Archive

Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

On Artists and Isolation (or Composers and the Coronavirus)…

April 17th, 2020 227 comments

In the UK we are entering the end of our fourth week of ‘lockdown’ in which families and individuals are asked to stay in the their houses, to try to work from home and to avoid contact with other people at all times – you don’t need me to tell you about how unprecedented, challenging and destablising the whole situation is. But it is what it is, and it is for the safety and health of the nation, if not the world, that we isolate ourselves. Much will be written about this period, I’m sure of that, with the challenges to society, to the economy and the fate of institutions, states and nations all to be discussed in the years following this pandemic. Alongside the grander narratives there will be the human stories of loss, love and hope and no doubt all of these will be woven together to create the communal mythos of Coronavirus and all that entails. Maybe at some point someone will ask about artists, about writers, painters, filmmakers and composers – ‘what were they doing during this unprecedented period of introspection, time and freedom?’ Well, let me give you an answer from North East Scotland…

Very little.

Read more…

Categories: Opinion Tags:

Review of 2019

January 2nd, 2020 221 comments

2019 was a busy, exhilarating, but often stressful year with lots of highs and lows. In my day job I continued as Head of Music at the University of Aberdeen and made some useful contributions (I think!) and tried to do my best for academic music-making in the ancient institution. My research was overwhelming focused on the publication of The Music of James MacMillan that was released in June to good reviews (so far!). There were three successful book launches and some good times with the great man himself. I also gave a paper on his music in Stirling in May and wrote a chapter for the forthcoming MacMillan Studies. Read more…

Categories: Opinion Tags:

On Morten Lauridsen’s ‘O Magnum Mysterium’…

December 21st, 2019 326 comments

Another year flies by and Christmas is upon us again with its gaudy mix of over-indulgence and introspection (with a cheery dose of political uncertainty added for extra measure). Each year I try to fashion a festive blog entry on a piece of Christmastide music that I find appealing, or interesting, or irritating, or something that solicits some sort of emotion in the run up to this most busy of holiday periods. Each year it becomes just a little more difficult as the pool of pieces becomes ever shallower, and this time is no different especially as it is the tenth year of writing one of these blogs. Where does the time go? Anyhow, I cast my mind to thinking of Christmas music and it didn’t take long to settle on a piece, mainly because I’ve been to several performances of it in the past month – Morten Lauridsen’s O Magnum Mysterium.

Now, I’m going to nail my colours to the mast early on – I’m not a huge fan of Lauridsen’s music – but that is a different story for a different day. What I will say is that I am a fan of this piece and if anything, the over-familiarity of this well-worn carol has somewhat dimmed its impact and the very fine piece of composition that it represents. For if any piece embodies the beginnings of a whole generation of composers, or a whole style or school of composition, then it may well be O Magnum Mysterium – arguably without this piece a whole American ‘sound’ of modern music may never have come into being. Perhaps I’m over-egging the Christmas pudding a little, but there is probably some truth in it. Read more…

Categories: Opinion Tags:

On Forgetting How to Write Music…

October 1st, 2019 62 comments

About a year ago I wrote a blog entry entitled ‘On Not Writing Music’ where I discussed how little music I had written that year and how strange it was for a ‘professional’ composer not to be composing. And I was left wondering how and when I would get back on the compositional horse. It was a classic. Well, it wasn’t, but it generated some discussion and got me thinking about the process of writing music and when I might look forward to creating something new again. Well, fast-forward to the tail-end of 2019 and I have recently tried to mount that horse and I can tell you neither me nor the horse is currently enjoying this ride (I am however, enjoying this horse-riding analogy), so I thought it a good opportunity to write down my thoughts again before they race off to the next hurdle (I’m quite good at this…). Read more…

Categories: Opinion Tags:

On The London Festival of Contemporary Church Music…

May 6th, 2019 546 comments

I’m going to begin this with an admission: I’m not a very collaborative composer – some composers are, and I admire them for that – but I am not. As I approach my fortieth year I think I’ve collaborated with poets, librettists, directors or producers at maximum 10 times, and have never struck up a lasting collaboration that has resulted in multiple pieces or projects. That’s not to say that it wasn’t fun whilst it lasted, but most of the time I work in a solitary fashion, except from my twin companions: university admin and noise from children. Maybe it will happen one day, and I’ll find my Hofmannsthal or Da Ponte, but for the moment I’m happy in my lonely travails. Read more…

Categories: Opinion Tags:

Excellent Reviews of ‘Star of Heaven’

January 9th, 2019 7 comments

The reviews of Star of Heaven have been unanimously good, and the kind words about my work Ave Maria, mater Dei have been overwhelmingly positive. Recent reviews have
seen the BBC Music Magazine referring to ‘Phillip Cooke’s…Ave Maria, mater Dei is enticingly ethereal thanks to a pair of off-stage trebles intensifying its incantatory allure’ and The Gramophone stating ‘a particularly sumptuous setting by Phillip Cooke where two offstage sopranos swirl around a wonderfully atmospheric and transportive choral texture.’

Categories: Opinion Tags:

Review of 2018

January 2nd, 2019 37 comments

2018 was a slightly different year for me, still full of successes across my professional life, but one with a very different focus from previous. As a composer, the highlight was the commission, performance, broadcast and recording of Ave Maria, mater Dei a new work commissioned by the Genesis Foundation for The Sixteen. The performance by The Sixteen and the choristers of Eton College, in the chapel at Eton in May was a real highlight, and one that will stay in the memory for a long time. The critical response to the piece has been overwhelmingly positive and I look forward to other choirs trying the piece out in future concerts. Other highlights saw the commission and broadcast of my Fourth Service at this year’s London Festival of Contemporary Church Music, as well as premieres and performances in the USA, Poland, Holland and Ireland.

Read more…
Categories: Opinion Tags:

On Bob Chilcott’s ‘The Shepherd’s Carol’…

December 19th, 2018 216 comments

As always, I try to write a festive blog entry every year in the vain hope that it might be the apex of someone’s holiday season; the signal that Christmas has really started, and the festivities can begin. I’m joking. I do it because I love Christmas music and I’m stuck into a pattern of doing this every year. But it gets harder and harder each time to find interesting music to write about, particularly because as time passes I know more and more of the composers who’s pieces I might consider – it becomes harder to be objective. But then I don’t know Bob Chilcott, so I thought I’d write about his lovely The Shepherd’s Carol, one the most beautiful recent carols written for King’s College, Cambridge. Read more…

Categories: Opinion Tags:

New Promo Photos

December 15th, 2018 50 comments

I recently had some photos taken of me for a new brochure at the Department of Music at the University of Aberdeen. I’m sort of smiling…

 

Categories: Opinion Tags:

On Not Writing Music…

November 26th, 2018 73 comments

As the year winds its way to a no-doubt unsatisfactory conclusion, it dawned on me that 2018 has been my least productive year as a composer since I was in my mid-teens – all in all I have composed two works in 2018 at a grand total of fifteen minutes of music. And both of those pieces were finished in January during a brief and regrettably unrepeatable period of fecundity which resulted in four works in six weeks! Now, I have a good reason for not composing more, a 90,000 word book which will be in all good bookshops (who am I kidding…’select university libraries’) in 2019 that has curtailed much compositional activity, but it got me thinking about how little I had actually missed the act of composing, how infrequently I had found myself at a piano with the intention of creating something new – surely that shouldn’t be the case for someone who confesses to having the profession of composer? Should I be worried? Read more…

Categories: Opinion Tags: