The Berners Case

written for The Guardian, February 2003

I have an old suitcase which used to belong to Lord Berners. His heir Robert Heber-Percy was about to throw it out when I saw that the ‘rubbish’ inside was in fact music manuscripts. I intervened, went through the papers and was duly given the suitcase, which I still use. At that time little of his music was recorded or performed, his books were out of print, and his paintings (admittedly the least important part of his output) dispersed and uncatalogued. Now virtually all the music is available on CD, and the novels and parts of his own autobiography have been republished.

Percy Grainger: Shallow Brown

written for Schott Aktuel January 26th 1997 (reduced version published)

When I wrote my first opera Medea I had written nothing for the human voice, nothing for orchestra and nothing, for that matter for the stage. In the circumstances it was perhaps a rash decision to accept the commission but I looked for inspiration and guidance to certain compositional models and the chief of these was Percy Grainger.

James Hugonin and music

Published as "A Musical Affinity" in Modern Painters Spring 1996

James Hugonin and music

Carla Bley

for The Gramophone, written March 1997

Carla Bley (for The Gramophone)

Arvo Pärt

Dictionary entry for Contemporary Composers, St James Press London 1992

A listener hearing the music of the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt for the first time might be forgiven for thinking that he had inadvertently strayed into another century, or had at least been transported to a parallel universe in another galaxy. It has a beauty at once austere and sensuous that seems to be hardly of our time. Yet there can be little doubt that the revelation of his music has been one of the most important factors in the development of a new sensibility in recent music. The early work that he wrote in his native country would hardly prepare us for such an assertion.

Ladislav Kupkovic

Dictionary entry for Contemporary Composers, St James Press London 1992

Ladislav Kupkovic worked until 1970 in Czechoslovakia as a conductor, violinist and as a composer for film and television. His commitment to new music led him to found the Hubda Dneska Ensemble (Music of Today) and his own music away from the professional demands of film and television was strongly related to the music of the European avant-garde centred around Stockhausen. Indeed Kupkovic conducted the first performance of Stockhausen’s Mixtur and is the work’s dedicatee.

Harold Budd

Dictionary entry for Contemporary Composers, St James Press London 1992

Harold Budd is a composer who has worked consistently within a limited range of musical resources, of emotional climate, of instrumental colour and of dynamics - a self-imposition that can give, at its best, a conceptual consistency and strength to his work. More than most composers he has remained rooted in the poetic overtones of his native environment -the fringes of Los Angeles. He has often spoken of the importance of his experience of living in the Mojave Desert.

A Man in a Room Gambling

Parkett no 43 (Zurich, New York, Frankfurt 1995)

Each day, at precise moments throughout the day and night, the BBC broadcasts its Shipping Forecast on National Radio 4. It happens at 00.33, 05.55, 13.55 and 17.50. In this forecast what the attentive listener (i.e. the professional or amateur sailor) hears is information relevant to his geographical location within certain named regions.