Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

The Music of James MacMillan

March 26th, 2018 No comments

I was very pleased to sign a contract last month with the publisher Boydell & Brewer for my monograph on James MacMillan to be published next year. I have been working on the book for over a year now and hope to have the manuscript finished in September this year. It will be the first book on MacMillan and has the working title of The Music of James MacMillan. Just another 40,000 words to write…

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Review of 2017

January 1st, 2018 No comments

2017 was a good year for me with lots of exciting things happening across my career. It was a year of broadcasts, recordings and performances with the opportunity to work with many new people in interesting new places. I was lucky to be on sabbatical from my academic position for the first six months of the year which meant some concerted work on The Music of James MacMillan which is progressing well, with a 2019 publication date a possibility. I also gave two key-note papers at conferences in York and Warsaw as well as attending the Dutch premiere of Three Partsongs in Leiden in October. I was thrilled to be promoted to senior lecturer at work and have continued to help grow the fantastic Department of Music at the University of Aberdeen. There were performances in Dublin, Krakow, London, Oxford and four different US premieres (which included a competition win). There were three CDs released on which I had pieces, including a number one in the specialist charts by The Choir of The Queen’s College, Oxford. One of the highlights was the premiere of The Twilight People by the BBC Singers in November, with a broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in 2018. Hopefully 2018 will be just as successful and will also see the end of Brexit! PAC

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On Jan Sandström’s ‘Es ist ein Ros entsprungen’…

December 22nd, 2017 No comments

I try to find something seasonal to write about every festive period, something stimulating and unusual, something that interests me and excites my ears – it gets harder every year. But I soldier on, searching recent programmes and CDs, broadcasts and social media looking for something worth writing about. And this year I nearly gave up (life’s too short to spend that long looking for obscure Christmas carols), I contemplated writing about one of my own but realised quickly that would be a very bad idea. Then I remembered Jan Sandström’s Es ist ein Ros entsprungen (‘Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming’) and I thought I’d write about that. Why not! Read more…

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On Whether a Commission is a Commission?

September 20th, 2017 No comments

I have recently been commissioned to write a piece of music. ‘Hurrah’, I hear you say – ‘but why are you telling us this banal information?’ ‘Is it such a red-letter day that you need to let the world know?’ Well, no, not really, I’m not partaking in some weird sort of gloating, or announcing my news in the most faux-sophisticated way I can think of, but rather that the very concept of being commissioned to write a piece of music got me thinking…what exactly is a commission and has our concept of what this word entails changed in recent years. Has being ‘commissioned’ to create something become divorced from the actual paying of money for this service? Or has it always been such? I’m confused… Read more…

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On Being a Craftsman or Artist?

June 29th, 2017 No comments

Earlier this year I was proof-reading a new book on the Welsh composer William Mathias, a composer for whom I have a great amount of respect. Amongst the many things that struck me about this book was the continued reference to Mathias as a ‘craftsman’, someone who ‘would have been happy to have put a brass plate outside his studio with ‘composer’ on it, much as the lawyer or dentist do in their professions.’ The idea of the composer as a craftsman really got me thinking and got me assessing my own work and my own difficult relationship with the profession of composing – it also got me thinking about the perceived pejorative connotations of this term and whether one can willingly use it in a positive and constructive manner. Read more…

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On Mike Oldfield’s ‘Ommadawn’…

February 7th, 2017 No comments

I recently spent just over two weeks in the Lake District on a writing break in an attempt to get my research leave kick-started, the place where I stay is lovely, with great views and no internet or phone signal – I got a lot of work done. However, one thing that became very obvious to me very quickly was the sudden lack of music in my life, this was partly due to the aforementioned lack of connectivity, but also to a new laptop (with no saved recordings) and no CDs – it was all too quiet. Now, I don’t really listen to much music on a day-to-day basis due to being surrounded by it in my working life, however once this was removed I began to yearn for something to fill the silence, and stop the irritating thoughts in my head. With this in mind, I decided to head for the nearest record shop (not an easy task in Cumbria) and buy some CDs (it’s not like I could download something…), but then – what to buy? Classical, contemporary, rock, pop, folk, gangsta rap (is that still a thing…)? In the end, I plumped for something that I had loved as a fourteen-year-old, Mike Oldfield’s Hergest Ridge and Ommadawn, but would it sound quite so good over twenty years later?

Read more…

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Review of 2016

January 3rd, 2017 No comments

www.phillipcooke.com2016 was another busy year with lots going on in my professional and academic life. Highlights included multiple broadcasts on BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio Scotland and Classic FM, O salutaris hostia being published by Schott and lots of good reviews of the CD O Sacrum Convivium (featuring three motets of mine). There were performances across the country and further afield, particularly of How Clear, How Lovely and Ave verum corpus. June saw my motet Judas Mercator Pessimus win the inaugural Gesualdo Six composition prize and another motet Prayer to St Alban performed in the annual St Alban Pilgrimage at St Alban’s Cathedral. I didn’t get as much written of The Music of James MacMillan as I hoped, but I’m on research leave now, so hopefully this year. There are broadcasts, CD releases and commissions already planned for 2017, so hopefully it will be just as successful as 2016, though perhaps without some of the political upheavals! PAC

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On Francis Pott’s Balulalow…

December 24th, 2016 No comments

www.phillipcooke.comI try to write something on a festive theme every Christmas with varying degrees of success, usually spending a little time looking at some classic Christmas choral repertoire that continues to inspire and enthuse me – Howells, Warlock, Joubert – the usual stuff. I ventured a little further off the beaten track last year to discuss Harrison Birtwistle’s The Gleam, which is probably one of the most creepy Christmas offerings you are likely to encounter, so I was left wondering where to go this year? Maybe this would be the year that I would write a blog post on Slade, Wizzard or Band Aid? Maybe…or maybe not… Read more…

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On Being a Composer – Part III: On Musical Mentors…

November 15th, 2016 No comments

www.phillipcooke.comFor the third and final of my trilogy of blogs on being a composer, I thought I’d discuss something that has begun to be an issue in my professional life and will no doubt continue to do so in the coming years – the tricky relationship between student and teacher and the role of mentors in the musical world. Now, this isn’t going to be an in-depth look at pedagogy or teaching methods or a swipe at any higher education establishment and the relative merits of the students it produces, but rather a brief look at what this relationship actually entails, what should I expect to do as a teacher and what should I be expected to give any students that work with me? Read more…

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On Being a Composer – Part II: A Respected Profession?

October 24th, 2016 No comments

www.phillipcooke.comFor the second of my trio of blogs on being a composer I thought I’d turn to something that probably affects all composers, and something that I have a serious hang-up about – whether being a composer in 2016 is actually a respected profession? And I’m not going to turn this into some sort of polemic about the perceived ‘usefulness’ or the creative arts, or whether it was better in 1900 or the marginalisation of ‘classical music’ – rather how I feel about writing music, the interactions I have with the wider public and whether there is an understanding and actual respect for the profession of composer today. Read more…

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