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Philip Clark

Philip Clark's biography of Dave Brubeck, A Life in Time, was published earlier this year.

Bythe time his first opera, The Midsummer Marriage, had its premiere at Covent Garden in 1955, Michael Tippett was considered, alongside Benjamin Britten, the most significant and original British composer of his generation. Yet he was also the natural outsider in a scene that as well as Britten (born 1913), included William Walton (1902) and Lennox Berkeley (1903), with the reassuring...

From The Blog
17 October 2019

A decade ago, the cellist Anton Lukoszevieze was reading Gene Santoro’s magisterial biography of Charles Mingus, Myself When I Am Real, when a brief mention of a forgotten, maybe even lost composition captured his imagination. Mingus’s String Quartet No.1 was performed for the first and, during his lifetime, only time at the Whitney Museum in New York in 1972. It wasn’t recorded. Lukoszevieze got copies of the sheet music from the Mingus papers housed at the Library of Congress in Washington DC and discovered that, true to form, Mingus had rewritten the rulebook, including a part for voice and trading one of a conventional string quartet’s violins for a second cello.

The Complete Mozart

Philip Clark, 8 February 2018

Having​ lost five children shortly after birth, Mozart’s parents had their new baby christened the morning after he was born on 27 January 1756. Leopold, Wolfgang’s father, was a composer and violinist who had recently self-published a violin primer which quickly became a standard text. His promotion to the position of deputy Kapellmeister in the court of Count Leopold Anton von...

John Cage’s Diary

Philip Clark, 15 December 2016

By 1963​, John Cage had become an unlikely celebrity. Anyone who knew anything about music – who had perhaps followed the perplexed reviews in the New York Times – could tell you how he had managed to transform the piano into a one-man percussion ensemble by wedging nails, bolts and erasers between its strings; or how he had – ‘and you’re never gonna believe...

From The Blog
6 April 2018

In May 2002, the free jazz pianist Cecil Taylor performed at the Barbican with the post-minimalist classical ensemble Bang on a Can All-Stars. I managed to slip backstage during the rehearsal. It was tense. Taylor, wearing a dressing gown and pink fluffy slippers, was in the process of firing half the ensemble. Bang on a Can’s keyboard player had already gone, and a procession of other players would soon follow. Their sin seemed to have been to read Taylor’s graphic sketch for how the evening’s music might evolve too literally. With the concert itself underway, Taylor ritualistically shredded his sketch and encouraged the remaining Bang on a Can musicians to do the same: they were going to have to improvise. A hapless guitarist threw a rock riff at Taylor, which he immediately bounced back as an open-ended question: is that the best you can do? Then he turned his back on the ensemble and carved out a cavernous wall of sound with his own drummer, Tony Oxley.

From The Blog
2 March 2018

In the spring of 2015, in the library of St Petersburg Conservatoire, a score by Igor Stravinsky unheard since its first performance in 1909 was rediscovered among discarded bundles of music. Stravinsky had always considered his orchestral Chant funèbre the finest piece he had written before the three ballet scores that elevated him to fame: The Firebird (1909-10), Petrushka (1910-1911) and The Rite of Spring (1911-13). The funeral song was composed quickly, during the summer of 1908, as a memorial for his composition teacher, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. After the premiere, Stravinsky lost the performance materials and came to assume that, between the Russian Revolution and his later airbrushing by Stalin, they had been destroyed.

From The Blog
4 April 2017

Kraftwerk Berlin was opened as a performance venue in 2006, in the old Mitte CHP Plant, a power station built in East Berlin in the early 1960s and abandoned in 1997. On a recent Saturday evening, as the time crept towards midnight, I lay on a canvas camp bed in the middle of the turbine hall listening to Alvin Lucier perform his pioneering piece of sound art, I am sitting in a room.

Letter

Against HIP

8 February 2018

Musicologists and composers have worked for two centuries to explain the mysteries behind Mozart’s String Quartet K. 465, and I’m not convinced that Jim Holt’s analysis has much to add (Letters, 8 March). With harmony released from its fundamentals, a C major chord might well ‘fit in perfectly’ wherever you place it. But in the introduction to his first movement, Mozart...

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