David Lumsdaine obituary


David Lumsdaine, who has died aged 92, was a outstanding determine within the modern music world. Primarily a composer, he was additionally a famous instructor, and an professional in wildlife sound recording, one thing which continued to preoccupy him when round 1997 he stopped composing, saying: “‘I’ve not retired however my muse has retired me.”

That is paralleled by his rejection or destruction of the various works he had written earlier than 1964. Nonetheless, his greater than 30 years of mature composition reveal an outstandingly imaginative method in his music, which is usually formidably complicated however at all times direct in its expression.

The cantata Annotations of Auschwitz (1970) was one in every of a number of collaborations together with his shut buddy the poet Peter Porter, one other native of Australia resident in Britain from the early Fifties. It was the primary work that Lumsdaine was to acknowledge after a protracted apprenticeship, and one in every of a comparatively small variety of vocal items. The flowering of his many chamber and orchestral works didn’t come till his rediscovery of Australia and its panorama.

Not that he ever forgot them: the difficult piano piece Kelly Floor (1966), exhibiting the affect of Karlheinz Stockhausen and Pierre Boulez, was a dramatic portrayal of the final years of the Australian outlaw Ned Kelly. It established him as a number one determine of the British avant-garde.

His music shouldn’t be straightforward to classify. Not lengthy earlier than his first return to Australia in 1973 he composed one other Australia-based work, the extraordinary, almost hour-long narrative of Aria for Edward John Eyre, with its mixture of soprano, narrator, electronics, improvisation and ensemble. It was adopted by the orchestral piece Hagoromo, commissioned for the 1975 Proms however not carried out till 1977 in Paris with the BBC Symphony Orchestra underneath Boulez, and reaching the Proms in 1980 and 1983. These two works are amongst these obtainable on CD. Mandala 5 (1988), was the primary of a number of collaborations with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, notable amongst which was A Backyard of Earthly Delights (1992).

As an organiser on the Royal Academy of Music (RAM), London, and in instructing posts at Durham College and King’s School London, he threw himself into creating new alternatives for composers. He was primarily a cosmopolitan, occupying a novel area of interest via his pondering, his musical language and his method to composition.

Born in Sydney, David got here from a household either side of which had established themselves in Australia within the early nineteenth century. His father, Paul, was a property supervisor. whereas his mom, Marjorie (nee Jarrett), got here from a farming background. David was in a position to play the piano by ear from the age of 4, however his father’s dying from most cancers when he was solely 10 meant the curtailment of a contented childhood. At Sydney highschool he had a sympathetic and inspiring music instructor, and he went on to check on the Sydney Conservatorium and as a common arts pupil at Sydney College, graduating in 1952.

Throughout this era he composed incessantly, whereas supplementing his scholarship by working as a tram conductor. However he was conscious that he wanted to broaden his horizons, and in 1953 he left to check in England, first privately with Mátyás Seiber and later with Lennox Berkeley on the RAM. Step by step establishing himself as a composer throughout the Nineteen Sixties, he labored initially as a schoolteacher, then as a common freelance musician. From the mid-60s he ran the Manson Room, a centre offering sources for composers on the RAM, and he was closely concerned with the Society for the Promotion of New Music.

In 1970 he was appointed lecturer on the College of Durham. There he did an incredible deal to encourage new music, organising one of many first PhD programs in composition, and establishing an digital music studio. Notable amongst his digital works is Large Assembly, a montage of the 1971 Durham Miners’ Gala. In 1981 he moved to King’s School, London, the place he shared a joint put up together with his spouse Nicola LeFanu. He retired from instructing in 1992, transferring to York, the place Nicola was appointed professor in 1994.

Over a few years he had recorded birdsong, and from the Eighties onwards he launched many “soundscape” CDs. Hundreds of his birdsong recordings are publicly obtainable within the Nationwide Sound Archive on the British Library. Wildlife recording was a continuing preoccupation, an important strand of his life, though sounds of nature didn’t usually infuse his music. Whereas it didn’t cease him from persevering with to file, it was his more and more poor listening to that contributed to his withdrawal from composition.

Politically he was at all times a radical, a fiercely dedicated activist and pacifist all through his life. He joined the Marketing campaign for Nuclear Disarmament early on, changing into a member of the Direct Motion Committee and a founding member of the Committee of 100. Within the Nineteen Seventies he was drawn to Zen Buddhism, one other of the fascinating parts which made up his exceptionally robust persona.

His marriages to Margery Van Clute in 1955 and to Edna Perry in 1969 led to divorce. In 1979 he married LeFanu, and she or he survives him, together with their, son Peter, and his daughters, Sarah and Naomi, from his second marriage.


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