Romantic symphonic tradition, Sibelius and Carl Nielsen, have had curiously few English disciples. Two composers, however, whose symphonies are directly descended from them are Robert Simpson and Arthur Butterworth. Both have so far written three symphonies. Simpson is the author of detailed studies of Nielsen and Bruckner, where his allegiance clearly lies. Butterworth is a Mancunian, and his music has strong connections with the North of England; his Third Symphony, for chorus and orchestra, is called Moorland. He was an orchestral trumpeter in the Scottish National and Halle Orchestras until 1961, and his main works are symphonic. His First Symphony (1957) was directly influenced by Sibelius, while his Second Symphony (1965) was in memory of the Sibelius and Nielsen centenary (1865-1965). He considers tonality, in the form of the ‘basic symbols’ in sound (the octave, fifth, third and so on), to contain the basis of meaning common to all human beings. His music also contains a ruggedness, a certain greyness, which is Butterworth’s impression of the architecture of the North of England, and the character of his fellow Northerners-to say nothing of the English weather.

It is perhaps understandable that any British composer of this tradition should be bracketed with either Sibelius or Nielsen. However, in the case of William Bardwell such a comparison is not justified. His First Symphony (1966), though duly ascribed to the Nielsen influence [The Times of 25 March 1966], is more of a personal essay in orchestral timbre and symphonic structure by a composer whose work up to then had concentrated chiefly on chamber and vocal works. His idiom is simple and expressive, though not naive, and he has a preference for instruments of an intimate and quiet character, such as the mandolin, for which he has written a concerto. Three years at the Royal College of Music, under those twin champions of orthodoxy, R. O. Morris and Gordon Jacob, were followed by three years under Nadia Boulanger in Paris. His output is small, the result of painstaking deliberation, fastidious revision and, occasionally, withdrawal. Performances of his works have been very intermittent, and none of them is published.

His orchestral works are focused onto two symphonies. The first is in three movements, of which the second (Andante) was written separately and before the other two, which were later added. Not surprisingly perhaps the Second Symphony is more integrated as a symphony, and more refined orchestrally. Written four years after the first (1970-71), its four movements gradually enlarge in structure, and increase in tension as the music proceeds.

Two ideas dominate the first movement; a slow, legato melody for the strings, woodwind and light percussion, which opens the symphony; and a more rhythmic, percussive figure, associated with the brass, with a background of agitated tremolando, which forms the core of the development, and against which the opening melody is later set at a moment of rich climax.

The second movement (Allegro non troppo) uses pizzicato strings like a harp. As the composer says, he takes up at the point reached by Tchaikowsky in the scherzo of his Fourth Symphony. In the middle section of the movement, Bardwell gives the cellos and basses the pizzicato material, but arco, at a low register, and in close position. This forms a background for free, improvisatory material, largely in the percussion. The movement closes with the harp taking over the pizzicato material, inverted (bar 49), while the melody is given this time to the flute and piccolo (pp, dolcissimo).

The third, slow, movement is a fugue, whose sharply defined, rather dramatic subject mounts to a solemn climax in the brass before dying away to nothing. The finale (Allegro spiritoso) has as its framework an ostinato trumpet theme, whose entry is always marked by the same chord. The intervening episodes call for a high degree of orchestral virtuosity, and include a timpani figure, canon for the strings, characteristic use of the brass, and so on. The melody of the opening movement is briefly recalled before the end, when the orchestral chord that has persisted throughout the finale is increased to include the full orchestra, transposed, and spread out over the last thirteen bars, until it closes the symphony on a note of brilliance, yet remains unresolved.

Many of his vocal and choral compositions have Eastern and Spanish affiliations; and, indeed, since 1967 he has chosen to live in Spain, in a remote corner of Alicante province. The Chinese Cantatas (1952) (on poems from Ezra Pound’s Cathay) evoke an Eastern spirit, without slipping into pastiche. The Serranillas (1961), six poems by the Marques de Santillana, and La Lechuza (1968), three poems of Antonio Machado, are set for voice and piano; Dardi d’Amore (1967), three sonnets by Guido Cavalcanti, is set for a capella choir, and is freely expressive in a traditional idiom.

 

The Romantic tradition was not only symphonic, though a number of symphonists have worked within it; choral and vocal music has provided just as important an outlet.

The senior representative of this aspect of the tradition is Charles Orr, who was born in 1893, the year before Peter Warlock. He shared with Warlock the friendship of Delius, and interpreted the romanticism of the inter-war years solely in terms of song-writing. Many song-composers shared this influence George Butterworth, Ivor Gurney, Gerald Finzi, Armstrong Gibbs - all of whom came within the dominating influence of Vaughan Williams. Unfortunately, Charles Orr was subject since birth to most severe attacks of eczema, and this gravely handicapped his work. He was at the Guildhall School of Music, and also studied privately with Edward Dent. His first, and strongest, formative influence was the expressive strength of German Lieder; he heard Elena Gerhardt in 1912, and decided to concentrate his creative energy onto song-writing, much as Hugo Wolf did. He made translations for performance in English of Hugo Wolf’s songs-though these remain unpublished.

While Finzi concentrated as a song-writer on words by Thomas Hardy, Orr focused his attention primarily on the poems of A. E. Housman; and there lies his strength. In his poetry Housman represented the mood of nostalgic romanticism that was peculiarly characteristic of this period. Most of Orr’s thirty-five published songs were written before 1939, though six appeared in the 50s, including settings of Helen Waddell’s Mediaeval Latin Lyrics. Twenty-four are Housman settings: Housman was to Orr what Morike was to Wolf.

The expressive, Purcell-derived parlando style that was to mark the style of later song-writers, such as Tippett and Britten, is quite foreign to Orr. Instead, the melodic line is square, but invariably appropriate for the mood and rhythm of the words; and the colour is primarily harmonic and dramatic, as in the case of Wolf. There is no trace of a pseudo-folk style, which is the bane of many a British composer who wrote beneath the shadow of Vaughan Williams. Moreover, the piano writing is conceived in terms of the instrument, a part in its own right. Chromatic subtlety marks the harmonic movement, based naturally on the acceptance of key-based tonality, which goes without saying among composers of this tradition. Warlock greatly admired Orr’s work, and it is fitting that Orr in return should have dedicated to his fellow song-writer one of his most effective, and largest, Housman settings, The Carpenter’s Son.

Younger than Orr, though working within the same tradition, is Bernard Naylor; but his considerable output is predominantly choral, and predominantly sacred. He is one of the very few composers who have effectively carried the tradition of English Romanticism into the church. Born in 1907, he was a pupil of Vaughan Williams, Holst and Ireland at the Royal College of Music, and his first compositions, which included a symphonic poem, an opera, and a scena for tenor and orchestra, were derivative from these sources. He has divided his time between this country and Canada, where he has been active as a teacher and conductor, as well as composer. Between 1935 and 1947 he wrote nothing of any consequence. After 1947, however, he began to compose again, and his mature works date from this year: fifty-three songs and choral works, six chamber music compositions, and a ‘modern mystery’ for three characters and string quartet-The Cloak, by Clifford Bax.

Though both derive from a common musical source, Naylor uses more metrical licence than Orr. Whereas Orr uses a harmonic chromaticism, Naylor develops a greater tonal freedom. His point of departure was the ecclesiastical choral style of singing of King’s College, Cambridge; and so, in one sense, his work represents the first fruits of the new style of choral music introduced by Boris Ord [see p 14]. Resonance and homogeneity are the key to the character, quality and effect of his, at first sight, somewhat disjointed vocal textures. He composes to a scheme, rather than a theme; he works with a melodic or rhythmic idea, which is simple, unadventurous accessible to amateurs, yet distinctive. The music is governed by tonal centres rather than keys, and achieves its effect more by the expressiveness of each phrase, and each word within the phrase, than by any strong, or particularly memorable vocal line. Naylor’s most characteristic works are King Solomon’s Prayer, a cantata for voices and orchestra, Stabat Mater, for women’s voices and orchestra, and the Nine Motets. These works, and his numerous other cantatas and motets, stand out the more so in a period when church music is at a low ebb. But, curiously, the Nine Motets, which depict the chief landmarks of the Christian year-Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Easter Day, Ascension Day, Whitsunday and Trinity Sunday-are all settings of Old Testament texts, largely Isaiah; and this casts a certain mood of nostalgia over the work, which is reinforced by recollections of the choral texture of Bax (particularly such a work as Mater Ora Filium, which is the prototype for Naylor’s choral style), and occasionally a suggestion of the dramatic excitement of Walton.

Another graduate of Oxford University, and thirteen years Naylor’s junior, Geoffrey Bush also follows the established tradition; like Naylor he did not fully achieve a sense of musical direction until comparatively late, with his Dialogue for oboe and piano (1960). But he had begun to write down notes at the age of ten, when he was a chorister at Salisbury Cathedral; this, and the teaching of John Ireland, formed his background. Bush is a scholar as well as a composer and, like Vaughan Williams, is concerned to find out for himself something of the past legacy of British music. His historical assessment of the past leads him to the conclusion that influences from France and Italy have generally been beneficial to British music, as can be seen in the Madrigalists and Purcell; while those from Germany (Handel, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Wagner, Schoenberg) have been almost entirely destructive of the endemic tradition.

His music is light and direct. His orchestral scores, which are easily approachable, and usually within the scope of amateurs, include two symphonies, several concertos for cello, oboe, piano and trumpet, and three overtures. His Concerto for Light Orchestra was written for a B.B.C. Light Music Festival, while his Music for Orchestra (1967) was written for the Shropshire County Youth Orchestra.

Directness of approach also characterizes his operas, which are all short, and of one act. The Blind Beggar’s Daughter is a ballad opera, very much in the Vaughan Williams tradition, ‘for young people of all ages’. If the Cap Fits, with a libretto by the composer from Moliere’s ‘Les Precieuses Ridicules’, is a satirical comedy; his next libretto, The Equation, from John Drinkwater’s ‘X=O’, is a tragedy.

But if Bush remains on the fringe as far as opera is concerned, his most characteristic work is undoubtedly in the smaller chamber music forms, such as the two piano Sonatinas, and particularly the songs. These range from the simply diatonic, Five Spring Songs (1944), to the more freely declamatory and chromatic, Greek Love Songs (1964), and include three settings with various orchestral groupings. Bush’s style is aptly suited to the comparatively short form of a song, and in them he combines freedom with a simplicity of effect. The piano is integrated into the voice part, and is not an independent entity.

Born in 1921, the year after Bush, Adrian Cruft also derived his earliest musical experience as a chorister in an English cathedral-in his case, Westminster Abbey. English polyphony is part of his fibre. He is one of a distinguished musical family, who have been orchestral musicians for five generations [His elder brother John is now Music Director of the Arts Council of Great Britain]; and after learning the double bass from his father, Eugene Cruft, he played this instrument in several orchestras. Though his orchestral output includes three overtures, and a Divertimento for strings (1963), most of Cruft’s work is choral, and predominantly religious. His use of the diatonic vocabulary has become progressively more refined, and he is particularly inclined towards the use of triads with conflicting tonality. His church compositions are largely intended for liturgical use; particularly characteristic are the two settings of the Te Deum, The Magnificat, and the Mass for St. Michael, which was written in 1962 for Coventry Cathedral. But a work which derives extra expressive power from the additional dimension of drama, as well as from the use of mediaeval words, is the chamber cantata, Alma Redemptoris Mater (1967). In this, the choral writing is simpler, and the harmony more static, than in earlier works, and the effect is of a stark grandeur, at a slow-moving pace. The scoring (contralto and baritone solo and choir, accompanied by flute, oboe, violin, cello and organ) is similar to that of the cantata Crucifixus pro nobis by Cruft’s teacher, Edmund Rubbra.

Representative composers of this tradition, belonging to the next generation, are Bryan Kelly, who was born in 1934, and Christopher Brown, who is nine years his junior. Kelly was a choirboy at Worcester College, Oxford, before proceeding to the Royal College of Music. His technique is that of a Kapellmeister, whose function is to oblige with whatever is requested: a church service, a light overture, something for a choir to sing at a festival, a children’s opera. One of his most performed works is the Evening Service, based on Cuban rhythms.

Christopher Brown attended Westminster Abbey Choir School, and later was at King’s College, Cambridge, and the Royal Academy of Music. His work so far has been predominantly choral, in direct line from Naylor and Cruft.

 

The adoption, and the adaptation, of a traditional idiom, based on tonality, has tended in the case of several composers already mentioned towards some of their most effective scores being written in a lighter vein, with none of the more portentous and weighty implications of different, less readily-accessible idioms. It is a most natural tendency; and there is also a considerable number of composers whose work is quite unashamedly intended as entertainment.

Among the best known is Malcolm Arnold, who after a period of study at the Royal College of Music, and service in the army during the war, was principal trumpeter in the London Philharmonic for eight years. He has been notably successful in his film scores, of which he has written over eighty; and in addition to the immediate, and by no means irrelevant, financial reward for his labours, he was awarded a Hollywood Oscar for The Bridge on the River Kwai, and an Ivor Novello award for The Inn of the Sixth Happiness.

The style of his symphonic and chamber music is unassailably diatonic, and if not always subtle or profound, it has a direct simplicity, coupled with a humorous touch. This finds its niche in such a work as A Grand Grand Overture, Op. 57, which started the Hoffnung Musical Festival on 13th November 1956 [see p. 139]. This was the occasion when long-suffering London musicians released some of the pent-up tension of the previous fraught and agonized decade, and let down their musical hair in an orgy of musical jokes some, it must be admitted, funnier than others, and some whose point could only be detected by the connoisseur. Arnold’s piece, for three vacuum cleaners, one floor polisher, and full orchestra, enshrines the Song of the Hoover into an orchestral texture; no mean feat, and one unsurpassed before or since. Moreover, his Concerto for two pianos (1969) delighted the Prom audience for whom it was written. He is a polished popular entertainer.

Arnold lives in Cornwall, and detects in the Cornish a highly-developed sense of humour. It is, he says, ‘the land of male-voice choirs, brass bands, Methodism, May Days, and Moody and Sankey hymns’; also of the deserted engine-houses of the tin and copper mines, which ‘radiate a strange and sad beauty’. All this is reflected in his Four Cornish Dances, light and brilliant pieces which show the essence of Arnold’s music; as do his earlier Scottish Dances, and the two sets of English Dances, which are his best-known works among a huge output.

John Addison is a contemporary of Arnold, born one year earlier in 1920, and one who is also primarily concerned with film work. His light film-style has been used in several concert scores, such as the ballet suite Carte Blanche, and a Serenade for wind quintet and harp.

Another contemporary, Denis Blood, is an Irish composer, born in Dublin, who describes himself, with appropriate Irish sophistry, as a ‘serious light composer’. His overture Bravade, and his Capriccio for piano and orchestra, are just that. After studying at Oxford, where he was an organ student, then at the University of South Carolina, Blood was associated with Muir Mathieson and the Rank Film Organisation, before setting out on a nomadic career.

If his output is slender, and unpublished, the same cannot be said of Ernest Tomlinson, who was first a Manchester Cathedral choirboy, and studied the organ, piano, clarinet and composition at Manchester before, and immediately after, the war. His light orchestral pieces aim to be unpretentious and tuneful’, and he has written a large number of orchestral works in this vein-suites, dances, overtures, and light opera. His best-known tune is Little Serenade, which has often been used as a signature-tune for radio and television programmes; the sort of tune few can identify, but most can hum. Tomlinson has also written several works which integrate jazz groups with the symphony orchestra-Sinfonia ‘62, Symphony 65; and Concerto for 5 (concerto for five saxophones and orchestra). His most recent concern is with electronic music, and he is now building up a studio at his home near Preston in Lancashire. His underlying purpose is ‘to communicate with ordinary people by any means available’. With this end in view he founded in 1969 a Northern Concert Orchestra, which is intended to be a popular orchestra for the concert hall, to fill the gap between the majority of people to whom ‘serious’ music signifies little, and the minority who can derive pleasure from the standard symphonic repertoire, and the even smaller minority who are sympathetic to the avant-garde.

If the term ‘light music’ can be taken by different musicians to have several shades of meaning, each of them somewhat pejorative, the style of Joseph Horovitz is perhaps better described as witty and ingenious, rather than light. Like Tomlinson, he uses jazz idioms where it suits him; like Arnold he found a niche in the Hoffnung concerts.

Though born in Vienna, Horovitz has lived in this country since 1938. After studying at Oxford, he went to the Royal College of Music, and thereafter for a year to Nadia Boulanger. His name first became known in the 50s with his light ballets, such as Les Femmes d’Alger and Alice in Wonderland. Other notable successes in this unusual genre, which he has made peculiarly his own, are Concerto for dancers and Let’s make a ballet. Horovitz himself conducted performances, such as those of the Ballets Russes and the Intimate Opera Company, for whom he wrote the comic operas The Dumb Wife and Gentlemen’s Island.

Musical wit is notoriously elusive; one man’s joke is another man’s poison. Horovitz brings to bear not only great technical accomplishment, which raises his work above the level of incidental music, but, even more important, the appropriate limitation of musical material, so that the listener's attention is not diverted and aroused by too weighty and complex possibilities of development. Too much thematic contrast would imply symphonic development, which is not appropriate in such a style; too little variety, however, can very quickly induce boredom. Humour and timing go together, and a score such as the Four Dances for Orchestra (from Femmes d’Alger), with its dramatic sparkle, or the Jazz harpsichord concerto, with its absurd juxtaposition of two entirely opposed traditions, derive from these extra dimensions a vitality which is lacking from the other more conventional pieces, such as the various concertos, and chamber works.

For the Hoffnung concerts, where you had to be funny at all costs if you were to survive, Horovitz collaborated with Alistair Sampson in a series of parodies; first, Metamorphoses on a Bedtime Theme, which presented a television commercial (‘Sleep sweeter-Bournvita’) in the style of Bach, Mozart, Verdi, Schoenberg and Stravinsky; second, Horroratorio, which ridiculed the old oratorio style in a work which celebrated the wedding of two delightful characters, Master Frankenstein and Miss Dracula. Like a true comic, Horovitz builds his musical jokes on a serious foundation; the audience will laugh more if they can laugh away something that they recognize as being inherently real, yet stupid.

If Horovitz is a frequent performer of his own works, this applies to a number of other musicians. However incapable some of the most eminent composers may be of directing an orchestra, or playing what they themselves have written, there are also those whose music is first conceived from the point of view of the executive artist. The theatre has produced several. Marc Wilkinson is one, whose eighty plays include The Royal Hunt of the Sun. Christopher Whelen is another, whose starting-point was his work as Musical Director of the Old Vic; he was also assistant conductor with the Bournemouth and Birmingham orchestras. He is almost exclusively a theatre composer, with I50 productions to his credit in theatre, ballet, television and radio. Two other highly practical musicians of the theatre are Thomas Eastwood, and the Australian Malcolm Williamson. Eastwood, who was a pupil of Boris Blacher, and then of Erwin Stein, is best known for his opera Christopher Sly (1960); he has also set sail on the comparatively uncharted waters of television opera, with his contemporary interpretation of the Good Friday story, set in East Berlin, The Rebel (1969). His idiom fits Rudolph Reti’s definition of 'pantonality’ [see Reti, Tonality, Atonality, Pantonality]. On the other hand, Williamson, another Stein pupil, fills a need mainly in the field of more conventional opera. The style of his compositions, which include numerous orchestral and chamber works as well as opera, varies according to the audience; he is also much in demand as an organist and pianist, as well as a composer.

Another most prolific pianist/composer is Ronald Stevenson, whose best-known composition so far is his Passacaglia on D.S.C.H. (D-E flat-C-B). His links with the grand, romantic age of piano-playing of Liszt or Busoni are both explicit and implicit in this monumental work, as indeed in Stevenson’s work as a whole. He is of Scottish and Welsh ancestry, born in 1928, and strongly aware of the Celtic side to his nature, as well as of his working class origin. This, and an acute social conscience, have given his music a thrust, an edge, which is highly distinctive. Stevenson sets out both to win an immediate rapport with the ordinary listener, wherever he may be found (which his first performance of the Passacaglia, in Cape Town in December 1963, certainly achieved), and also, somewhat more remotely, to seek an ideal of a ‘world music’, a universal language of understanding. If the world-weary Westerner may smile ruefully at such a hopelessly unattainable goal, many artists and composers have attempted to take at least the first steps towards it, however faltering; notably Busoni, who has been the chief model for Stevenson, whether as pianist, as man, or as artist in the widest sense.

Stevenson’s output includes numerous choral works and songs, many of which are settings of Blake, with whose visionary qualities he finds himself in close affinity. But pride of place must be given to the piano works. The Busoni influence is all-pervasive on Stevenson. He researched for many years into Busoni’s life and work, and after 1955 he continued this, while also studying orchestration in Rome with a Busoni pupil, Guido Guerini. This research and study culminated in a massive study of Busoni [so far unpublished]; and the Passacaglia, written 1960/62, which is the most important of his hundred compositions so far, represents the consummation of these Busoni-orientated years. The parallels with the latter’s Fantasia Contrappuntistica are quite overt.

The work forms in contemporary music what biologists would call a ‘sport’. It runs contrary to evolutionary trends; it is, logically and rationally speaking, impossible. Whereas the commonest trend today is towards a fragmentation of both style and content, Stevenson builds his eighty-minute structure on the proven capacity of the piano for architectural growth, and on a wide-ranging technical basis which extends from Bach’s contrapuntal style to the extravagant gestures of the high Romantic period, and including certain more experimental devices of today. Other composers, such as Kenneth Leighton, have been directly influenced by Busoni’s famous Fantasia; or, such as Robert Sherlaw Johnson, have explored pianistic experiment. Those who have derived inspiration from Bach are legion. But Stevenson has sought to combine all these traditions, with a few others for good measure, into one enormous structure.

Moreover, he has successfully avoided the ever-present tendency of performer-composers, to slip into derivative gesture; as he does in certain other works, such as the later harpsichord sonata, for instance.

The Passacaglia is based on the musical letters of the name of D. Shostakovitch (D.S.C.H.) Stevenson was greatly impressed by the Russian composer’s works [he presented an incomplete copy of the Passacaglia to Shostakovich during the 1962 Edinburgh Festival. It was first played in this country by John Ogdon in 1966, at the Aldeburgh and Cheltenham Festivals], particularly the Eighth String Quartet, the Tenth Symphony and the First Violin Concerto.

His work is in three parts, of which the first is built round the classical concepts of sonata and suite; the second is concerned with the primeval ideal of ‘world music’ (Tippett would call it archetypal), and introduces a picture of ‘emergent Africa’; the third forms the dramatic climax of the whole work, with a ‘tribute to Bach’ and a triple fugue.

Stevenson’s views as a composer are perhaps best summed up in his own words:

My main interest in music is in the epic. This is an epic age, it seems to me, and only epic forms can fully express its aspirations. I absorb in my music elements from the East and from Africa, as well as from Western culture. In my future work, I hope to find points of coalescence in world music; there are musical forms which are common to all nations (for instance variation, and the relationship between Hindu and European music of such forms as Kirtanam and Khyal, comparable with sonata and rondo structures respectively); and although there are many nations, there is only one human race. I’ll use any technique which will enable me to achieve these objectives. My aim is to base my music in reality, and to allow it to tend towards abstraction, but never to take abstraction as a premise and so lose all connection with life, which is so much larger than the musical world.

22 Lennox Berkeley and Priaulx Rainier

 

A traditional idiom has been used in highly contrasted ways by two senior composers, both pupils of Nadia Boulanger: Lennox Berkeley and Priaulx Rainier.

Lennox Berkeley, who was born in 1903, developed a distinctive style within the traditional idiom, and has maintained it consistently. His most characteristic features are a textural lightness and lucidity, a harmonic piquancy, an eighteenth-century galanterie, and a thematic brevity; and these intrinsic qualities are more effectively realized in the more intimate forms than in the large structures; in works of limited and precise emotional range, rather than in those of broader sweep or more profound import; in such orchestral works as the Serenade or Divertimento, rather than in the symphonies; in chamber operas, such as A Dinner Engagement, or Ruth, rather than in the more heroic, grand opera Nelson; and particularly in songs and chamber music.

Berkeley spent five years in France (1928-1933) under Nadia Boulanger, when he also met some of the French composers of this period-Poulenc, Milhaud, Honegger, Sauguet. The influence of Fauré, Ravel, Stravinsky was very strong on him; his style was firmly orientated at this time towards a French logic, precision and clarity, rather than towards an English romanticism or modalism.

Many parallels can be seen in Berkeley’s music with the styles of other composers and other periods. The closest is with Mozart; the Divertimento, the Horn Trio, A Dinner Engagement, to mention just three examples, are entirely Mozartian in conception. Among French composers, he has close affinities with Fauré and Poulenc; with Fauré particularly in the songs, though Berkeley’s harmonic style is piquant and without Fauré’s subtlety; with Poulenc in his melodic and harmonic style. The second set of Ronsard Sonnets was dedicated to Poulenc’s memory. Among British composers, he and Britten share many qualities. A similar receptivity to literature and the poetic image, which finds its chief outlet in song-writing; a similar interest in opera, and particularly chamber opera-Lennox Berkeley’s works were performed by the English Opera Group, one of them at Aldeburgh; a similar concern for church music. Points of contrast, however, between the two composers are equally instructive. Berkeley’s style has not evolved as much as Britten’s has; he has written little if any Gebrauchsmusik for the less talented or amateur performer-indeed, though his work does not call for virtuoso performance, polish and refinement are essential ingredients in his musical personality; finally, unlike Britten, he is one of the oldest established teachers in this country, and his numerous pupils at the Royal Academy have included Richard Bennett and Nicholas Maw.

His works cover every genre. Among the first of his orchestral works to win distinctive recognition were the Serenade for string orchestra, and the Divertimento for chamber orchestra; among chamber works, the Sonatine for violin and piano. His characteristically short-winded melodic style, aptly suited to such a piece as the Sinfonietta, which Berkeley wrote for Anthony Bernard’s London Chamber Orchestra, is not so amenable to the more sustained development and growth of the symphonies. He has also written concertos for piano and violin, and some early piano pieces; he himself is a pianist.

Berkeley’s songs include poetry from many sources, and the words, depending on their content, add a correspondingly extra dimension to his pliant style. His response to a text resembles Britten’s in this respect. Berkeley’s most intense and powerful expression is reserved for those texts with a religious significance: the Donne settings, or the Four Poems of St. Teresa of Avila. His strong religious sense finds expression in several sacred works, some of them liturgical. His early Stabat Mater (1946), dedicated to Britten, was for six solo voices and instruments; his later Magnificat (1968) was more in the grand manner of the older choral tradition, and was written for performance in St. Paul’s Cathedral during a City of London Festival.

His first opera, as in the case of Britten, was his most successful. The librettist for A Dinner Engagement was Paul Dehn, who also co-operated in the later work, The Castaway. In the brilliant writing of Dehn’s libretto, Berkeley found the perfect foil. The short-winded, ridiculous plot, and its total lack of innuendo or intricacy, ideally suited Berkeley’s style; the result was a highly successful comic opera. The story of the next opera, Ruth, was biblical, with a libretto by Eric Crozier, while The Castaway was an adaptation by Paul Dehn of the Homeric story of the ship-wrecked Odysseus and the princess Nausicaa.

It appears that, just as English composers during the inter-war years responded in a mood of romantic nostalgia to the movements that occurred on the continent of Europe some twenty years previously, so the wistfulness and the elegance that characterised the music of certain French composers in the twenties, of whom we may chiefly mention Poulenc, was reflected-again some twenty years later-in the work of Berkeley.

 

Priaulx Rainier was born in 1903 in South Africa, and spent her childhood in a remote region of Natal. Her first indelible musical impressions were the indigenous sounds of African life: children, birds, animals; primal sounds, heard as if from a great distance. She came to London to study at the Royal Academy, and has stayed ever since. She began to compose comparatively late, and was under Nadia Boulanger just before the outbreak of war in 1939; it is from this year that her first important work - though not her first work, dates - the First String Quartet. Over the next period of about twenty years her output consisted mainly of chamber music and songs, in which she pursued her characteristic idiom: simple melodic and rhythmic patterns used repetitively and cumulatively, with frequent use of unison and octaves; an absence of counterpoint, and a harmony built on an individual use of triadic tonality, not simply diatonic. The rhythmic style of the String Quartet is extended in the Sinfonia da Camera, which Walter Goehr performed in 1947, and which belongs within the same ‘Morley College’ genre as Tippett’s works for string orchestra, or Seiber’s Besardo Suite.

Her songs are short, and directly effective; two of them, Ubunzima and Dance of the Rain, are for voice and guitar. Ubunzima, written in 1948, is a setting of a Bantu poem; Dance of the Rain (1947), adapted by the Afrikaans poet Uyo Krige, evokes memories of the Zulus and the rhythm of Africa. The material is largely pentatonic, with sharply defined verbal rhythm. The later Cycle for Declamation (1953) is also a study in verbal rhythm, for solo voice.

The Barbaric Dance Suite (1949) for piano similarly uses percussive piano texture; its basis was the sound of African marimbas-discs played with hammers, with dried gourds underneath acting as resonators. The Five keyboard pieces (1951) are more abstract.

Rainier has been closely associated with the singer Peter Pears. He commissioned Cycle for Declamation (1953) as well as The Bee Oracles (1970); he also gave the first performance of the Requiem (1956) at the Aldeburgh Festival that year. This remarkable twenty-minute piece, is a setting, for tenor and unaccompanied choir, of a text by David Gascoyne, whose qualities of intense vision, coupled with a chilling, declamatory rhetoric, are matched in every nuance by the composer. The work is prefaced by two quotations, which give its clue. One, from Pierre Jean Jouve, reads: ‘Grant that we may first taste thee on the day of our death, which is a great day of peace for souls at one; the world full of joy, the sons of men reconciled.’

The Requiem falls into four sections, and these are shared between soloists, semi-chorus and full chorus. The text was specially designed for a choral setting, with alternate sections for choir and soloist. The choral writing is homophonic, not polyphonic, and stark in its rhythmic strength. The solo part is partly integrated, in concertante style, partly providing structural links with passages of dramatic recitative. The work has a strange grandeur, and stands among the distinctive pieces of unaccompanied choral music of the contemporary period, and without any of the traditional English influences.

In the unfolding of Rainier’s style, it represents the end of a period; in it she uses the triad for the last time to any great extent. From this point onwards her work changes, and by the late 50s a development of style took place. In response to the trend of the time, her works became much more abstract, though their idiom is still tonal, not serial; and also in the 60s she wrote several large orchestral works. The change can be detected in two chamber works for the oboe, written for Janet Craxton; the Pastoral Triptych (1960) for solo oboe, and the oboe quartet Quanta (1962).

An absence of thematic material was nothing new to Rainier; her music had from the start been athematic. Now the rhythmic patterns became more sophisticated, the tonality more chromatic, based on semitones more than on triads, and the texture more varied. The title Quanta, which was given to the piece only after it was finished, and the composer realized that it could have no conclusion, derives from quantum theory in physics, and indicates the structure of the work-and indeed of other works from now on. Energy exists in space, independent of matter; particles bunch together, and fly off; so the work has no orthodox form, and it springs from one initial impulse. Interchanging textures alternate, and build up to a long slow section; a final ‘spinning’ texture leaves the work quite unresolved.

The first of the large orchestral works was first heard the previous year, 1961. Phalaphala is built on interlocking orchestral rhythms and textures, much as Cycle for Declamation had been a study in verbal rhythm. The material of both works has a certain primitive quality.

The occasion of Phalaphala was Boult’s tenth anniversary with the London Philharmonic Orchestra (1960), and the programme of the work, therefore, is one of celebration. It is based on the ceremonial horn used when the African chief summons the tribe.

Two major orchestral works followed: the Cello Concerto (1964) and the orchestral suite Aequora Lunae (1967). The Cello Concerto was written for a 1964 Promenade Concert, and fulfilled a long-standing wish to write for the instrument. Rainier had a sister cellist, and also a cousin who played in public at the age of eight; she was thus very acquainted in early life with the sound of the instrument.

Her scheme for solving the problem of enabling the solo instrument’s expressive but not penetrating quality to be heard against a background of orchestral tone was to avoid the conjunction of soloist and orchestra, except when the textures, instrumentation, colour and disposition were such that the cello could penetrate or interplay with the orchestral groups in juxtaposition without strain, and without reducing the proper volume of the orchestral dynamics.

Nevertheless, the concerto contains certain contradictions. In many ways, the traditional conception of a solo concerto is irreconcilable with an abstract idiom. Though, at least visually, the score contains a prominent solo line, it is not a virtuoso concerto in the traditional sense. The solo part is difficult, but the unsuspecting soloist who expects the satisfying rewards of a showpiece concerto, like the Dvorak or the Elgar, will be disappointed.

Rainier’s concerto is in two movements, Dialogue and Canto; and though the cello writing is more cantabile and legato than in other works of this period, the overall mood is sombre, elegiac and slow-moving. In the first movement, as the title implies, unfinished cello phrases are taken over by the orchestra, and vice versa. The middle section of the movement is slower. In the Canto movement, the scoring is much lighter and the material quite different; it is more in the nature of a free rhapsodic solo with orchestral interjections and comments. The work ends with a Cadence and Epilogue, where the pace quickens. The Cadence takes the place of a formal Cadenza. Here the instruments interplay, solo wind or strings and solo cello, in lighter, gayer, florid passages, all on an equal footing. This brief section resolves into the Epilogue, which is reminiscent of the Canto, but here the orchestral voices are reduced to the slightest sounds between the long-drawn phrases of the solo instrument, which bring the movement to a pianissimo close.

The solo cello, with its power of rhetoric, dominates the concerto as a whole. Though the orchestra is never merely accompanying the solo instrument, after the introduction there are no long tuttis; but it plays its important part in the work in comment, in opposition, and finally in acquiescence to the final statement of the solo part. Groups of instruments are characteristic of the work, but the percussion is used primarily to sharpen sounds at moments of tension, and as a means of extending resonances, not as a body in itself.

But her largest work of this period is the orchestral suite Aequora Lunae. Rainier worked at St. Ives in Cornwall, and she not only knew Barbara Hepworth, to whom Aequora Lunae is dedicated, but shared something of her abstract aesthetic. It is by no means far-fetched to compare what Rainier expresses in terms of abstract musical sounds with what Hepworth expresses in abstract sculpture.

Rainier finds St. Ives an excellent environment for work; and she first made the acquaintance of Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson when she stayed one summer, using a fisherman’s loft as a studio. She was the only musician in this community of artists, though Tippett was also associated with her, and Barbara Hepworth, in the arrangements for the St. Ives Festival in Coronation year (1953). The years leading up to this were taken up in preparatory work for it, and so Rainier composed little during this period (1951-53).

But the spirit of the place infected her; how could it do otherwise? The form of land and sea; space; the identity of the human with the natural; the purity of life, unfiltered by city-living. The basis of her work was profoundly affected through this contact with Hepworth and Nicholson. She concentrated on essentials of technique, and eliminated all unnecessary parts of a work; she attempted in a composition not to capture the whole of an experience, but to state just enough to ‘open the doors of experience’ for the listener; she sought a purity of aim, and the avoidance of everything banal and obvious. ‘The music and rhythm of lines created by light and shadow, and by the boundaries where form and space meet’ [quoted from Rodin, The Dilemma of Being Modern, pp. 128-134: ‘Barbara Hepworth -The meaning of abstract art’] were interpreted in sculpture by Barbara Hepworth - and in music by Rainier.

The musical content in Ben Nicholson’s work is even more explicit than in Hepworth’s; Hodin compares his still lifes with the construction of fugues-subject, counter-subject, episodes and so on. To quote Nicholson’s own words: ‘the kind of painting which I find exciting is... both musical and architectural, where the architectural construction is used to express the musical relationship between form, tone and colour.’

This was the background for Rainier’s later abstract works.

Aequora Lunae is a continuous piece in seven sections, each one descriptive of one of the moon’s seas. The abstract patterns of this uninhabited world give rise to small particles of sound, which in turn generate further patterns, or molecules. Rhythm is the pulsating energy which surrounds all matter, only waiting to be released; different particles move at different speeds, and set up varying degrees of rhythmic patterns. In a sense, as is the case with a serial style, such abstraction can only produce static music; each particle is a thing in itself, as it reacts on its surrounding matter, before giving way to the next. So it inevitably follows that this score lacks the overall drive of a dynamic continuity which comes from contrapuntal writing, or from thematic development. In place of themes, Rainier substitutes textures; in place of the melody that thematic composition implies, she gives correspondingly greater importance to rhythm.

The seas chosen as titles for the seven parts form a metaphysical Cycle of Fertility, which could be described in a figurative way as follows:

Mare Imbrium: Rain-the contribution, the beginning.

Mare Fecunditatis: Fertility-the potential in all existence.

Mare Serenitatis: Tranquillity-the calm before movement.

Mare Crisium: Crises-releasing of activity.

Mare Nubium: Clouds-the vapours transcending and forming.

Oceanus Procellarum: Tempest - chaotic disturbances.

Lacus Somnorum: Dreams - the sea sleeps in lakes and moves in deep.

The orchestra is often divided into two parts: one half of the string body attached to the brass and hard sounding percussion, the other to the woodwind and dulcet percussion. This division creates acoustical opportunities. Dense chord clusters move as composite sounds with frequent changes of colour through their transfer from one instrumental group to another. The opposition of dark and light-coloured instrumental tone plays a large part in the structures of the work.

A special feature is the number of solos for wind instruments. These form linear movements between chord clusters, and sometimes are the link between parts, either as conclusions or introductions. The percussion is enlarged with three steel plates, high, low and medium, and a set of antique cymbals, tuned to specific pitches. Each of the parts has its distinctive orchestration.

After these large-scale instrumental works, Rainier returned to vocal composition, for the first time since the Requiem, with The Bee Oracles (1969). This setting of Edith Sitwell’s poem ‘The Bee-Keeper’, commissioned by Peter Pears, was first sung publicly at the Aldeburgh Festival in 1970. The scoring is for tenor soloist, with flute, oboe, violin, cello and harpsichord. The choice of text is usually the first and strongest guide to a vocal composition; this, like that of the Requiem, is a powerful structure, rich in mystical imagery.

The poem is a recognition and an affirmation of the mystery and hope of all creation. In the music are embodied two rhythms, one represented by the instrumental writing, forming particular rhythms linking and unlinking, always moving towards and in support of the second and fundamental rhythm, represented by the vocal line. The syllabic repetitions upon which the vocal line is based create a pulsation, flooding in and out of the instrumental textures. This continuous interplay, such as is found in Rainier’s earlier works, produces a structure perpetually forming and re-forming; a kind of ‘honeycomb’ in sound.

The introduction to the ‘Hymn of Being’ is used as an incantation in the form of a chant, which recurs in shortened versions between the verses, each of which is a paean to the elements, Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Sun and Thunder.

This was the song that came from the small span

Of thin gold bodies shaped by the holy Dark...

23 Teacher/Composers

 

The greatly increased interest in music in this country since 1945, concomitant with a growing tradition, is actively reflected at the educational level in schools, universities and colleges. Several new universities have opened their doors to music students since 1960, and they have brought fresh thinking to bear, each in their own way, on the basic principles governing that perennially controversial issue, musical training and education. Some of the more idealistic and experimental ideas bear little or no resemblance to the traditional practices carried on in the older-established institutions. Among the new universities, Sussex and York have already established an identity, while the younger Surrey still remains to be proven. [1. See p. 375, App. II.]

It is a long-established practice in this country to separate the performer from the non-performer. If you are a performer, you attend one of the conservatory institutions in London or elsewhere; if you are a non performer you attend a university. It is an unfortunate dichotomy, with its roots firmly in the past, and one which is in sharp distinction to the American practice, which includes performance as a perfectly respectable and, indeed, most important academic discipline. In this country the dichotomy has an important and unfortunate corollary, which dictates that what a composer is called on to teach in an academic institution is, generally speaking, limited to academic subjects. Moreover, it is the traditionally established practice in this country that teaching appointments are made primarily on academic qualifications, not on executive or creative ability. The two do not necessarily go together, though they often may. But a composer who is also a noteworthy musicologist, such as Wellesz, is a great rarity.

Whereas in America, learning about music, and learning the performance of music, go hand in hand as part of the same essential discipline, in this country, generally speaking, they do not. There are, however, certain indications that this long-established impediment to the free evolution of the contemporary musical tradition is at least being called in question. A very considerable number of composers are occupied, directly or indirectly, with the business of teaching; and though many would perhaps consider teaching as primarily a convenient economic haven, there is no question that a great deal is being achieved within a (broadly defined) teaching environment.

York University, for instance, under the direction of Wilfrid Mellers, is an active performing centre, which boasts no fewer than six composers on its staff, who cover a wide range of sympathy. David Blake’s work has been so far largely choral, culminating in Lumina, written for the Leeds Festival, 1970; while the more experimental, avant-garde side of the spectrum is represented by Richard Orton and Bernard Rands. Rands, like Mellers before him, acquainted himself with American procedures during a two-year Harkness Fellowship in that country, which he spent at Princeton and Illinois, and his compositions, such as Actions for Six, are in the main Western avant-garde tradition; some are intended for the classroom, such as Sound Patterns, I and II, for Young Players.

His colleagues John Paynter and Peter Aston have also concerned themselves with musical education at classroom level; Aston’s compositions represent the more conservative side of the spectrum, and he has done musicological research into the manuscripts in the library of York Minster. Robert Sherlaw Johnson, on the other hand, is One of the most enlightened, if single-minded, advocates of Messiaen’s music, which he frequently plays. As a composer, he developed a form of serial technique with his First Piano Sonata (1963); but his was a French rather than a Viennese serialism; it was derived from Boulez more than from Webern. At this time (1963), the fashion of serialism was reaching a sophisticated stage. He pursued Boulez still further (particularly the latter’s Third Piano Sonata) in the First String Quartet (1966) and Improvisation I, II and III for violin and piano (196617). Indeterminacy and improvisation, which together constitute aleatoricism, were pursued in Improvisation V (1968), though Johnson sees in the admittance of a Cage-derived ‘chance’ element an unacceptable challenge to both composer and performer. Instead, he pursues the Messiaen-Boulez path of sound organisation: highly complex but strictly logical, with the elements of music (pitch, rhythm, duration and so on) graded into various relationships. The Second Piano Sonata is not only a development of this type of serialism; it also introduces a new type of ‘graphic’ notation, and various new playing techniques (such as the use of the fingers directly on the strings). In addition to these avant-garde instrumental works, Johnson’s output also includes some shorter sacred vocal pieces.

At the other end of the country, Southampton University includes among its staff the highly active and prolific composer Jonathan Harvey, whose formative works so far reflect a wide range of diverse influences, from Britten to Stockhausen, from Messiaen to Maxwell Davies. Tonality is for him the background against which he composes, and his aesthetic is a blend of technical enquiry and religious idealism. As a result of this, his commissions have come from widely differing groups; from Maxwell Davies’s Pierrot Players, for whom he wrote Cantata III for soprano and six instrumentalists (1968), which exploits the relationship between pitch and tempo, as expounded by Stockhausen; and from the more venerable Three Choirs Festival, for whom he wrote Cantata IV, Ludus Amoris, for speaker, soloists, choir and orchestra; a mystical work, with seventeenth century Spanish text, moving gradually from the absence to the presence of God.

Another centre of active music-making is at Cardiff University, under the energetic direction of Alun Hoddinott. His colleagues in other Welsh colleges include William Mathias, who is on the staff at Bangor, and Ian Parrott, the Professor of Music at Aberystwyth; both belong in the traditionalist camp.

Hoddinott’s compositions are predominantly orchestral and instrumental. Extreme practicality marks all his work, whether as a composer, or as an arranger of concerts for Cardiff University, or for the Cardiff or Dynevor Festivals. His output numbers over fifty works: early pieces such as the Clarinet Concerto, Op. 3, are diatonic, but later, starting with the Nocturne, Op. 5, he developed a total chromaticism. He has also attempted to use serial methods in a melodic way, to unify a piece. His extrovert style is best represented in all its varied aspects in his orchestral output: the Second Symphony, for instance, contains dramatic, romantic gestures, and is pronouncedly more conservative than Variants; moreover, he is by no means averse from writing in a lighter vein. He played the violin from an early age, and this is reflected in his strong leaning towards chamber music.

Birmingham is served by two much contrasted musicians. John Joubert is a South African, whose music, like Hoddinott’s, is approachable and practical, but differs from Hoddinott’s in that it is more sturdily traditional, and predominantly for voices. His cantatas include three unaccompanied motets Pro Pace, and his operas range from Silas Marner to Under Western Eyes.

Peter Dickinson is a versatile musician of wide interests and sympathies; he is as much a writer as a composer, as much concerned with introducing British composers to a public at Birmingham [at the Birmingham and Midland Institute, through the University of Birmingham Department of Extramural Studies] as with lecturing and performing. Three seasons in the U.S.A. served to widen his musical horizon, when he met Varese, Cowell and Cage, and his fifty odd works, which have been played as much in America as in this country, reflect his diverse enthusiasms.

Technical craftsmanship marks the work of three traditionally orientated composers centred on Oxford University. Though in no sense of the word breaking new ground, and entirely devoid of any social, satirical or intellectual overtones, Kenneth Leighton’s work is sure and meticulous in its deliberate effect. His career has been marked by the award of several international prizes: a Busoni prize at Bolzano for the Fantasia Contrappuntistica; at Trieste for the Symphony, Op. 42; at Hanover for the Piano Trio, Op. 46. Tonality for him has been enriched by serialism, rather than superseded by it, as the Piano Variations, Op. 30, and the Second Piano Concerto, Op. 37, bear witness. A tendency towards contrapuntal complexity is matched elsewhere by a strong sense of a scherzando style. But his idiom throughout has remained remarkably constant. Dr Leighton was appointed Reid Professor of Music at Edinburgh in 1970.

Malcolm Lipkin, born in Liverpool in 1932, is tutor for the extra-mural department of Oxford University. His more conventional works, such as the Violin Sonata (1957) and the Second Violin Concerto (1962), both written for Yfrah Neaman, are harmonically conceived; therefore the listener's point of reference is the standard repertoire of other works in the same categories. In more recent works, particularly Sinfonia di Roma (1958-1965), and Mosaics for Chamber Orchestra (1966), he uses a more linear technique, serially derived. A short motif is submitted to varied treatment throughout the work. Unity and variety are thus obtained, while the single source-material ensures consistency. This method is particularly well shown in the Sinfonia di Roma, which is a twenty-minute piece, conceived in the form of an arch; a central scherzo, unrestrained and fierce, introduced and followed by a slow section.

This conception was used by Panufnik in his Sinfonia Elegiaca, and indeed Lipkin’s score bears a certain surface resemblance to Panufnik’s, though his (Lipkin’s) sonority is more diffuse, his material less economically used.

The twenty-five works that make up Christopher Headington’s output, though they include a Violin Concerto, are primarily for small chamber music combinations or voices. Though he attempted to escape from a diatonic style, according to the trends of the time, by experimenting with serialism in one work, Three Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke (1960), he uses a traditional idiom simply to communicate and to give pleasure. He is Staff Tutor in music of Oxford University Department of Extra-mural Studies, and has written several educational articles and books.

The Professor at Cambridge University, predominantly the birthplace and home of the new choral tradition, is the Scottish composer Robin Orr. He was appointed in 1965, in succession to Thurston Dart. After a conventional training at the Royal College of Music, and later at Cambridge under Dent, he went to Siena to study under Casella, and thereafter to Nadia Boulanger. His output is slender, and apart from functional pieces for organ and choir (he was the organist at St. John’s College), some chamber music and songs, centres chiefly on two works, the Symphony in One Movement, and the one-act opera, Full Circle. Both had Scottish premieres; moreover, Orr is also chairman of the Scottish Opera. Teaching and administration take away his time from composition. 1. He was appointed in 1965, in succession to Thurston Dart.

Music in the North of England is focused on Newcastle, the home of the Northern Sinfonia, where the first Arts Festival took place in 1969. David Barlow, who has held a lectureship there since 1951, is a composer whose output is small but distinctive. His basic romanticism, derived from Ireland, Bax and Vaughan Williams, was most apparent in his two early symphonies, written in 1950 and 1959 respectively. A period of re-thinking in 1962, at the time when the serial trend was at its height, led to his adoption of a modified form of serialism, first in two chamber music works, the Concertante Variations for oboe and string trio, and the Introduction, Theme and Variations for string trio; then in two orchestral works, Microcosms for string orchestra (1964), and Five Preludes after The Tempest (1965) for chamber orchestra. Microcosms uses an alternation between lyrical and secco playing, while the Five Preludes are serially based on a 3-note cell (E-C-F).

Barlow’s comparatively few works over the following years include some pieces for chamber orchestra, Homage to John Clare (1966), November 1951 (1968), and a String Quartet (1968), which is in the form of variations for cello and strings; but his culminating work so far is his opera David and Bathsheba, which was first seen at the Newcastle Festival in 1969. This work, with a libretto by Ursula Vaughan Williams, is simpler and less cerebral than Barlow’s work of the previous years. It is directed at a wider public. Uriah the Hittite is even allowed a popular tune, but against the accompaniment of a 12-note chord.

The text is taken from Samuel II (II, V.2, and 12, V.24), and tells the story of David’s adultery with Bathsheba, and the sending of her soldier-husband, Uriah, to the hottest part of the fighting, thus ensuring his death. Nathan, the prophet, enters at a dramatic moment, and angrily upbraids Dand, telling him the parable of the rich man taking away the one possession of the poor man; David gives judgement, and is self-condemned. As a ‘punishment’ Bathsheba’s child was to die, and David repents in sackcloth and ashes, and by fasting. But when the child eventually dies, he calls for fresh robes, saying that while the child lived there was hope, but that after his death there was none. The opera ends, as it began, with a kind of catharsis; the ever-returning spring after a cold winter is symbolic of new birth.

The opera is in one act, with a Prelude which is a thematic storehouse. The biblical story is concerned with David’s guilt, and the ‘conscience motif’, first heard in the Prelude, is a sequence of three notes (C-D-B), pursued upwards or downwards. Muted strings at the close signify the acceptance of their child’s death by David and Bathsheba.

The composers who devote a proportion of their time to teaching at the many London institutions represent, as might well be expected, a wide range of musical sympathy. Of those already mentioned, Humphrey Searle has taught at the Royal College since 1965, and Lennox Berkeley at the Royal Academy since 1946. The doyen of traditionalists is Gordon Jacob, whose long list of compositions is predominantly instrumental, and entirely diatonic and straightforward. The younger Richard Stoker, on the other hand, is an enquiring musician, who assimilates ideas from many directions.

His elder colleague John Gardner, who has taught at the Royal Academy since 1956, is a highly active and versatile musician. Like Alwyn, Chagrin, and many other composers, he commutes, as it were, between the ivory tower and the market-place. He studied at Oxford before the war, and after serving in the R.A.F., he was a repetiteur at Covent Garden, 1946-1952. He was at Morley College after 1952, and in 1965 became Director of Music. Since 1962 he has taught at St. Paul’s Girls School; he has also taken more than his share of committee-work.

He attracted attention with an early work, the Symphony No. 1, Op. 2 (1947); a direct work, straightforward in tonality and structure, and owing a good deal to the Sibelius movement of the romantic thirties-as, indeed, was expected of British symphonists at this time. This work was played under Barbirolli at a Cheltenham Festival concert in 1951, and repeated in London the following year. It was followed the next year by another work for Cheltenham, Variations on a Waltz by Carl Nielsen, Op. 13, and a choral work, Cantiones Sacrae, Op. 12, for the Three Choirs Festival. Here Gardner’s characteristically extrovert style, and direct, confident choralism, are unimpeded, right from the D major opening chorale ‘Ein feste Burg’. The final Magnificat is taken from an earlier Nativity Opera, Op. 3, that he wrote with Tyrone Guthrie.

1952 was a busy year for Gardner, and he also wrote a ballet, Reflection, Op. 14, for the Sadlers Wells Theatre Ballet, from which he later took an orchestral suite. This was followed five years later by his opera The Moon and Sixpence, which was a remarkable first venture into the just-unfolding world of repertory English opera. Gardner’s ability to write for voices, coupled with his considerable operatic experience, ensured for his work a practical success.

But his career reflects the swing of the pendulum of taste at this time. He rejected dodecaphony, preferring instead a directly exciting music, which can more easily be memorable and become known. He was thus compelled to seek outlets other than those of the prevailing trends.

He has a considerable penchant for jazz piano playing, which he once put to effective use in the tavern scene from Wozzeck. This lighter side of his work is shown in the Suite of Five Rhythms (Rumba, Waltz, Pizzicato Blues, Sentimental Song, Five-beat Boogie) written for a B.B.C. light music concert in 1960; also in the Five Hymns in Popular Style, which were written for school choirs at the Farnham Festival in 1963. This is perhaps the most performed of all his compositions; it is his Pomp and Circumstance, the work by which he is most widely known. Because it also represents a movement towards experimentation in church music at this time, Gardner’s comments on it are relevant:

Lowering the brow of the Church is all the rage these days, and it is probable that many of the attempts to bring the atmosphere of the Espresso bar to the chancel are as hypocritical as they are misguided. The fact remains, however, that until the nineteenth century, the styles of secular and sacred music tended to go hand in hand. Thus we find composers using the same turns of phrase to express both erotic love and pious adoration, a practice condemned by some, but one which undoubtedly arose from an attitude towards life which saw it whole, and which allowed God to be praised for having endowed us with the pleasures of the senses as well as with the delights of the spirit.

In these five hymns I have been inspired particularly by the example of Malcolm Williamson, to whom they are dedicated, and by the wonderful poetry of Bishop Heber, Henry Lyte and Mrs. Adams, so full of simple profound thoughts, expressed in language which is both noble, evocative and memorable. Popular art in the best sense, in fact!

The tunes are my own except in the case of the second hymn, which is based upon E. J. Hopkins’ famous melody ‘Ellers’, associated by me always with the last Evensong of the school term. I can still feel, as I play or sing this lovely tune, my boyish pleasure in being swept this way and that, in a state of mingled ecstasy and anguish, upon the contrary currents of expectation and nostalgia that flow so strongly from both words and music.

Gardner sees in a jazz or popular style the possibility of achieving something of that common touch which is so conspicuously lacking from the

more cerebral contemporary techniques, and which reached such heights in the American Musical in the hands of George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, and others of that tradition.

Most of Gardner’s main works since the late 50s have been for voices. He returned to the Farnham Festival in 1967 with Proverbs of Hell, Op. 85, a setting for unaccompanied chorus of Blake’s writings, assembled by John Ormerod Greenwood, who had earlier arranged an anthology of Shakespeare texts for The Noble Heart, Op. 59, which was Gardner’s contribution to the 1964 Shakespeare anniversary festival. The Herrick Cantata, Op. 49 (1961), is a suite of independent poems, like the early Cantiones Sacrae, and the Seven Songs, Op. 36 (1957) by various poets. Only once has he set a long narrative-The Ballad of the White Horse, Op. 49 (1959), and in that case he has divided up Chesterton’s vast poem into eight short, interlinked sections, like a suite.

Later choral pieces include the Four Wanton ballads, Op. 81 (1965), light-hearted and pseudo-modal; and the Cantata for Christmas, Op. 82 (1966), traditional yet individual; also simply felt, unquestioning, yet rhythmically fresh, after the new choral tradition.

Three traditionalist composers, who are on the staff of the Royal College, use a tonal idiom in highly contrasted ways. Bernard Stevens has very clear views on the place and function of music, and has deliberately kept his style in conformity with his Marxist aesthetic [see his article The Soviet Union in European Music in The Twentieth Century]. He has no wish to write for a small coterie. He sees ‘the crisis in contemporary art-music’ [the title of a paper (1948)] as threefold:

1. The limited performance of art-music;

2. The isolation of contemporary art-music from contemporary popular music;

3. The simultaneous existence of contradictory idioms in contemporary art-music.

 

There can hardly be a composer anywhere who would not agree at least with the first of these points, certainly as far as his own work is concerned. In Stevens’s case it is undeservedly all too true, and at least three of his most important works, the Piano Concerto (1955), the Second Symphony (1964) and the Variations for Orchestra (1964) have not been performed at all. One of his earliest works is also one of his most characteristic, the Violin Concerto (1943), written for Max Rostal. Wedge-like harmonic movement over a pedal G immediately sets the mood of serious intensity, which is a marked feature of his style, with a certain Elgarian luxuriance of melody. His harmony is often subtle, though a fondness for pedal points occasionally gives the music a somewhat static quality. He has certain musical affinities with the Tudor madrigalists (a legacy from R.O. Morris), with Shostakovich, and, among British composers, with Rubbra.

An absence of theory is a source of strength in Stephen Dodgson’s music, coupled with an unfailing desire to write gratefully for a performer the sort of phrase that will reveal the true characteristics of his instrument. Such an idea may be said to be common to many composers; but Dodgson’s art is also refined, gentle, aristocratic. The underlying elements of tonal music-rhythm, harmony, melody-are in his case uncomplicated in essence, though capable of considerable complexity in detail. These themes are simple, not naive, and are recognizable as much from their rhythmic as their melodic contours. He is not concerned to explore technical innovations which may lead to an aesthetic cul de sac; his is no life-task to map out uncharted musical territory. In his desire to write music that gives spontaneous pleasure, his temperament is more Mediterranean than Germanic. His melodic line is continuous, not fragmented. He is no pursuer of musical systems, and has no desire to explore The attenuated rhythms or the cluttered and complex technique that he sees as the characteristics of so much German-influenced music. The simplicity of the diatonic scale he sees in historical perspective, as a basic source of strength, while chromaticism is a basic source of decadence or weakness, whether it is used by Dowland, Gesualdo or Wagner.

Dodgson is not influenced by systems, though he is conversant with that of Hindemith. His cantata The Soul’s Progress is scored like Hindemith’s Apparebit repentina dies. But those composers with whom he has a particular affinity are Debussy, Shostakovitch, Janacek, in whose work he admires power, subtlety, and economy. He is particularly fond of quoting Verdi’s dictum, when he said he was not a learned composer, only an experienced one.

He was written extensively for the orchestra. His early work received scant attention and only occasional performance, and it was not until the Serenade for viola and orchestra that he began to achieve success. This work was hastily revised in the space of about one week, just prior to a broadcast in May 1956. This year also saw the masterly Guitar Concerto, which was not performed until March 1969. This work has not only chiefly established his reputation, but it is also a fine example of his mature style. He has written of it:

I have been writing for the guitar on and off for fifteen years. Like Rodrigo, I don’t play the instrument. In fact, a direct confrontation with its formidable technique would be far more likely to inhibit than assist my developing sense of its resources. My tutelage began with Julian Bream, and has continued under John Williams - as fortunate a combination of teachers as any composer could wish for.

I had written this concerto (in 1956) during an August spent in a deserted farmhouse in a steep Wiltshire valley of startling beauty. The farmhouse’s reversion from manor to nature extended at the time to a top storey full of birds (I was alarmed to meet an owl on the staircase the day I arrived), and the house is now declined into irreparable ruin. During intervals of writing the concerto, I rode the shepherd’s Welsh pony, followed the straw-baler, collected giant mushrooms and hacked the nettles. I’ve never written a work, the circumstances of whose composition stand out more vividly in my mind. I’ve since learned that Hippenscombe, as this intensely romantic spot is called, had previously inspired another English composer to an orchestral tone poem.

Looking back at the atmospheric environment, I am surprised at the classicism of the concerto. I’ve always believed that the exact placing and timing of the orchestral tutti is the paramount consideration in any concerto’s design. With the guitar, it is, of course, vital to avoid confusion in anyone’s mind about when the soloist should be heard and, conversely, where the orchestra may be given its head. I have tried to make a virtue of this necessity. The slow movement, for example, depends for its architecture on the span and precise point of arrival of its single passage for the whole orchestra.

The orchestra contains no oboes, but three clarinets instead; chosen for their complete tonal contrast with the guitar (whose ponticello effects do have some affinity with the double-reed sound). The pair of horns also have their moments, very simple ones, when they prove their suitability as a tonal foil.

The first movement (Allegro comodo) has a central episode in place of the standard development section, but the principal ideas of the movement, with their tendency to irregular accentuation, gradually invade this episode and so graft it onto this overall design. The slow movement (Lento) is a free variation on the opening wind music-tune in the flute. The finale (Molto vivace) is a rondo with two very clearly defined episodes, and although the argument is closely knit as between soloist and orchestra, the latter is allotted definite architectural points where it may speak up boldly. This movement makes considerable use of pizzicato strings as a propulsive partnership for the soloist.

The musical idiom-which is not consciously of any adherence is largely based on the age-old triads (which, unlike Hippenscombe, will never crumble) and the concerto does not quibble about being in D major.

Dodgson’s fondness for the Czech composer Janacek is revealed in certain of his later orchestral works. The Nocturne for strings (1960), which is a short movement lasting some six minutes, is an act of direct homage, based on Goodnight from Janacek’s Piano Pieces (first set), On overgrown tracks. The Sinfonietta (1964) is an indirect homage; it is scored for the largest orchestra that Dodgson has ever used, and its sinfonietta character, as with Janacek’s work of the same title, comes from the shortness of the movements, of which there are six, some with reduced orchestration. Like Janacek’s, Dodgson’s Sinfonietta begins with open fifths in the wind. As with so many of Dodgson’s works, this had to wait several years before being performed. [It was first played on 18 June 1970, by the Bournemouth Orchestra.]

The chamber music style is inherent in Dodgson’s intimate and precise musical personality. All his chamber works are written for specific performers. His acquaintance with Philip Jones at the R.C.M. led to two works for brass instruments for the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble; the same principle applied to other works. The bassoon concerto was for Martin Gatt, the guitar works for John Williams, the cello sonata for Anna Shuttleworth. The proportion and the overall sonority are finely judged in all the ensemble works, to allow each individual instrument to be heard to fullest advantage.

He has written comparatively few vocal works, mainly because there has been no occasion for them. A recent work, Cadilly, is a ‘narrative entertainment’, written for the Grosvenor Ensemble: a miniature concert opera, with text by David Reynolds, which could well form the basis of a television puppet show. Dodgson’s ability to enter into a lighter metier was well illustrated when he wrote a new overture for The Mikado [this is recorded on HMV CLP I592], when it was produced at Sadler’s Wells, following the expiry of the Gilbert and Sullivan copyright. In the words of an unwitting tribute which appeared in The Times: ‘the woodwind especially were on their best form, and the overture emerged with a lightness and charm which it too rarely possesses.’

Philip Cannon, born in 1929 of mixed English and French parentage, his mother Burgundian, his father English), is five years Dodgson’s junior, and like Dodgson has bent his traditional idiom to a personal style, independently of any system. His starting point is unimpeachably respectable: the Symphony Study: Spring (1949) dates from his period of study at the Royal College of Music. Similarly, the early Concertino (1951) is light, readily approachable in its largely pentatonic material, and undemanding on the listener. It is in direct line with Walter Leigh’s famous harpsichord Concertino of 1934. Like Leigh, Cannon has written extensively for voices, and his output includes an opera Morvoren (1963) and a choral work Son of Science (1961). This ‘cantata for the machine age’ calls for various choral effects shouting, hissing, muttering. Moreover, Cannon explores a more experimental idiom in his String Quartet (1964); but his true style is a simple, somewhat slender lyrical modalism. One of his most characteristic works is Cinq Chansons de Femme (1952) for soprano and harp, settings of old French ballads, which unpretentiously, and effectively, exploit the dramatic potential of different folksong styles.

Not only in universities and colleges has there been a marked increase of musical activity in recent years. In schools also there has been a much greater level of music-making by schoolchildren-the performers and music-lovers of the future. In many cases composers are also involved, and benefit in a most direct way. One of the most striking examples is the boys’ choir of Wandsworth School, which their Director of Music, Russell Burgess, has built into a highly effective musical ensemble, and which has excited the interest of at least one familiar composer-Benjamin Britten.

Another marked feature of recent years is the spread of County Youth Orchestras, who frequently surprise and impress audiences by their high standard. There can be few more direct ways of interesting school-children in music than by assembling those who wish to play in an orchestra, drawn from the schools in a county. Many counties have achieved excellent results, taking their example from the National Youth Orchestra. Those counties whose achievements are particularly interesting, and who have also commissioned works from British composers, are Essex, Shropshire and Leicestershire. The last named, which formed its Youth Orchestra in 1948 through the infectious enthusiasm of the County Music Adviser, Eric Pinkett, is perhaps particularly deserving of mention because of its association with Michael Tippett. Every member of the orchestra has been taught in a Leicestershire school, by a peripatetic staff. Since 1965 Tippett has frequently conducted the orchestra in this country and abroad, and composed for them the Shires Suite. In 1969, for a German tour, he conducted a characteristic repertoire, including music by Bryan Kelly, Butterworth, Delius, Copland and Charles Ives. For Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue the orchestra was joined by Richard Bennett as piano soloist. Tippett also arranged for the orchestra to appear at the Bath Festival. Other composers who have directly benefited from the Leicestershire Schools Symphony Orchestra are Alan Ridout, William Mathias and Malcolm Arnold.

The combination of pupils from different schools in a district can often lead to most worthwhile results; the combined talents of several schools is more than any one school can achieve alone. An instance of this was shown in February 1970, when sixteen schools in the Richmond area were brought together through the Richmond-upon-Thames Schools’ Music Association for the performance of a specially commissioned work-Panufnik’s Thames Pageant-a work with strong local connections, as the composer lives nearby.

 

 

Contemporary Music Societies formed since 1945

Outside the teaching environment, the great increase in activity since the war has been matched, to some extent, by the formation of several small societies and ensembles, mainly in London, whose concern is the performance of new music.

The senior of these is the Society (originally Committee) for the Promotion of New Music (S.P.N.M.). This was the brain-child of a remarkable musician, who describes himself as ‘Roumanian by birth, British by nationality and cosmopolitan by inclination’-Francis Chagrin. As well as a composer of orchestral and chamber works, music for films, radio and television, and some pieces in a lighter vein, Chagrin in 1951 was also the founder and conductor of his own ensemble, which became known for performing the lesser known repertory, and works of the serenade or divertimento category.

The necessity of a society which would adopt as its policy the encouragement and professional performance of music by young, untried composers came to Chagrin in December 1942, at the darkest moment of the war. Such a society would be a service provided by more senior composers to help their younger colleagues, whose work was unknown or unperformed. Professional performers of repute would be invited to give their services. Chagrin thus nailed his colours firmly to the mast of idealism.

But the anomaly inherent in the public performance of unknown works had been already brought into focus by the Patron’s Fund concerts at the Royal College of Music in 1919 (see p. 18), when Hugh Allen, in order to counter public indifference, changed their status from public concerts to public rehearsals. This distinction between a workshop, or studio, recital, and an unqualified public concert has always been recognized by the S.P.N.M., whose primary purpose was from the start to give a hearing to new works. By definition, programmes would consist almost entirely of first performances: the performance would be followed by discussion, led by a ‘first speaker’, who was usually a composer or musician of some note, drawn from the ranks of the Committee, whose comments would, theoretically at least, be respected by the hopeful young tyro. At the first such studio recital, on 2nd April 1943, the discussion was led by Michael Tippett.

In this respect Chagrin’s S.P.N.M. differed markedly from the L.C.M.C., which Dent had founded some twenty years earlier, and whose concerts were inclined more to European than to British composers. Whereas the older society presented balanced, public concerts of contemporary works from all countries, including some British ones, the S.P.N.M. gave in effect public rehearsals, followed by discussion, of untried works. In many cases, inevitably the first performance was also the last.

It is hardly surprising that this somewhat cumbersome procedure came under heavy criticism in the course of the following years. The chief anomaly lay in the relegation of the audience to the role of unnecessary, even superfluous, and occasionally embarrassed spectators. If the unknown works, and unknown composers, were not alone enough to daunt all but the hardiest and most curious of the very limited public, it was hardly to be expected that they would pay to hear works played, only to be informed afterwards, perhaps, that the music was of questionable value. Inevitably, audiences were frequently very small, and funds very low. Moreover, if the L.C.M.C. was afflicted by committee problems, these were as nothing compared with the S.P.N.M., whose enormous committee read like a musical Who’s Who, and over the years contained most of the warring factions of musical London. A serious financial problem in 1965 produced the disturbing suggestion from one committee rebel that, as the composer’s situation had improved, the S.P.N.M. should cease to exist. This, however, was not agreed. Then, quite unexpectedly in 1967, the Society was left a legacy from one of their audience [Arthur Paul, a keen amateur, once a pupil of Matyas Seiber] of over £100,000.

From this stemmed problems of a different sort for the hard-pressed committee. How was this money to be used? Recital-discussions, workshop performances and public orchestral rehearsals of new works had always been their pattern; but now, particularly with the advent of other societies, it did not see its purpose primarily as a concert-giving organization. The ‘service to the young composer’ which Chagrin originally visualized, could be given in other ways, such as weekend seminars.

It is only to be expected that the policy-direction followed by any committee should be the common denominator of the views of its more articulate and vociferous members; and the S.P.N.M. has always attracted the avant-garde into its ranks, who have naturally tended to promote works of an experimental nature, particularly electronic or jazz-derived. This trend has been particularly noticeable since about 1968, and indeed is shared by other societies such as the Macnaghten Concerts and the Park Lane Group. This appeared to be where the popular mood lay. This mood also led to the formation of two instrumental ensembles: the Pierrot Players, formed by Davies and Birtwistle, mainly for the performance of their own works; and the London Sinfonietta, formed for the performance of avant-garde music of all countries.

The Park Lane Group, named after Park Lane House where the first meetings took place, is a society begun in 1956 by three students of the Guildhall School of Music, chiefly to provide a platform for young performers. The intention thus differs from the S.P.N.M., though their chamber music recitals frequently include British works. The recitals fall under two main headings, ‘Young Artists and Twentieth Century Music’, and ‘Music Today’, which consists mainly of avant-garde works.

The principle of a performer/composer partnership was followed by another highly gifted musician, the pianist Ian Lake. Finding himself in 1959 at that awkward point at the beginning of his artistic career when his student days were over but his engagement diary disarmingly empty, he decided to make his London debut and introduce the works of new composers at one and the same time. The critics would be sure to pay attention if contemporary music were played; there might be other young instrumentalists who would join with him, who were also faced with the same barriers in the London concert world; perhaps even composers might welcome the idea. So was born Music in our Time; small recitals beginning in November 1960 in out-of-the-way halls. Composers from the start were found to be not only interested, but eager to co-operate; their problems were similar to Lake’s, if not more pressing. For his first series Lake obtained the co-operation of John White, Ronald Lumsden, Donald Street, Edwin Roxburgh and Duncan Druce. Other players and composers joined the enterprise in the years that followed-and benefited mutually.

The Redcliffe Concerts of British Music were formed, officially, in 1964, though the formation of the society followed some concerts which were given over a number of years before then. These first took place in a church in Redcliffe Square, London, from which the name of the society is taken. Later they were given in the Arts Council Drawing Room at 4, St. James’s Square. Most societies already mentioned gave recitals in this room up until the mid-60s; they could be described collectively as the ‘St. James’s Square Concerts’. The Redcliffe Concerts gradually evolved into an annual season, which since 1967, and the opening of the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room, has taken place on the South Bank. The policy governing this Society is that the problem of performing the work of the contemporary British composer is best solved by matching it, in a programme, with other works, mainly British, but not necessarily exclusively so, which will serve to bring it into focus. Orchestral and chamber concerts blend first performances with more established works; and no one trend is followed. As Ian Lake found with his Music in our Time Festival, the clearest and most reliable advocate of a score is often the composer himself, and the Redcliffe Concerts have invited several composers to co-operate directly, either by contributing works, or by performing, or, in the case of better established composers, by directing programmes of their own works. Peter Maxwell Davies, Rubbra and Fricker have contributed to these ‘composer’s choice’ concerts. Among other composers who have directly contributed are Geoffrey Bush, Anthony Milner, Peter Zinovieff, Tristram Cary and Andrzej Panufnik.

 

 

There can be no conclusion to an account of a tradition which is so varied, and growing so fast. This is a story that has a beginning and a middle, but no end. The evolution that Vaughan Williams foresaw has gathered pace in recent years to an extent unparalleled in the musical history of this country. That London is now the musical capital of the West is due to a combination of many factors, social, historical and geographical. Out of the enormous range of music-making, there has emerged what is perhaps the most important, certainly the most lasting, thing of all: an environment in which the British composer can work; an active tradition, for which these pages are an attempt to present some of the evidence.

 

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VII Appendices - not scanned in

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Index - not scanned in

 

 


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