Contemporary British Music: Technique and the Compositional Process

At the turn of the twenty-first century, contemporary classical music in Britain is flourishing, despite the financial stringencies caused by decades of reduced funding for the arts. British composers are frequently performed throughout Europe, the Americas, Asia and are featured and commissioned by the major international music festivals. Yet, their work is much less well known at home where contemporary classical music is rarely the topic of general intelligent cultural debate. This collection of articles and interviews presents the technical preoccupations and reflections of twenty one contemporary British composers born in the period between 1930 and 1980. The articles concentrate on many aspects of the composition process: musical architecture (Peter Maxwell Davies and Diana Burrell), temporal structures (David Gorton and Richard Causton), transformation and development (Philip Grange), harmonic considerations (Nicola Lefanu and Paul Archbold), the interrelationship between text and music (Robert Saxton and Rhian Samuel), the grammatology of music notation (Roger Redgate), the rediscovery and reinterpretation of old musical material (Fabrice Fitch), the relationship between developing technology and electroacoustic work (Simon Emmerson and Michael Clarke) and the nature of musical thought (Anthony Powers). The interviews will feature several works in progress: Simon Bainbridge's new cycle of electroacoustic works paralleling the buildings of Daniel Libeskind; Brian Ferneyhough's appropriation, distillation and subversion of old formal schemes in the opera Shadowtime and his orchestral work Aporias; James Dillon's redefinition of spectral concepts in the opera Philomena and the piano concerto; John Casken's re-examination of the public/private dichotomy in his recent concerto grossi; Rebecca Saunders' sculptural definition of musical object and space; Michael Finnissy's exploration of philosophical issues in the structuring of music in space and time and Harrison Birtwistle's insight into musical dramaturgies. The book provides a unique insight into the diversity of personal voices to be heard in contemporary British music at the turn of the twenty-first century.
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