Category: Uncategorised

  • Midlockdown listening

    tmrw> label just released a new piece I have secretly been working on during lockdown: Midlockdown listening :: HDArchive_( I was asked to do a release on floppy disk by the Berlin-based label, which of course appealed to me so I tried to remember pieces of music that had been released in this format in […]

  • Isang Yun Remembered – remembered!

    Isang Yun Remembered – remembered!

    Three Videos from the Isang Yun Remembered Recording Project Music by Isang Yun, Roger Marsh, and John Stringer. Performed by Anna Myatt (soprano), Ching-Han Lin (viola), and Jin Hyung Lim (piano). Supported by the CMRC, the Isang Yun Memorial Centre, and the Tongyeong International Music Festival Although Isang Yun is relatively well-known in parts of […]

  • The Queer Gaze in Western Art Music – a germinal opinion

    A cisgender, heterosexual gaze is prevalent in Western art music. It is ingrained in our academia, and almost unquestioningly accepted in composition, performance, and listening practices. It extends into other arts and academic disciplines, and into all areas of life (this last point should, hopefully, surprise no-one). Sadly, even when the topic of ‘queerness’ is […]

  • The Butterfly Effect: Music for Non-Performance

        The fifth piece in La Monte Young’s Composition 1960 collection begins by instructing a performer to ‘Turn a butterfly (or any number of butterflies) loose in the performance area’. The piece was composed while journeying through the mountains of North California, as Young considered the humble Insecta–Lepidoptera. ‘Alone, it made a very beautiful […]

  • Ho, What a Beano! – Why set the same poem twice?

    by David Power David Power is a former PhD student.  His latest project is the CD ‘A Hundred Years of British Piano Miniatures’ which goes on worldwide release on the Naxos Grand Piano label on Friday 12th October 2018 and includes his own ‘Eight Miniatures from the late 1990’s. Full details here –   […]

  • Words and Music 17 – Walking Away

      The problem underlying all the articles in this series on Words and Music is this:  music needs words more than words need music.  Why is this a problem?  Well, most of the time it isn’t.  Composers have their ways of finding or creating the words for their music, and it’s up to the listener […]

  • Shandy Hall I: Coppel – a narrative.

    This blog describes a short film carried out in a collaborative project between Roger Marsh, Carmen Troncoso and Lynette Quek With thanks to Patrick Wildgust and Chris Pearson, from Shandy Hall. You may have visited or heard about ‘Shandy Hall’…  in the village of Coxwold on the edge of the North Yorkshire moors? Well, I […]

  • Radio 3 Special – Orderly Mouthpiece Spent

    The Proms; a gleaming jewel in the crown of the BBC, and indeed the classical music culture of the UK and worldwide. An institution that deserves sincere respect, and deep, reverent admiration.   It was, then, with some surprise that I was asked at the start of this year’s season to create a one-hour radiophonic […]

  • Words and Music 16 – Music and Beckett (3)

    Words and Music 16 – Music and Beckett (3)

    Beckett’s 1964 novel How it is (French Comment c’est) is less well known than the earlier novels.  Where novels like Watt and Molloy retain the semblance of a narrative and paint characters (however eccentric they may be),  How it is begins the move away from the real world into a strange, Dante-esque realm, where nameless beings struggle to perform pointless rituals.

  • Words and Music 15 – Music and Beckett (2)

    Words and Music 15 – Music and Beckett (2)

    The play of Beckett’s which first captured my imagination was the one called ‘Play ’.  A man and two women, their heads protruding from huge funeral urns, are interrogated by a spotlight which switches rapidly from one to another.  When the light shines on them they speak, when it moves away they stop.   The women, either side of the man, are his wife and mistress, and all three now inhabit a region beyond death. Each recalls their side of the triangular relationship – the wife her suspicions and confrontations, the mistress her contempt and disappointment, and the man his attempts to placate both women.

  • Tracing the Net/Netting the Trace

    Tracing the Net/Netting the Trace

    Roger’s recent blog on Holliger’s settings of Beckett, and Bill’s reply, prompted me to offer a few thoughts on the subject of (fairly) recent examples of text and music for voice, with or without piano – or song, if you like to call it that. I’m curious to see how deconstructive strategies derived from the […]

  • Words and Music 14  – Music and Beckett (1)

    Words and Music 14 – Music and Beckett (1)

    As a young composer, Beckett was as important to me as Joyce, perhaps more important.  In the early seventies my teacher Bernard Rands, along with a number of my fellow students, read Beckett and talked about his work a lot, especially the new stuff as it came out, which was minimal and exquisite and very exciting.  Vic Hoyland, a composer a few years ahead of me, whose work I greatly admired, bought me Beckett’s latest novella Lessness in about 1971 and it blew my mind.


    One of Japan’s biggest pop culture idols for over a decade, Hatsune Miku’s synthesised voice and image have been used on hundreds of thousands pop tracks, videos, and franchised products worldwide. Powered by Yamaha’s Vocaloid software, she represents the ultimate hyper-idol, a digitally rendered eternal bubblegum teen star. Originally intended as just a cannily marketed […]

  • Spring 2018 Postgraduate Forum Report

    The 2018 Spring forum was held on 14th March in the “Treehouse”, Humanities Research Centre. In this new environment, there were presentations from people early on in their research as well as those close to submission. The range of topics demonstrated the impact and significance of music beyond the department walls. First up was in-coming […]

  • John Cage, ‘Water Walk’, and Tiny Desks: Visual Comedy in Serious Music

      Composed for Solo Television performer, and incorporating bath tubs, kettles, mechanical fish, and a grand piano, a remarkable recording exists of Cage’s ‘Water Walk’, given by the man himself on the 1960s American panel show ‘I’ve Got a Secret’.  It’s an absurd scene, made all the more surreal through the postponement of the game-show […]

  • Keychange

      Last week, the Proms announced that by 2022, 50% of new commissions will go to women (  This is part of the PRSF’s Keychange initiative, and 45 other UK festivals have made pledges along similar lines. Predictably, not everyone is happy, though this Telegraph headline is perhaps overstating things: The argument I’ve heard most […]

  •  The Lasting Impression of Hugh Masekela

    As tributes pour in for the legendary South African trumpeter, vocalist, composer and arranger uBab’uHugh Ramopolo Masekela, the world reflects on his global contribution to music, his role in the anti-apartheid movement, and his advocacy for civil rights and heritage restoration in Africa. During a recording career spanning 60 years he reached audiences worldwide with […]

  • Words and Music 13 – Il Cor Tristo

    Words and Music 13 – Il Cor Tristo

    In the late nineties I was producer for the Naxos Audiobook recordings of Dante’s The Divine Comedy in a new English translation by Benedict Flynn.  The reader was the extraordinary Heathcote Williams who died in July 2017. I knew nothing at the time about Heathcote, his poetry, his political writing or his acting; but I […]

  • Mementos

    Mementos   [originally written for Aurora Orchestra blog] but see the mud is on our shoulders Edoardo Sanguineti … No listener, no performer, no composer can escape their personal musical histories and engage an ‘innocent ear’.  We hear through a bespoke hall of mirrors that transforms fluctuating air pressure into something rich and meaningful. We […]

  • Message in a bottle

    It was Bernard Rands, my composition teacher, who in 1971 introduced my family to the Italian aperitif Punt e Mes, a dark vermouth with a slightly bitter taste.  It became a favourite in our house for a few years, and a kind of family secret because in London at that time (and still today) it was not a well-known drink.  At the start of our relationship in the late eighties, Anna (now my wife) and I, rediscovered Punt e Mes and would always have a bottle in the house.  When in 1987 I was asked to take part in a live radio chat during the interval of a BBC concert which included the London premiere of Berio’s orchestral work Formazioni, I asked Anna to give me a word or phrase to slip into the discussion as a secret message across the airwaves: something challenging.  Yes I was that unprofessional.  Anna immediately suggested ‘Punt e Mes’.

  • Report: Autumn Postgraduate Forum, Music Research Centre, 27th September

    The Autumn 2017 Postgraduate Forum is intended as a welcome to newcomers and a showcase of research by current students. The event reflected the current multifaceted nature of research in Music. Unity was found in this diversity in that so many ideas were concerned with bridging certain boundaries of discipline, venue, musical technique or the […]

  • All alone in the moonlight

    Memory is the subject of this year’s BBC Radio 3 / Wellcome Collection mini festival, “Why Music?”.  I recall as a young violinist that music seemed to embed itself in my fingers so that I never needed to learn to memorise, and never worried that I might forget in performance.  Fast-forward a couple of decades (ok maybe a few decades) and I’m looping the first four bars of one of Kurtág’s Signs Games and Messages, desperately trying to alight on the correct continuation in the second phrase and wondering how many times I can get away with the repetition before anyone notices.

  • Words and Music 12: What is a Song?

    Words and Music 12: What is a Song?

    We read all the time that our society is ‘more divided than ever’.  I don’t need to reference that – it’s a common trope, and not just in the UK but in the USA and across the world.  The inequalities and racial tensions are there for everyone to see.  But more divided?  I doubt that.  Our great castles and cathedrals were not built to house the poor, and even within living memory violent civil wars and extreme racial segregation should give us pause for thought.

  • I live

      I live in earshot of Heslington Hall. At night, I hear   the clock strike the hours. They have replaced the gears and the bell;   now it’s synthesized. I no longer imagine or hear   whirs, clanks, gaps, errors. It’s all correct, uniform, pleasant.   ***   I think: this is not how […]

  • Charlottesville Blues

      The spectre of Nazism has surfaced this summer in the USA (Land of the Free). It has been troubling to see Nazi flags flying and armed, uniformed Nationalists marching on the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia.  It has given rise to some debate on social media about the appropriate response to this growing phenomenon.  In […]

  • Words and Music  11: British Values and Joe Steele

    Words and Music 11: British Values and Joe Steele

    As a school governor I have to approve policies which include the teaching of British Values.  I find this deeply troubling, but there’s nothing I can do about it. What are British Values?  Apparently they are ‘democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs […]

  • Isang Yun Remembered Postlude I: Music and Politics

    Isang Yun Remembered Postlude I: Music and Politics (Music by Isang Yun and Roger Marsh) Recently I organized and performed a concert entitled Isang Yun Remembered (June 6th NCEM), focusing on the relationship between Yun’s music and his political/cultural experience. The concert prompted me to reflect further, and this blog explores some of my thoughts […]

  • PLAYing in Scotland – a dialogue

    A report from Lynette Quek PhD in Audiovisual Composition and Carmen Troncoso PhD in Performance   On Wednesday 10th May we showcased our collaborative piece “ Recordeur  I-II ” within the framework of Sound & Thought at the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow, Scotland.  Sound Thought (Festival of Music and Sound Research, Composition and […]

  • ‘Music, Individuals and Contexts: Dialectical Interactions’

    The First Young Musicologists and Ethnomusicologists International Conference (YMEIC) – was held at Tor Vergata University in Rome on 27th-28th April, and featured three papers by PhD researchers from the York Music Department.

  • Taking the ‘Toy’ out of Toy Instruments

    I have been working exclusively with toy instruments for almost a year now, although the title of this post perhaps implies a degree of severity and gravity in this exploration, which, in reality, was never intended, nor ever materialised.

  • Spring postgraduate forum, 2nd March 2017

    Spring postgraduate forum, 2nd March 2017

    The music department’s spring postgraduate forum was held on Thursday 2nd March. We had a packed day with a really wide range of topics covered, issues touched on, and genres explored. Click for full report and timetable.  LM tweet Beau

  • Words and Music 10: Pierrot Lunaire – Voicing Albert Giraud

    Words and Music 10: Pierrot Lunaire – Voicing Albert Giraud

    In 1997 I made a new singing translation of Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire.  I did it because I wanted to mount a staged performance of the piece in a way that would allow a British audience to understand the texts, and the existing translations were not good to sing.  The early (and most famous) translation by Cecil Gray, for example, has some horrors: ‘a phantasmagorical light ray’ (no 3) is one; even worse is ‘a chlorotic laundry maid’ (no 4).